|March 13, 2015: In this edition
The politics of identity post-Arab Spring
What role do identity politics play in the changing Middle East? This question was the focus of the March 10 conference “Divided Societies, Volatile States: The Politics of Identity Post-Arab Spring,” hosted by the Baker Institute Center for the Middle East. The purpose of the conference, said founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian in his opening remarks, was to “further our understanding of the past and present role of politics and identity and the many challenges facing this troubled region, and explore potential policies that can respond more effectively to the instability and division we currently see in the region.”
In his keynote address, Shibley Telhami, professor of international relations at the University of Maryland, College Park, and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, explored changes in the way the peoples of the Middle East define or think about themselves. Telhami’s public opinion polling in the Arab world shows that in the years leading up to the Arab uprisings, from 2000 to 2010, there was a decline in national identity and a rise in Muslim identity — in other words, Arabs are increasingly choosing to identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims rather than as citizens of a particular country or region. This rise in Muslim identity, Telhami explained, is a reaction to events of the last decade — such as the the Iraq war and hostilities in Gaza — that made Arabs feel as though Islam was under attack. Another factor in this change is the rise of transnational media, such as the news outlet Al Jazeera, which give a voice to dissenting opinions and criticisms of Arab governments. Understanding how people in the Arab world define themselves is important, Telhami said, because “identity has practical consequences for people’s expectations about what their government should do.”
The conference also featured three panel presentations at which scholars from around the world discussed topics ranging from sectarianism in the Gulf and social reform for women in Egypt to the future of Israel. Panelist Frederic Wehrey, senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted the opportunities for policymakers to mitigate sectarianism. “I think we can be helpful in pressing these regimes for political reform — openness, reforming their media, political inclusivity,” he said.
Visit our website to view videos from the event and the speakers’ presentations.
Pictured above, from right to left: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East, Baker Institute; Frederic Wehrey, senior associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Claire Beaugrand, postdoctoral researcher, Institut Français du Proche Orient; and Toby Matthiesen, research fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge University. To view more