Image for Understanding the New Middle East
A sniper fired at a group of fleeing civilians in west Mosul, Iraq. Credit Ivor Prickett/Panos Pictures.

Understanding the New Middle East

A conference

Thursday, February 08, 2018 to Friday, February 09, 2018

UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center
Laureate Room (1st floor)


The conference RSVP links are listed on this page under Sessions.

Please note that a separate RSVP is required for each panel session on each day of the conference.

This conference brings together an interdisciplinary group of academics in the humanities and social sciences, along with representatives of think tanks and non-governmental organizations, to explore the roots and attributes of the current crises in the region and to assess the region’s future trajectory. The conference was inspired by radical changes in the Middle East that have altered the regional balance of power, threatened the viability of existing states, inspired popular mobilization as well as authoritarian backlash, sparked the emergence and proliferation of violent non-state actors, and triggered ruinous civil and proxy wars. While the multiple crises that have rocked the region since the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the Arab uprisings in 2010-11 are well known, the conference will also explore enduring challenges to the region, such as population growth, poverty, corruption, economic stagnation, unemployment, environmental degradation, and mounting disruptions brought on by climate change. 



DAY ONE  February 8

8:45 AM  Panel 1: The Arab World Post-Uprisings

Joel Beinin (Stanford University)

"What has Changed; What Hasn't?"

Ishac Diwan (Université Paris Sciences et Lettres)
“Crony Capitalism in the Middle East—What do we Know and why Does it Matter?”

Marc Lynch (George Washington University)
“Proxy Wars and State Failure after the Arab Uprisings”

Respondent: Aomar Boum (UCLA)

10:30 AM  Break

11:00 AM  Panel 2: The Future of Political Islam

Nathan Brown (George Washington University)
“Islamism inside, outside, or against the State?”

Peter Mandaville (George Mason University)
"What is an Islamist?"

Toby Matthiesen (University of Oxford)   
“Sectarianization and Identity Formation in the New Middle East:
Sunni-Shi‘i relations after the Arab Uprisings”

Respondent: Khaled Abou El Fadl (UCLA)       

12:30 PM  Break

2:00 PM  Panel 3: Art & Culture in the New Middle East

Elliott Colla (Georgetown University)
“Poetry Repertoires in Peak and Trough”

Laila Sakr (University of California, Santa Barbara)
“Algorithmic Resistance”

Jessica Winegar (Northwestern University)
“Counter-Revolutionary Aesthetics in Egypt”

Respondent: Ali Behdad (UCLA)

4:00 PM – Keynote: Moncef Marzouki, Former President, Tunisia

DAY TWO – February 9

9:30 AM  Panel 4: Syria and Iraq

Harith Al-Qarawee (Central European University)
“Reconfiguring Authority: State and Informal Actors in Iraq”

Lindsay Gifford (University of San Francisco)
“Understanding the New Syria: The View from the Diaspora”

Bassam Haddad (George Mason University)  
“The Arab Uprisings and the Syrian Case: Unfinished Business”

Lisa Wedeen (University of Chicago)
“Authoritarian Apprehensions”

Respondent: James L. Gelvin (UCLA)

11:30 AM Break

1:00 PM Panel 5: Regional and International Competition in the New Middle East

Henri Barkey (Lehigh University)  
“Into the Unknown: Turkish Foreign Policy under President Erdogan”

Greg Gause (Texas A&M University)   
“The Middle East Regional Crisis”
Fred H. Lawson (Naval Postgraduate School)
“Civil Wars and International Conflicts Revisited: Insights from the Arab Uprisings"

Respondent: Kevan Harris (UCLA)      

3:00 PM Break

3:30 PM Panel 6: Human Security in the New Middle East

Laurie Brand (University of Southern California)
“Education and Human Security: MENA Realities and Prognoses”

Sherine Hamdy (University of California, Irvine) 
“Exploring the Egyptian Revolution and Health Politics through Comics: The Making of "Lissa": an ethnoGRAPHIC Story”

Marina Ottaway (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)
“Human Insecurity and Political Change”

Jillian Schwedler (Hunter College)
“Economic Dislocations in a Shifting Urban Geography: Insights from Amman, Jordan”

Respondent: Can Aciksoz (UCLA)


A campus map is available HERE.  


Cost : Please RSVP for each panel you wish to attend. Event is free and open to the public but space is limited.

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Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, This conference is made possible through grants from: Luskin Endowment for Thought Leadership, UCLA College of Letters and Science; University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, and the UC Humanities Research Institute; UCLA Office of Interdisciplinary and Cross Campus Affairs