CCAS Spring/Summer 2016 Newsmagazine

Page 1

CCAS Center for Contemporary Arab Studies

Georgetown University

Spring-Summer 2016


Five Years and Counting Reflections on the post-uprising Arab world


Mabrouk to the MAAS 2016 Graduates!!



CCAS Newsmagazine is published twice a year by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, a component of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Friday, May 20, 2016, CCAS congratulated 22 students on their graduation from the Master of Arts in Arab Studies program with an after-ceremony reception. Per CCAS tradition, Professor Rochelle Davis read sections of each student’s application to the program, and asked the graduates to guess who wrote which statements. Dr. Davis then went on to summarize the students’ pursuits and accomplishments during their programs and what they intend to do after graduation. The ceremony was followed by lunch at CCAS. n

Core Faculty

Osama W. Abi-Mershed Associate Professor; Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Fida J. Adely Associate Professor; Director, Master of Arts in Arab Studies Program Marwa Daoudy Assistant Professor Rochelle A. Davis Associate Professor Daniel Neep Assistant Professor Joseph Sassoon Associate Professor and Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah Chair Judith Tucker Professor

Students are listed by alphabetical order, along with their thesis topics, if they had one. 

Affiliated Faculty


Afaf Al-Khoshman Anthony Adamowicz Adam Amrani Will Barnes

Michael Brill (“’Allah, al-Watan, al-Qa’id’: A Preliminary Study of Regime Militias in Iraq, 1991-2003.”) Alia El-Assar Ghazi bin Hamad Greg Jehle Daniel Layman

Miranda Meyer (“Reorientation: Time and Space in the Cultural Sites of Hizballah and March 14 in Lebanon”) Gideon Moorhead Jill Ricotta Connor Seidenschwarz Gillian Schreiber Ari Sillman (“Sanctions Intensity and State Response: An analysis of the effects of partial and full sanctions regimes”) Chloe Teevan

M. Anela Malik

Will Todman (“Capitalising on Collective Punishment: Siege Tactics in the Syrian Conflict”)

Fatim-Zohra El Malki

Brad Youngblood

Timothy Loh

Caroline Urquhart Milosevich

Mustafa Aksakal Associate Professor Mohammad AlAhmad Visiting Lecturer Belkacem Baccouche Visiting Instructor Elliott Colla Associate Professor Bassam Haddad Adjunct Professor and ASJ Editor Yvonne Y. Haddad Professor; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding Noureddine Jebnoun Adjunct Assistant Professor Emad Shahin Hasib Sabbagh Distinguished Visiting Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies


Kelli Harris Assistant Director of Academic Programs Susan Douglass K-14 Education Outreach Coordinator Vicki Valosik Multimedia and Publications Editor Bianca Kemp Program Manager Brenda Bickett Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Bibliographer Design by Adriana Cordero

An online version of this newsletter is available at:


Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

In This Issue


Joseph Sassoon Uses Political Memoir to Examine Authoritarian Arab Republics in His New Book


he CCAS congratulates Associate Professor and Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah Chair Dr. Joseph Sassoon on the publication of his new book Anatomy of Authoritarianism in the Arab Republics with Cambridge University Press (2016). By examining the



system of authoritarianism in eight Arab republics, Sassoon portrays life under these regimes and explores the mechanisms underpinning their resilience. How did the leadership in these countries create such enduring systems? What was the economic system that prolonged the regimes’ longevity but simultaneously led to their collapse? Why did these seemingly stable regimes begin to falter? Sassoon’s book seeks to answer these questions by utilizing the Iraqi archives and memoirs of those who were embedded in these republics. “While researching my previous book [Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Re-

gime], which was based on the archives of the Ba‘th Party regime in Iraq, I kept asking whether the other Arab republics were similar to Iraq and to each other,” said Sassoon in an interview with Jadaliyya. Ideally Sassoon would have sought to answer that question by examining the archives of other authoritarian Arab regimes, but those archives are inaccessible to researchers. “Consequently,” says Sassoon, “I turned to memoirs written by those who were embedded in the system: political leaders, ministers, generals, security agency chiefs, party members, and businessmen close to the center of power. I also examined memoirs of people who were on the outside: political opponents of these regimes and political prisoners. I hoped that a combination of the two groups—insiders and outsiders—would help us learn more about the coercive tyrannies of the Arab world in spite of being unable to tap into their closed archives.” Taking a thematic approach, the book begins in 1952 with the Egyptian Revolution and ends with the Arab uprisings of 2011. It seeks to deepen our understanding of the authoritarianism and coercive systems that prevailed in these countries and the difficult process of transition from authoritarianism that began after 2011. “I hope this book appeals to anyone interested in understanding why the Arab uprisings have faltered,” said Sassoon. “Whether students of history, politics, or political economy, learning and understanding how these tyrannical systems operated for three to four decades are critical. In my opinion, lack of understanding of these regimes led to many faulty policy decisions. Furthermore, I strongly believe that confronting the past will be an essential ingredient for the success of any transition.” 

ON THE COVER 10 Faculty Feature The Revolution Turns Five: Faculty reflections on the five-year anniversary of the Arab uprisings

REGULAR FEATURES 4 Faculty News 5 MAAS News Running for Nina 6 Student Article Digitizing Refugees: The Effect of Technology on Forced Displacement 7 8

Visiting Scholars The Politics of Reading How Sectarian Conflicts Overtook the Arab Spring

16 Public Events Highlights of past and upcoming CCAS events 18 Educational Outreach Inspiring the Classroom

20 Dispatches Five Years of Conflict Brings New Normals in Damascus SPECIAL SECTIONS 15 In Memoriam Mourning Loss and Celebrating Legacy of CCAS Founders

19 Q & A

…With Author and MAAS Alum Sherene Seikaly

COVER: Graffiti artist in Yemen, European Pressphoto Agency

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


FACULTY NEWS Associate Professor Marwa Daoudy presented a paper entitled “The Politicization of Identity: Sectarianization and the ‘New Struggle’ for Syria” at MESA’s annual conference in November as well as at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Conference in February, “Five Years In: The Legacy of the Arab Spring.” In December, she traveled to Beirut to conduct fieldwork with Syrian refugees and contribute to the United Nations ESCWA conference, “The Governance of Transformation in the Arab Region: Strengthening Peace Enablers.” She was invited by the International Center for Water Cooperation to join their Scientific Reference Group for a three year period. During this school year, Associate Professor Rochelle Davis taught “Refugees in the Arab World,” “Culture and Society of the Arab World,” and the core course for firstyear MAAS students. In addition to serving on the SFS Dean’s Centennial Vision Committee, Dr. Davis is participating in a research project with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, which studies the possibilities for durable solutions for internally displaced Iraqis in four governorates in Iraq: Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Sulaymaniyah. She’s spoken about refugees and migrants in the region and Europe to Canadian television, the Council on Foreign Relations, Temple University, Beloit College, the University of Kentucky, and London School of Economics. This spring she completed her third year and tenure as Academic Director of the MAAS program. She will be on sabbatical and a senior research leave fellowship for the duration of the 2016-2017 ac-

STAFF UPDATES Bianca Kemp joined CCAS as Program Manager in May, bringing to the position a background in higher education administration, research, and instruction of English as a Foreign Language. Bianca earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a Master


Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬

ademic year, during which she will complete her book on the US Military’s conceptions of culture in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a number of articles on refugee movements in the Middle East.

in the Arab Republics, and delivered book talks at a number of universities in the United States and abroad. He also published “Iraq’s political economy post 2003: From transition to corruption” in the International Journal of Contemporary Arab Studies. In February, Dr. Sassoon delivered the Al-Sabah Chair Inaugural Talk at Georgetown, entitled “The Iraq Invasion of Kuwait 1990: New Historical Analysis.” In November, he taught a oneweek course on authoritarianism at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.

Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬

Adjunct Assistant Professor Noureddine Jebnoun recently published “State and Religion in the Aftermath of the Arab Uprisings,” in Constitutionalism, Human Rights and Islam after the Arab Spring, edited by Rainer Grote and Tilmann J. Röder (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Board Member Profile

Assistant Professor Daniel Neep took up an eight-month fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, where he worked on his book on the making of modern Syria. He presented his research at the Middle East Studies Association, International Studies Association, Yale University, London School of Economics, Oberlin College, Foreign Service Institute, and the annual conference of the Project for Middle East Political Science. During the fall semester, he will teach courses on the comparative politics of the Middle East and the politics of Syria.


Emad Shahin was awarded the Hasib Sab-

bagh Distinguished Visiting Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies in April. He delivered several lectures this semester: “January between Hope and Challenge,” in Paris; “Dissecting the Democratic Moment in Egypt” at NYU; “The Death of the Public Sphere in Egypt” at UCBerkeley; “The State of Academic Freedoms in Egypt,” at the National Endowment for Democracy; “Islamic Political thought after the Arab Spring,” at Georgetown University; “2016 Princeton Middle East Retrospective: Egypt Five Years Later,” at Princeton University; “ISIS: Sunni Nationalism or Islamic Puritanism” at the Sharq Forum, Istanbul; “The Democratic Transition in Tunisia from Arab Countries Perspective,” in Tunis; and “SykesPicot at 100,” at the Foreign Affairs Live and Sharq Forum in June. Professor Shahin was the Keynote speaker at the Scholars at Risk Network Global Congress in June in Montreal. He published three articles, two in the Londonbased al-Arabi al-Jadid and one in Huffington Post Arabic. In February, he was interviewed by Reuters concerning the assault on academic freedom in Egypt. 

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬

Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬

Associate Professor Joseph Sassoon delivered talks and lectures at several universities and conferences this semester, including his lecture “Corruption and Transition in Iraq” at the Iraq Future Symposium at Harvard University, a talk on Iraq at a conference organized by the American University in Cairo, and the keynote speech titled “Party and Governance in the Arab Republics” at Manchester University’s conference on Political Parties in the Middle East. In March, he published his fourth book, Anatomy of Authoritarianism

Education Outreach ‫لتثقيف التربوي‬ In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

of Arts in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo. Her areas of interest include the construction of ethnic identity, identity politics, the history of Christianity in the Middle East, and the Lebanese Diaspora. She is from High Point, North Carolina.

ordinator at CCAS, on the successful completion of her PhD in World History at George Mason University. Dr. Douglass defended her dissertation, “Teaching the World in Three Mass Education Systems: Britain, Egypt, and India, 1950-1970,” before her advisory committee—Sumaiya Hamdani (chair), Peter Mandaville, and Dina Copelman—as well as colleagues, family, and friends on July 20, 2016.

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

The CCAS community extends our warmest congratulations to Susan Douglass, Education Outreach Co-

Faculty Research: ‫حاث هيئة التدريس‬

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University


MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬

Running for Nina

Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬ By Vicki Valosik

Friends, family, and fellow runners gather to remember Nina Brekelmans and to support the causes she cared about


March 19, 2016, the CCAS hosted, in partnership with the Georgetown Running Club, the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship 5K Run. The event raised funds for an endowed scholarship in memory of Nina Brekelmans, who graduated from the MAAS program in the spring of 2015. Nina was a vital and active member of the CCAS community, where she was involved in countless activities and touched the lives of many individuals, both on and off campus. The Georgetown community and many around the world were deeply saddened by Nina’s death in June 2015 and remember Nina not only for her warmth, kindness, and sharp intellect, but also for her passions for running and for improving the lives of women and girls around the world. Nina discovered her love for running at Dartmouth College, where she ran for the varsity team and became a volunteer for Girls on the Run. When Nina moved to Washington DC to begin the MAAS program, she was accepted into the elite Georgetown Running Club. A year into her masters program, Nina was awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan. Carrying her passions with her, Nina volunteered with Reclaim Childhood, an organization seeking to improve the lives of refugees and young women in Jordan through athletics. While in Jordan, Nina also ran in the 2014 Dead Sea Ultra Marathon, finishing first among female participants. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship 5K Run, which started and finished on the Georgetown campus, was particularly meaningful to first-place finisher, Phillip Royer, who ran with Nina at Dartmouth College. “It was a special moment,” says Royer. “I know that Nina was always a very strong competitor with tremendous drive, so it was great for us to be able to remember her through an activity that she loved.” Nico Brekelmans, Nina’s father, announced at a ceremony following the run that—thanks to the race participants, Standard Cooper, and other genern

ous donors—the scholarship endowment had reached its fundraising goal. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund will support students of the Masters of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program, particularly those with a demonstrated interest in promoting women’s empowerment in the Middle East, an issue that was very dear to Nina. The scholarship will be awarded to its first recipient for the 2016-2017 school year. “My hope for the scholarship is that it will help support a student who will draw from Nina’s strength,” says race-organizer Mary Grace Pellegrini, a longtime friend of Nina’s and fellow member of the Georgetown Running Club. “She was so driven and so committed to excellence. Nina had a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of service, and I hope that her spirit and her qualities will serve as a point of inspiration for whomever receives the scholarship.” 

Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬

Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬ Board Member Profile

‫ص من المجلس األستشاري‬

Vicki Valosik is Multimedia and Publications Editor at CCAS.

Clockwise from left: Courtesy Brekelmans family; CCAS

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬

Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬

Education Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬

Clockwise from left: Nina Brekelmans, MAAS ‘15; MAAS students and staff after the 5K memorial run; SFS Dean Hellman and Nico Brekelmans announce the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship; Chris Powers signs memory book for Brekelmans family

In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



atumloe lraicle

‫من منشورات طالبـنـا‬

MAAS News (Student News) Effect ‫ أخبار الطالب‬Of Technology Digitizing Refugees: The On Forced Displacement By Timothy Loh


Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬

Europe with instructions re- to the Arab world, as Dawn Chatty’s Displacement and Dispossesceived over popular instant messaging sion in the Modern Middle East elucidates, but the availability of ‫التدريس‬ ‫هيئة‬as-‫أخبار‬ service Faculty Whatsapp;News distributing cash technology is one major differentiating factor between the experience sistance via ATM machines equipped with iris of displacement today and that of the past. For worse or for better, it scanners in Jordan; online learning in Arabic, will shape how refugees manage and are managed going forward.  English, and Staff mathematics through Sabahati Updates ‫الموظفين‬ ‫آخرأخبار‬ (“my cloud” in Arabic), a platform currently being developed by UNICEF–these are but Timothy Loh is a 2016 graduate of the MAAS program. He is currentsome of the ways that technology is coming to play a significant role ly studying intensive Arabic at the Middlebury Summer Language Board Member Profile ‫األستشاري‬ ‫المجلس‬ ‫خاص‬ in the experience of displacement today. Schools and will ‫من‬ begin working at the Collateral Repair Project as a Recent technological advances have brought with them a swath of MENAR Fellow in September. This piece is an abbreviated version benefits for displaced persons fleeing their country of origin. Rela- of a longer article published in gnovis: a Journal of Communication, tively cheap mobile devices have made it easy for‫برقيات‬ refugees today Culture & Technology Dispatches to keep in touch with each other and with their families over large distances using instant messaging or video-calling services. These capabilities provide refugees with a larger social network, and may Events ‫العامة‬ prove especially important to those Public not as well-integrated into‫المناسبات‬ their host communities, such as Somali refugees in Jordan. Improved formal wire transfer systems and informal banking systems have also eased the sending of monetary remittances, a crucial aspect of social CCAS offers undergraduate and graduate certificates in Arab Education Outreach ‫التثقيف التربوي‬ ‫تعميم‬ ties between refugees and their families in the homeland, who use the Studies to students enrolled in qualifying degree programs money for immediate subsistence needs as well as social functions. at Georgetown University. The certificate program provides Transnational social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter students the opportunity to study the language, history, and the Headlines ‫العناوين‬ have, in some cases, also benefited In refugees, often in raising aware-‫في‬ institutions of the Arab world within the framework of their ness of the refugee crisis. One prominent example is of Abdul Halim academic disciplines and to add a regional focus to a liberal al-Attar, a Syrian in Lebanon who was photographed carrying his arts or professional education. Seven undergraduate students young daughter and selling pens in the streets of Beirut. The online and two graduate students received certificates in Arab StudMabrouk! ‫مبروك‬ photo quickly went viral, and prompted Norwegian journalist Gisies during the 2015-2016 academic year. sur Simonarson to begin a crowdsourcing campaign for the family, which enabled al-Attar to move his family to a larger apartment and Faculty Research: ‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬ start three businesses employing other refugees. As can be seen in these examples, technology can and has been harnessed to mitigate the negative effects of forced migration. At the same time, however, technology has proved to be a double-edged sword. The new technologies usedFaculty by humanitarian Featureorganizations ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬ and governments—such as the UNHCR’s ProGres Refugee Registration Platform—to keep track of and distribute aid to refugees has made it easier for them to restrict their movements and to subject them to surveillance and control. Advanced cellular communication and banking systems have also proved to be “unexpected burdens”—in the words of anthropology doctoral candidate Stephanie Riak Akuei—to refugees whose now-expanded social network in the homeland can contact them at will and demand financial or other Arab Studies Certificate Students at the Undergraduate Certififorms of assistance. Resettled persons have responded by using cate Colloquium: L to R—Row 1: Molly Wartenberg, Kelli Foy; answering machines, not answering calls, and even changing their Row 2: Nishaat Sheik, Emma Murphy; Row 3: Vikram Shah, phone numbers entirely, straining relations between them and family Patrick Lim, Azhar Unwala; Row 4: Kelli Harris, Assistant Direcmembers back home. tor of Academic Programs; Rochelle Davis, Associate Professor; Fatima Zahrae Chrifi, Adjunct Assistant Professor; Not pictured: According to UNHCR estimates, refugees today number more Jihane Bergaoui and Svenn Wroldsen than 21 million, the highest figure since World War II. Historically speaking, migration flows, forced or otherwise, are not unfamiliar raversing

CCAS Awards Certificate in Arab Studies to Nine Students

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Top: Timothy Loh; Bottom: CCAS



Graffiti art from Lebanon

The Politics of

Reading Photo by

CCAS’s Qatar Postdoctoral Fellow reflects on the uses of literature as a tool for cultural understanding By Elizabeth Kelley


I just loved The Kite Runner,” people in North America sometimes tell me when I explain what my research is about: the translation and circulation of Arabic novels in English. In these cases, the individuals, who are not usually scholars or students of Arabic or the Arab world, go on to explain how much they enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s novel, how they felt it helped them to learn about life in Afghanistan and what it was like to grow up there. In some ways, The Kite Runner is quite far from my research topic, given that the novel was written in English, was not translated from

‫زائرون باحثون‬ any language, and that the author had been living in the United States for decades prior to writing it. Not to mention that Arabic is not the language of Afghanistan, and although it is part of the Muslim world, Afghanistan is not generally considered part of the Arab world. Thus, linking Afghani literature with literature of the Arab world may rely on collapsing regional, linguistic, and cultural differences under the undifferentiated sign of Islam. In other ways, however, these encounters are precisely at the heart of my research and highlight the questions motivating it, such as, what are the politics of reading in the contemporary period? In these informal encounters, individuals connect their reading practices with a sense of understanding and a desire to explore and learn about another people, another culture, and another way of life. In my research with publishers of Arabic fiction in English translation, I examine precisely this use of literature, as a means of learning about and understanding a different place or culture, which was often a central aim of the publishers I spoke with. In some cases The Kite Runner was even used as an explicit example of a bestselling book that captured a broad audience and seemed to offer some kind of ethnographic insight. This mode of reading as a form of education or pedagogy—to learn about a place—was not uniformly embraced by everyone I spoke with. Rather, many of the authors, translators, and some publishers, rejected this approach to reading novels, pointing out that it reduces novels to some kind of cultural artifact, able to stand for the entirety of a people and a culture. The process by which literature from the Arab world is made political, the ways in which it is framed and read in terms that link the novel to current events and broader geopolitical contexts, and how these framings are produced, challenged, and resisted are central to my book manuscript, The Promise of Translation: The Politics of Arabic Novels in English. I argue that Arabic novels in translation are central to understanding the representation of the Arab world in the contemporary West. Drawing on ethnographic research at the American University in Cairo Press, interviews with translators, authors, journalists, administrators of literary prizes, as well as readers and reviewers of Arabic literature, I investigate how the translation of novels from the Arab world (and their reading) was promoted in public rhetoric as a means to improve cross-cultural understanding and communication. I focus on the specific practices of translation, editing, and branding that produce a novel and transform it into a global commodity that serves as an interface between the West and the Arab world. From decisions of how to translate a word, to choices around what to title a book, to discussions of the finished translation in book reviews, I find that these novels were intertwined with the broader geopolitical relationship between the Arab world and the West. 


Dr. Elizabeth Kelley was the 2015-2016 Qatar Post-doctoral Fellow at CCAS. Over the past year, she has conducted interviews and fieldwork with readers of translated novels, along with exploratory fieldwork with professional and practicing translators in the Washington, D.C. area. While at CCAS, Kelley taught a graduate course bridging translation theory and anthropology entitled “Translation and Globalization: Translation as borderland in Trade and War.”

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



‫زائرون باحثون‬

How Sectarian Conflicts Overtook the Arab Spring Reflections on the problem of sectarianism in the wake of the Arab Revolutions from CCAS’ inaugural American Druze Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow


By Alex Henley

hy has Sunni-Shi’i sectarianism become the leading issue of debate in Middle East politics over the last few years? Led by rival Sunni and Shi’i theocracies, Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, the region seems to have fallen into opposing camps in a sectarian cold war. Along the fault-lines in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, Sunnis and Shi’is are


Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Islamist ideologies they have been exporting for decades. Other regimes have also come to be seen as fatefully connected to the fortunes of particular communities: the Alawi minority in Syria, the Sunni minority in Bahrain, and the Twelver Shi’i majority in Iraq. These regimes, as well as their opponents, have at times capitalized on the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to gain international backing. When the Arab Spring movement arose in 2011, it was received differently by different sects. Many Christians and other minorities remained loyal to authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Syria for the sake of security, while mass protests offered new hopes of political participation for Sunnis in Syria and Shi’is in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. This is not to deny the good intentions of protesters; patterns of mobilization often followed the tracks already laid in society. Communal identities sometimes shaped people’s calculations of the benefits or risks involved in regime change, and protesters mobilized more easily using communal networks and resources. Friday prayers, for example, were obvious launch points for mass demonstrations, and mosques or other religious buildings were often equipped to feed large crowds. If social sectarianism shaped the way Arab Spring movements took shape, what about government responses? Saudi Arabia and Iran, having positioned themselves at the center of regional Sunni and Shi’i networks, certainly saw shifts in the relative power of these networks as key foreign policy priorities. For Saudi, this meant backing Sunni protesters in Syria and Iraq, while bolstering friendly regimes in Bahrain, Yemen, and Lebanon against Shi’i/Zaidi encroachment. For Iran,

Graffiti by Almrah Team for Media; Photo courtesy of Speak Up Syria

flict” or “deep-rooted hatreds”—heard more and more commonly—do not explain the actions of our contemporaries in the Middle East any more than they do yours or mine. And they certainly don’t explain why sectarianism, which emerged as a central feature of regional politics only in the past decade, is so new. Even the idea that there are basically two kinds of Muslim is recent, and sweeps an incredible diversity under the rug. Until at least the mid-twentieth century, many Sunnis had little awareness of Shi’ism. The Muslim “other” might have been a follower of another of the four schools of shari’a, a Sufi of one of the many orders, or a member of some revivalist movement or other. On the other hand, the Shi’i label is nowadays used to lump together Syrian Alawis and Yemeni Zaidis with the Twelver Shi’is in power in Iran, despite a lack of any institutional connection or theological From Syria. Translation: “The scream of a homeland that has recognition between them. tired from sectarianism, death, destruction, and robbery.” Significantly, new dynamics have been at work in refighting for supremacy, backed and incited by framing regional politics in sectarian terms, coreligionists across the region. The Middle building on key shifts of recent decades: the East is in a lamentable state, but this is not— 1979 rise to power of a Shi’i Islamic governdespite what we are increasingly told by news ment in Iran and the US invasions of Afghanimedia and political leaders—its natural state. stan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, which opened The Middle East’s problems are not “rooted the way for Iran to expand its sphere of influin conflicts that date back millennia,” the ex- ence. So we see modern sectarianism as becuse President Obama used to explain away ing closely tied to state politics. The Saudi foreign policy failures in his final State of the and Iranian regimes have explicitly Sunni Union address. Phrases like “ancient con- and Shi’i identities, each connected to rival

it meant the opposite—supporting Alawi and Shi’i regimes in Syria and Iraq while taking advantage of openings elsewhere. As a result, Sunni-Shi’i tensions have been ramped up in Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon, while proxy wars have devastated Syria and Yemen. Yet sectarianization is about more than the escalation of a Saudi-Iranian cold war. For authoritarian regimes, it is a survival strategy. The Arab Spring presented a seismic shift in Arab politics with the potential to destabilize republics and monarchies alike. Rather than simply shelter in place, regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria went on the offensive. They discredited protests by branding them as the work of sectarian fifth columnists, minorities more loyal to coreligionists abroad than to their countrymen. While all of the Arab Spring movements were somewhat cross-confessional at the start, regime scapegoating of particular sects divided the protesters by sowing suspicion. Where Sunnis and Shi’is at first stood together against their undemocratic governments, rumors of foreign agents or violent plots scared those with the most to

lose into staying home. Having successfully marginalized core protest groups and prevented the revolution’s spread to other communities, these regimes could then distract from their own faults by rallying the rest of their populations in resistance to a supposed regional sectarian threat. So when the Saudi regime sent troops into Bahrain and Yemen, or funded Sunnis against Shi’is and Alawis in Lebanon and Syria, it was securing its domestic legitimacy against the revolutionary tremors of the Arab Spring. In countries where vast power and wealth is held by a very few, it is just good politics to distract from real disparities by promoting a common identity that must be protected from “creeping Shi’ism” or “Sunni militancy.” Sectarianism has been the Arab regimes’ weapon of choice in fighting back against the uprisings since 2011. When we parrot the language of “conflicts that date back millennia”—or we let our news media and political leaders get away with it—we are not just oversimplifying, we are buying into and authorizing a rhetoric of authoritarian rule. These dictators want us to think that

sectarianism is ancient and unfixable, so that we will fear democratization in the Middle East as much as they do. Sectarianism is a problem, but let’s remember that it’s a new problem, and that what can be made can also be unmade. 

Dr. Alex Henley is the inaugural American Druze Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at CCAS, an annual fellowship for the study of collective political and cultural identities in the Arab world. Henley’s research focus during his 2015-2016 academic-year fellowship has been on religious leadership among Druze and other communities in Lebanon. He has also continued to work on his book manuscript tentatively titled Religion and State in Lebanon: Religious Leaders, Sectarianism, and Civil War. While at CCAS, Henley taught a new graduate course: “Sectarianism and Community Identity in the Middle East.” This fall Alex start a new appointment as Lecturer in Modern Islam at Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology and Religion and as Tutor at Pembroke College.

CCAS Hosts American Druze Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship Inaugural Ceremony



n February 11, 2016, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies was pleased to host the American Druze Foundation (ADF) Post-Doctoral Fellowship Inaugural Ceremony. The evening included a reception and a lecture delivered by Dr. Alex Henley, the first ADF PostDoctoral Fellow at CCAS. In his talk, “Becoming Lebanese, Institutionalizing Druzeness: How sects built new religious leaderships for modern Lebanon,” Henley began by highlighting how religious communities served as the building-blocks of modern Lebanon. He then focused his discussion on one of these building-blocks—the Druze community—and the history of the Sheikh al-Aql, its top religious office. Henley explained how the Sheikh al-Aql—similar to the muftis or patriarchs of Lebanon’s other communities—is the figurehead of the sect, a symbol of its distinctive identity, and the defender of its sovereignty, yet also the product of a very Lebanese idea of what a religious leader should look like. Lebanon’s communal building blocks, Henley argued, were reshaped by the state-building process, transforming, rather than simply preserving, their institutions. Henley closed by impressing upon the audience that neither religious leaders nor the sects

they represent are “fixed in time” or isolated from the modern world, but rather are defined by constant negotiation with their surroundings. A video of Henley’s talk is available at

Alex Henley, 2015-2016 ADF Post-Doctoral Fellow; Fadi Zuhayri, Chairman, ADF Board of Trustees; Joel Hellman, Dean, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Osama Abi-Mershed, Director, CCAS

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬ From Cairo. Translation: “No to Harassment.”

The Revolution Turns Five: Faculty reflections on the fifth anniversary of the Arab uprisings Fida Adely

In this fifth year anniversary of the Arab revolts or “Arab Spring,” we might ask ourselves “what has changed in the region?” Given the conflicts raging in the Arab world as we speak, many have concluded that the revolts failed, or that rather than bringing “progress” they have pushed us back—entrenching authoritarianism, displacing millions, exacerbating sectarian differences, etc. But such conclusions reflect a short view of history and a truncated understanding of change. More troublesome, they can fuel a view of the region as unchanging, stagnant, and even backward. To paraphrase Heraclitus’ famous adage quoted in the title above, change in the region (as elsewhere) is the norm rather than the exception. What was exceptional is the explosive kind of change we 10

witnessed in Tunisia and in Tahrir Square in 2011 or in Dara’a and Damascus. These were indisputably rare events—revolutions ripe with hope and a desire for justice. But stepping away from those dramatic events and their cascading effects, it behooves us to recall that change is typically much more banal—small, gradual and constant. Nowhere are the limits of our change paradigms more apparent to me than in thinking about gender roles and ideologies. In the wake of the Arab Spring, many asked how these dramatic political events would change women’s roles, while others claimed that women’s roles had already changed dramatically via participation in revolutionary action. However, as a scholar of women, gender and development in the region, I am keenly aware that the gendered contours of daily life in the Arab world today have been shaped through centuries of socio-economic and political transformations. From colonialism, to the spread of bourgeoisie liberalism and Islamic reformisms, to deep-

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Graffiti by Mira Shihadeh; Photo by Rochelle Davis

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”

ening entanglements with a global capitalist system and the adoption of new technologies of the recent centuries, the world men and women live in has changed dramatically. Yet the ways in which it has changed, through the slow unfolding of history, may be imperceptible to those looking only at the surface. Fida Adely is Associate Professor of Anthropology at CCAS, the Clovis and Hala Salaam Maksoud Chair in Arab Studies, and Academic Director of the Master of Arts in Arab Studies program.

Rising or Falling? The Crisis of the Arab State

Graffiti by El Teneen; Photo by

Michael Hudson

The death of Gamal Abdul-Nasser in 1970 marked a turning point in Arab politics, which had previously been characterized by revolutionary populism and unpredictable regime changes, and ushered in an era of rapid expansion of the bureaucracies that comprised the state, as well as acceptance of the state as the framework for conducting political life. Stability came not only through threat and coercion, but also through “legitimacy cocktails” of nationalism, patrimonialism, and a social contract between citizens and the state. With time, however, the salience of these principles eroded, culminating in the uprisings of 2011 that dramatically revealed the weakness of the Arab state. Among the uprising states, those with a claim to more historical continuity and cultural coherence—Tunisia and Egypt—came closest to a democratic transition. Egypt might have been considered ready for such a transition, but the opposition, overshadowed by the Muslim Brotherhood, proved incapable of effectively organizing broad-based support and unwilling to promote pluralism during its brief window of opportunity. Libya and Yemen—the weakest states of the lot—sank into near-anarchy, at least for the short term. The Bahraini state became an even more dependent client of Saudi Arabia. In two of the “fiercest” states—Iraq and Syria—the hollowness of the edifice has been exposed. Iraq had its regime change in 2003 with the US-led invasion and occupation. The occupiers systematically dismantled the state and were unable to replace it with a stable order. And the Syrian regime, when challenged by ordinary citizens, reacted with a paroxysm of violence, polarizing the situation and setting off a civil war. Perhaps it is not surprising that a non-state (indeed antistate) movement like the Islamic State (ISIS or Da’ish) has emerged as a state-in-waiting. Offering up a completely different ideology from the old nationalism and patrimonialism of the established states, it aims to erase old boundaries. Having made its violent appearance in Iraq and Syria, it also has a presence in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Algeria. The existing Arab state system is firmly bolstered by American and European power—military, political and economic—so the weakness of particular Arab states might not be fatal in confrontation with what ISIS has to offer. But the emergence of this movement

alone indicates that the Arab state as we have come to know it is indeed a flawed creation. Arab states (and regimes) still struggle for legitimacy and the key to that legitimacy may be the establishment of genuinely participatory institutions. Clearly, this is not an easy task. This is an excerpt from a presentation Michael C. Hudson, Professor Emeritus at CCAS, delivered in January, 2016 at the conference “The Arab Revolutions, Five Years On: Consequences of Arduous Democratic Transformation” held at the American University of Beirut and organized by the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha.

Economic Conditions in the Post-uprising Arab World Joseph Sassoon

Five years after the uprising in 2011, it is hard to argue that the economic conditions in the region have improved. In fact, the countries that witnessed the Arab spring (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) are facing particular difficulties. Tourism to Tunisia and Egypt has dropped dramatically, even at a time when the two countries are in greater need of foreign exchange. The Egyptian Pound has depreciated by roughly 50 percent in the past five years, forcing the Egyptian government to impose restrictions to reduce its imports and ensure that inflation does not threaten the economy. In Tunisia, which maintained more stability and is the only country still undergoing a transition from authoritarianism to post-authoritarianism, unemployment, particularly among the youth, has increased and foreign investments have dropped due to instability along the borders. The collapse of oil prices in the last couple of years has added to the challenges facing many of the countries in the region. Oil prices continue to be the lead driver of export structures, investments, and macroeconomic performance. Countries blessed with vast resources of oil, such as Iraq, did not manage to take advantage of the rising oil

From Cairo. “Checkmate”

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


prices that dominated the markets a few years ago due to the prevalence of corruption and the mismanagement of the economies in these countries. Now, with oil prices hovering around $45, Iraq is facing serious financial difficulties, particularly given the increase in military expenditures in response to the advance of ISIL into Iraqi territories.

From Syria. Translation: “We will cover the earth with flowers. The revolution continues. 2011-2016.”

Joseph Sassoon is Associate Professor of Political Economy and Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah Chair at CCAS.

Noureddine Jebnoun is Adjunct Assistant Professor at CCAS.

The Lost Voice of Tunisia’s Youth Noureddine Jebnoun

Five years after the popular Tunisian uprising, the new-old country’s political elite (both the current president and head of the government that once served the now-fallen regime in different capacities) has failed to address the legitimate grievances that led youth to take to the streets against the deposed and exiled autocratic ruler Ben Ali in 2011. Although the 2014 Constitution solemnly acknowledges the youth as an “active force in building the nation” and directs the state “to extend and generalize their participation in social, economic, cultural and po12

Seeing the Syrian Crisis through Distorted Lenses

Marwa Daoudy Five years after the first uprisings, Syrians continue

to be victims of barrel bombs, torture, sieges and mass displacement despite the “cessation of hostilities.” Part of the reason their suffering has gone on so long, and has seemed to matter so little, is because four prevalent—but false—assumptions have led to a distorted approach to the Syrian crisis.

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

The Revolutionary Movement Action Team in the Revolutionary Spring Collective

The protracted civil war in Syria, which has led to vast numbers of refugees, the total chaos in Libya due to its lack of a central government, and the war raging in Yemen with its many civilian casualties are all impacting the economic conditions of the region and creating an atmosphere of instability that is unconducive to investment and long-term planning. Five years after the revolutions, much of the region still needs to make fundamental changes to its socio-economic policies in order to provide employment and economic security for the peoples of these countries who have already suffered decades of tyranny and inequality.

litical development,” the barriers to the political and economic inclusion of youth are more salient than ever. The rate of unemployment remains excessively high among youth, including university graduates: 37.6% in 2014, as compared with the country’s overall unemployment rate of 15.2%. As seven governments and three presidents have succeeded to power since 2011, the continued absence of a socio-economic vision for Tunisia, both for society as a whole and for the youth in particular, has weakened the former and further marginalized the latter. The strengthening of neo-liberal policies in the postuprising era has negatively impacted job creation, and aggravated social inequality and lack of government transparency and accountability. The continued inability of public authorities to conceive of an achievable development model beyond the neo-liberal box would likely expose the country to more riots similar to those that erupted in Kasserine, spreading to 16 of the 24 governorates across the country in January 2016. The rise in violence in post-uprising Tunisia has further hindered the situation for youth. The involvement of some youth in attacks on tourist facilities and security and military infrastructures, as well as the presence of young Tunisians among the Islamic State’s militants in Syria, Iraq, and Libya has progressively tarnished any positive image gained by youth for their role in the popular uprising that led to the demise of the dictatorship and the liberation of Tunisians from their police state. Today, the trend among the political elite, backed by sensationalist media, is to depict youth as a security threat for the country’s stability— one that should be addressed through security means. Victims of a failed socio-economic system, youth have become the scapegoat of the country’s bankrupted political actors who, once again, are using the wrong diagnosis to “cure” decades of oppression, marginalization, archaic bureaucracy, widespread corruption and old-fashioned paternalism. Sadly, the situation of Tunisian youth is not unique; low youth participation, lack of representation, and neglect of youth voices are problems prevalent in all Arab countries. This trend is not likely to change as long as resources and financial assets continue to be monopolized by economic and political elites at the detriment of democratic governance, social justice, and willingness to address the widespread grievances of the youngest generations.

1. It’s a religious war.

A popular misconception about the Syrian uprisings is that Sunnis were fighting Alawites to establish a Sunni fiefdom in Syria. But as was the case in post-2003 Iraq, sectarian strife in Syria was a result, rather than a cause, of war. In reality, Assad pitted Alawites against Sunnis to spread insecurity and ensure the regime’s survival. Outside interests and powers aggravated these divisions. Iran supported the Alawite regime to preserve a political ally in its confrontation with the US and Israel (and not in solidarity with its Shi’a brethren), while the predominantly Sunni Arab Gulf states found a golden opportunity in the Syrian quagmire to weaken Iran. 2. The choice is between Assad and ISIS.

This false binary choice ignores viable long-term contenders for political power inside and outside Syria. Political representatives of the opposition have struggled for five years to claim their rightful place at the Geneva negotiations, which have failed to include representatives of civil society—even democratically-elected local councils. Though ostensibly opposing forces, regime officials have also actively pursued and reached agreements with the Islamic State over the distribution of water and oil resources under Islamic State control. 3. Refugees are a security threat.

The Islamic State is seen as a threat mainly to Europeans and Americans, but the primary targets of the Islamic State are Syrians. Even so, Syrians seeking refuge in Europe are not only viewed as a burden but also collectively suspected of allegiance to the Islamic State. 4. Partition is a viable solution for Syria.

The majority of Syrians do not want a partitioned country and are not the ones who stand to gain from such a “solution.” The regime would be well served by a resource-rich Alawite enclave, and the Islamic State and radical Islamist groups sponsored by foreign actors would also benefit. In order to correct these false assumptions, representation and accountability are critical issues that must be addressed in future ne-

Marwa Daoudy is Assistant Professor of International Relations at CCAS. This is an excerpt of Dr. Daoudy’s article “Syrian Lives Matter,” published in Open Democracy in April 2016.

Egypt’s Revolution Turned on its Head Emad Shahin

The revolutionary euphoria that Egypt witnessed in 2011 has given way to increasing doubts about the possibility of change. Popular hopes for a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights have been replaced with resignation and a growing willingness to accept autocracy. Although thousands are still protesting and being arrested, the regime is gaining international support. The revolution has been turned on its head, and average citizens are experiencing a counterrevolution that is charting an uncertain course for the country. Events taking place on such a large scale must be understood as the responsibility of many players, each with contradictory approaches to steering Egypt’s transition. Having been successful in the first election after the uprising, the Muslim Brothers and Salafis wanted to expedite the transition, even at the risk of writing a new constitution and holding presidential and parliamentary elections before securing a consensus. Revolutionary youth aspired to dismantle old institutions before constructing new ones and insisted on writing a new constitution before holding elections. The old state—at its core, the military, security, political, and business interests that were part of the former regime—worked relentlessly to stall the transition and spoil any meaningful progress until they were able to make a comeback.

Rochelle Davis

From Egypt. Layered graffiti like this example from Tahrir Square provide “palimpsest commentary on the unfolding events of the revolution,” writes Rochelle Davis.

gotiations. Opposition groups demand the return to Syria’s 1950 parliamentary system to ensure equal representation, while regime representatives uphold a version of the current president-centered constitution with minor amendments. In order to find a sustainable political solution in Syria, these negotiations must strive for a settlement that preserves Syrian lives and unity, and a new constitution that fully acknowledges their suffering, resilience, and struggle over the past five long and costly years.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


From Cairo. Translation: “I love my country.”

Islamists and liberals both turned their political disputes into identity conflicts and existential dilemmas. Civilians failed to solidify a broad coalition with unified goals and a firm stance against the potential return of military hegemony. In addition, a hostile regional environment and unsupportive international actors had a hand in reducing the transition’s chances of success. Deteriorating economic conditions further alienated large segments of the population from the revolution, raising concerns that working for change might be futile and instilling in many Egyptians a desire for the return of stability, despite continued calls for change. For the past four years, the state and media have managed to shape the mindsets of large portions of society, alter their perceptions about the revolution, and subdue their hopes for the future. As a result, many Egyptians now share a feeling that the military’s intervention has prevented an imminent civil war. In this new era of populism, the state’s guiding narrative is no longer about remaking the 2011 revolution but about the revolution’s failed transitions. These transitions, Sisi’s included, have undermined the country’s stability, economic health, youth, and human rights—the very same factors that mobilized millions of Egyptians to call for democracy and social justice nearly five years ago.

Emad Shahin is Hasib Sabbagh Distinguished Visiting Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies at CCAS. This is an excerpt of Dr. Shahin’s article, “Egypt’s Revolution Turned on its Head,” published in Current History in December 2015.

Culture and Art Unleashed by the Uprisings Rochelle Davis


Rochelle Davis is Associate Professor of Anthropology at CCAS.

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Rochelle Davis

Five years ago, the uprisings ushered in new mediums and messages expressed in art and cultural and social activism. In Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and beyond, people held up signs, chanted slogans, wrote and sang songs, painted street art, and created cartoons, puppet shows, videos, and artwork with messages that commented on events and inspired new visions. They used these forms to question authority, to commemorate those hurt or killed by regime violence, to communicate values and beliefs, and to express pride in who they

are. These works reflected people’s creativity, senses of humor, and longing for a different political system, often in expressions that were also deeply nationalists (See above image). We chose to focus on graffiti for the artwork to accompany this newsletter as it provides a window onto the public debates and messages of those without access to official media. Graffiti and stencils addressed both political and social issues and served as a way to communicate outside of official channels. Egypt’s walls could be read as a palimpsest commentary on the unfolding events of the revolution. (See image on page 13). Artists also addressed the widespread problem of harassment of women in Egypt (See image on page 10). In Syria, graffiti artists communicated messages that were anti-sectarian, anti-regime, and anti-Islamist, often using the same walls that the regime had painted with pro-Asad and pro-Ba’th party messages over the decades. Used in this way, graffiti challenges the power of officials, including the state run media, and instead puts messaging in the hands of, most often, young men who are willing to spend many hours on the streets painting or who are able to sneak around in the dark and defy police. While artists, as well as singers and poets, in these countries seized 2011 as an opportunity to express themselves publicly in new forms, they have been and continue to be, detained, arrested, shot, and disappeared. Oftentimes the regime’s potential and willingness to use violence against these cultural commentators and activists meant that many of their contributions remain anonymous, at least for those remaining inside their countries. Web-based projects, such as The Lens of a Young Syrian and Creative Memory, have emerged to chronicle the cultural and activist events of the Syrian uprising. All of the various forums provide artists with platforms for sharing their work and the public an opportunity to understand the ways that Arabs today are commenting on the politics of the uprising, the rise of Islamist movements, ideologies they struggle with, and societal issues. Despite that the political visions and dreams of those who participated in the initial uprisings has yet to be fully materialized, or has been brutally suppressed, the cultural and artistic expressions of those visions and dreams continues to flourish. 



‫باألمس كانـوا هـنا‬

atumloe lraicle Mourning Loss and Celebrating Legacy of CCAS Founders


CCAS community was deeply saddened by the recent loss of two of its preeminent founders, early visionaries, and longtime supporters, Ambassador Clovis Maksoud and Dr. John Ruedy. Dr. Clovis Maksoud, who was instrumental in inaugurating the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies more than 40 years ago, held a long and distinhe


MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬

guished career as a journalist, professor, and of the modern Middle East with a long and diplomat, serving as Ambassador of the Arab distinguished career at Georgetown, played Visiting Scholar League to India, the United Nations and the ‫زائر‬ the‫باحث‬ lead role in the establishment of the MasUnited States. Dr. Maksoud helped establish ter of Arts in Arab Studies program at CCAS the Clovis and Hala Salaam Maksoud Chair in in 1978. His book Modern Algeria: The OriArab Studies in 2005 and was a longstanding Development of a Nation, has beFaculty News ‫التدريس‬gins ‫هيئة‬and ‫أخبار‬ member of the CCAS Board of Advisors. Dr. come a classic and still serves as a touchstone Ruedy, an internationally respected historian for historians of North Africa.

Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬

Dr. John Ruedy

Professor John (Jack) Ruedy was a man of significant scholarly

achievements, the highest and great personal warmth. Jack Board Member Profileintegrity, ‫األستشاري‬ ‫المجلس‬ ‫خاص من‬

Left: Leyla Sharabi; Right: CCAS

H.E. Ambassador Clovis Maksoud

For over five decades, Ambassador Clovis Maksoud was a singularly impassioned spokesperson for the Arab world, and a towering figure in skill and wisdom on the Arab-American political, diplomatic, and cultural scenes. Throughout his storied career, from the Middle East to India to the USA, he championed Arab causes, often at personal and professional cost, and remained true to his principles in times of great duress. His passing represents the loss of a leading Arab scholar and activist, a steadfast supporter of Arab studies in the US, and a reliable and compassionate friend of the CCAS. He will be sorely missed for his uncompromising advocacy for Palestinian rights, his unwavering commitment to Arab development, and his unique talent for communication. While we may praise Clovis for his rare intellect, his political acumen, and his moral courage, I will also remember his caring personality, his self-deprecating sense of humor, his tremendous generosity, and his genuine concern for others. In this time of deep sorrow, I find comfort in the thought that the Maksoud Chair in Arab Studies at CCAS will continue to honor the memory of Clovis and his beloved wife Hala, as it communicates to generations to come the couple’s commitments to civil rights, social justice, fairness and equality. Osama Abi Mershed Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies

was my senior colleague when I first came to Georgetown as a junior professor, and he proved to be a caring and loyal mentor whose work and life served as a model for me and many others. He engaged deeply Dispatches ‫برقيات‬ with the theories and practices of settler colonialism in Algeria, an interest that also informed his work on the history of land alienation in Palestine, an early and signal contribution to Palestinian studies. Jack’s talents as an‫العامة‬ engaging lecturer were recognized by the DepartPublic Events ‫المناسبات‬ ment of History with the establishment of the John Ruedy General Education Award. Generations of Georgetown students crowded into his History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, a course that he handled with Education a sensitivity Outreach and histori- ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬ cal depth that disarmed and educated even the He also Inmost the partisan. Headlines ‫في العناوين‬ made Georgetown a go-to place for graduate study of the history of Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬ North Africa. He was the founder, and my predecessor as director, of the Master of Arts in‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬ Faculty Research: Arab Studies (MAAS) program, the hallmarks of which still bear his imprint – his insistence Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬ on mastery of Arabic and his belief that one could not know the Arab World without sustained study of its history and culture as well as its politics and economics. I arrived at Georgetown in 1983 as a young woman, unsure of her place in what was then a mostly older and male department. Jack treated me as a respected colleague and never seemed to notice my age or gender. I am deeply grateful for the support he gave me and for the example he set.

Judith Tucker Professor of History, Georgetown University

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬

Spring Public Event Highlights During the spring semester, CCAS hosted 15 public events. Education Outreach ‫ثقيف التربوي‬ These were a few of the highlights.

The Twelfth Israeli War on Gaza January 22 Jean-Pierre Filiu

her work. In a conversation facilitated by MAAS Director Rochelle Davis, El Khoury discussed her most recent exhibit, Gardens Speak, an interactive sound installation containing the reconstructed oral histories of ten ordinary people buried in Syrian gardens. She explained that she carefully constructed the narratives with the friends and families of the deceased in order to tell their stories as they themselves may have recounted them. In addition to discussing Gardens Speak, El Khoury shared examples of her previous works and discussed what it means for her to be a working artist engaging with social and political issues.

In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

The Center for Contemporary Arab Studies had the privilege of opening its spring lecture series with a talk by Jean-Pierre Filiu, Professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po, Paris School of International Affairs. In his talk, “The Twelfth Israeli War on Gaza,” Professor Filiu traced the history of Gaza in order to contextualize the events that led up to Israel’s onslaught on Gaza during the summer of 2014. In his historical overview, Professor Filiu described Israel’s devastating transformation of Gaza from a vibrant, fertile region into an open-air prison. He discussed contemporary challenges facing the Gaza Strip, including Israel’s isolationist policies toward Gaza, and highlighted that even though Israel’s total blockade of Gaza began in 2006, the settler colony had been pursuing policies of closure since 1993. Professor Filiu went on to discuss possible alternatives and outcomes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and stressed the need for an immediate and unconditional lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. In closing the event, Filiu impressed upon the audience the urgent need to address the political and humanitarian crisis facing Gaza. He argued that it is not a question of whether there will be another attack on the small strip of land, but when, and how severe.

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Men of Capital March 15 Sherene Seikaly

The Logistics of Counter Insurgency

Faculty Research: ‫اث هيئة التدريس‬ April 18 Laleh Khalili

Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, discussed the importance of infrastructure in counterinsurgency warfare—such as the use of roads to divide communities—and examined the political, social, and economic legacies these infrastructures have on the regions they afflict. She began her lecture by reminding the audience that “Counterinsurgencies are as much about pacification of civilian populations as they are about the defeat of guerrilla forces.” She went on to discuss the ways in which infrastructure can be used to placate occupied people. For the remainder of her lecture, Dr. Khalili reflected on the use of road-building to support counterinsurgencies. She used the Israeli and American occupations of Palestine and Afghanistan as examples to demonstrate both the offensive means and logistical support roads provide to

Faculty Feature ‫ص من هيئة التدريس‬

Sherene Seikaly, MAAS Alum (2000) and Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara returned to the CCAS as a guest lecturer to discuss the work of her book, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine. Dr. Seikaly’s discussion was unique in that it combined both public events and the MAAS501 class, “Introduction to the Arab World: Theories and Methods.” For the first half of the event, which was open to the public, Seikaly introduced the audience to the many complexities of Palestinian society during the British Mandate period by tracing the stories of various businessmen. Dr. Seikaly’s work interrupts the predominant idea that Palestinian society of the Mandate period was a rigid dichotomy of peasants and business elites, and instead highlights an often overlooked middle class. During the second half of the event, Seikaly engaged with MAAS students over the assigned chapters of her book and offered insights into her research methods.

A Conversation with Tania El Khoury: The Arts as a Global Connector The CCAS, in collaboration with the Middle East Institute and the British Council, hosted artist Tania El Khoury in April to discuss 16

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University


April 8 Tania El Khoury

CCAS Fall 2016 Upcoming Events Check for the most up-to-date information.

HOT CONTENTION, COOL ABSTENTION: Mobilizing for the Arab Spring Stephanie Dornschneider, University College Dublin Tuesday, September 6th 6:00-7:30 pm CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Faith in the Face of Empire: Within and Beyond the Wall Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Bright Stars of Bethlehem Monday, September 19th 6:00-7:30 pm CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

counterinsurgents. Khalili shifted to discuss the use of roads beyond their military functions and identified them as instruments of political transformation and of social engineering. She closed the lecture on a powerful note by reminding the audience that, “This fungibility between infrastructures for capital accumulation and those for warfighting is fundamental to the era we live in and an irrevocable element of what constitutes infrastructural power of those who own these formations and facilities. This infrastructural power facilitates extraction, circulation, accumulation. And so very often its origins lie in the violence of war-making.”

The Indian Ocean in Global Perspective: Mobility, Exchange, and Transformations


April 21 Gaurav Desai, Professor of English, Tulane University; Nile Green, Professor of History, UCLA; and Anand Yang, Professor and Chair, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Washington

On Thursday, April 21, CCAS hosted the 2016 Oberoi Distinguished Roundtable, titled “The Indian Ocean in Global Perspective: Mobility, Exchange, and Transformations.” The Oberoi Distinguished Roundtable, sponsored by a generous gift from the Oberoi Family Foundation, convenes eminent scholars whose works have engaged with the networks of exchange in the overland and maritime regions known collectively as the Silk Roads. The panelists pre-circulated papers prior to the event, where they discussed their unique research goals and analytical approaches to the historical movement of people, commodities, ideas, and capital across the Indian Ocean. The event sought to explore how these exchanges may inform our contemporary understandings of world history and emerging globalization. The panel was moderated by Paula Newberg, Clinical Professor and Fellow of the Charles Wilson Chair in Pakistan Studies, UT Austin. 

Exhibit Opening: Caesar Photos – Inside Syria’s Secret Prisons Marwa Daoudy, Georgetown University Thursday, September 22nd 6:00-7:30 pm Exhibit open from September 22nd – October 6th*

The Decline of America in the Middle East—Pros and Cons Michael Hudson, Georgetown University Tuesday, September 27th 6:00-7:30 pm CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine Greg Thomas, Tufts University Tuesday, October 4th 6:00-7:30 pm CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Sheikh Abdullah Saleh Kamel Distinguished Lecture

Abdel Razzaq Takriti, University of Houston Thursday, October 27th 6:00pm – 7:30 pm ICC Auditorium

A Night of Music & Poetry with Oumeima El Khalil & Marwan Makhoul Sunday, October 30th 6:00 pm (Doors open at 5:00 pm) Gaston Hall Tickets Required

Yemen Revisted

Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College CUNY and Jonathan Warner, Arab Studies Institute Friday, November 4th Time- TBD CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


Education Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬


Inspiring the Classroom

In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

Teacher workshop topics range from globalization and the “new” Silk Road to drumming traditional Arab rhythms and dancing the dabkeh. By Susan Douglass


Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

semester, the CCAS Education Outreach program hosted six workshops for teachers on a wide variety of cultural, historical, and contemporary topics for approximately 50 teachers. CCAS hosted these events, which were funded by a Department of Education Title VI grant and a generous donation, as part of its role as a National Resource Center on the Middle East. On January 16, 2016, teachers visited the Walters Art Museum exhibition “Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great uring the spring

tion belt linking China with Central Asia and Eastern Europe. CERES Associate Director Benjamin Loring provided historical background on the region. On Saturday, February 20, workshop participants drummed, wrote poetry, danced, and tried their hands at cross-stitch embroidery at the workshop “Express Yourself! Cultural Activities for Teachers.” Musician Karim Nagi taught a challenging set of traditional Arab rhythms and accompanied CCAS Associate Director Rania Kiblawi’s dance lesson on the Palestinian dabkeh. Grace Cavalieri, creator of the radio series “The Poet and the Poem” at the Library of Congress led participants in exercises to channel their inner poet. After a Middle Eastern lunch, Zeina Azzam, published poet and Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund, gave a presentation on Arabic poetry and a participant beautifully recited a famous pre-Islamic ode. Hanan Munayyer of the Palestine Heritage Foundation, as well as collector and scholar of traditional Arab textiles, gave a presentation on the styles and uses of Palestinian garments and their embellishments, and concluded the day with a demonstration of cross-stitch patterns. CCAS held its second collaborative workshop on Children’s Literature on Africa and the Middle East with Howard University’s Center for African Studies and School of Edu-

Islamic Courts,” which highlighted writers, poets, craftsmen and artists of the Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires during the early modern period. The presentation for teachers after the exhibit explored the works of artists and writers, and the exchange of ideas and styles during that dynamic period of global movement. CCAS hosted, in collaboration with Georgetown’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES), the seminar “The New Silk Road: Regional Cultures and Global Implications” on Saturday, January 30. Ali Igmen of California State University, Long Beach spoke on Soviet modernity, ethnicity and gender in Kyrgyzstan. Ambassador Richard B. Norland, Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, addressed the implications of China’s planned economic and transporta-

Faculty Research: ‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬

Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬

Top left: Zeina Azzam, Executive Director, Jerusalem Fund, gives presentation on Arabic poetry; Bottom left: Musician Karim Nagi demonstrates drumming styles from the MENA region; Bottom right: Hanan Munayyer, Palestine Heritage Foundation, presents traditional textiles. Top, next page: Teachers drum traditional Arab rhythms



Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Q and A

...with Sherene Seikaly


cation on Thursday, April 7. Teachers each received six books and collaborated during the workshop on ideas for using the texts in meaningful ways in their classrooms. Children’s author Margaret Musgrove talked about working with illustrators and publishers, and the challenges of authentic portrayal of stories set in Africa. School founder, administrator, and cultural anthropologist Afeefa Syeed addressed the theme of holding multiple identities, speaking from her experiences as both a Kashmiri American Muslim in domestic settings and as someone who engages, through her work, with educators around the world. Montgomery College’s annual Arab American Heritage Program “Building a Culture of Respect” was the setting for a panel of speakers on “Contemporary Media and the Middle East” on Friday, April 15. Fatima Zahrae Charifi Alaoui, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, showed historical images portraying women in North Africa, and discussed how they resonate in media portrayals of the region today. William Youmans of George Washington University took on the many clichés about the Middle East that have been deployed in various media and illustrated critical approaches to challenging them. Nazir Harb, researcher for the ACMCU Bridge Project, gave a tour of the phenomenon of Islamophobia and how it is underscored in multiple types of media. Teachers were also invited to the Oberoi Distinguished Roundtable “Mobility, Exchange and Transformations in the Indian Ocean World” on April 21. Moderated by Paula Newberg of the University of Texas, Austin, the roundtable featured Gaurav Desai, Professor of English at Tulane University, Nile Green, Professor of History at UCLA, and Anand Yang, Professor and Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington. They each discussed their use of unique sources and analytical approaches to the historical movement of people, commodities, ideas, and capital across the Indian Ocean, and what they reveal about the role of the Indian Ocean in globalization. The last workshop of the year, on Saturday May 7, featured ideas on using documentary films in the classroom to deepen students’ understanding of Islam and Muslims around historical and contemporary issues. Daniel Tutt of Unity Productions Foundation and Anisha Patel of InnovusED in Chicago led lively discussions on the content and use of the films with their students. Attendees received a full set of UPF films and a VIP pass for online streaming. 

MAAS Alum Sherene Seikaly (2000) recently published Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine with Stanford University Press. Her book, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Palestine Book Awards, debunks common assumptions about class in British-ruled Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s by exploring the complexities of the emergent middle classes. Why did you choose to use an economic framework for telling this story?

Economy and its management were central concerns in the 1930s and 1940s. The figure of the consumer was ubiquitous, as were the institutions that dotted early twentieth century Palestine: Arab Chambers of Commerce. The crisis of supply during World War II, and the multiple iterations of a broad ranging rationing system that the British colonial government imposed were also salient themes. The more I read about the 1940s, the more I understood that the calculation and regulation of wartime consumption was a deep concern across various national, settler, and colonial divides. Since your book developed out of your dissertation, how did the project evolve over time?

The scattered shards of the Palestinian archive shaped the project as it matured. The dissertation began with a focus on the cultural practices of consumption as a way to understand social and political structures and shifts. It changed to telling the story of a Palestinian middle class that shaped nation and economy, the home and the body. It challenged the flattened topography that explained Palestinian social life as consisting only of venal notables, honorable but ignorant peasants, and a small group of workers. As my dissertation evolved into the book, it sought to not simply recover the story of colonized elites’ understandings and projects of private property, self-responsibility, and profit accumulation. It sought above all else to critique these ideas and practices as part of a broader intellectual and economic project, called the nahda. 

Susan Douglass is the K-14 Education Outreach Coordinator at CCAS.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


DISPATCHES Notes From Abroad

Five Years Of Conflict Brings New Normals In Damascus By Benan Grams



and social activities that used to take place in the late evening to the morning, giving rise to the new phenomenon of musical brunches. Women—whether housewives, students, or unemployed—are the target customers for these brunches. Sometimes you can see ten to

Public Events ‫ت العامة‬ quility, comfort, and security. This new social phenomenon has been accompanied by changes in social norms and traditions, and a relaxing of attitudes toward gender. You can see this change through the interaction between singers and their female guests who range from westernoriented to traditional, conservative women. With the selection of nostalgic songs, singers are able to get these women of different backgrounds out of their seats and onto their feet. Before “the crisis,” dancing in public was unheard of in Damascus, except within Christian or rural communities. Dancing was limited to closed family events or all-female gatherings, and women of well-to-do, Muslim, Damascene families simply did not dance in public spaces like restaurants or cafes. However, the new musical brunches have shaken this tradition. When the singers begin their songs, even veiled women jump to their feet to dance, ignoring that the singer is a man, and in whose presence a veiled women should not dance. In a country at war, you can find on the dance floor women, veiled and unveiled, from different backgrounds, religious denominations, and degrees of religiosity all dancing and singing together. Curious, I asked one of these women how such changes came about. She winked at me and answered, “Listen, Benan. We do not know if we will stay alive until tomorrow, so let’s have fun now.” 

Education Outreach

In the Headlines ‫ناوين‬ Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Faculty Research: ‫يس‬

fifteen ladies of a single family seated at one table, chatting and laughing, eagerly waiting for the singer to start his program. With children at school, this is their chance to make up for missed opportunities to socialize in the evenings and to soothe broken-hearted mothers who lost their sons to the war, the sea, or the West. Women frequent these brunches knowing that they will listen to traditional songs of love and longing for distant loved ones, songs that lament the old days of tran-

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Faculty Feature ‫دريس‬ Benan Grams, originally from Damascus, graduated from the MAAS program in 2014 and is a now a PhD candidate in Georgetown’s Department of History. She is researching the social and cultural experience of World War One in Damascus.

Benan Grams

of being unable to travel to see my home and family in Damascus during what Syrians refer to as “The Crisis,” I am now visiting them for the third time in recent months. The political chaos that swept the country between 2011 and 2015 created high levels of uncertainty about who might be perceived as a threat to the regime, while the deteriorating security conditions elevated the risk of kidnapping and blackmailing. Although for an outsider, the situation does not seem to have become any safer, Syrians, particularly in Damascus, have learned to adapt to the current situation and find a sense of stability in the chaos. Upon my return to Damascus, it was clear to me that life would not be the same. The abnormal circumstances that Syria has experienced since 2011 have changed the social landscape of everyday life in Damascus and brought back bitter memories of 100 years ago—the days of the “Safarberlik,” an Ottoman term that refers to the calls for conscription and mobilization to warfronts during the First World War. Now in Damascus, when I tell people that I am researching the social experience of World War I in Damascus, they faintly smile and say, “Not much has changed… Do you find any difference between now and then?” I find myself sadly admitting “No, not much… it’s very similar indeed.” Damascus is once again going through difficult times. Even so, its people seem to insist on living and on enjoying life. Before the current conflict, Damascus came alive at night, but now that harsh conditions and poor security have made going out at night unsafe, people—particularly women—are looking for other venues to happiness. One solution in Damascus has been to shift entertainment fter four years

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬

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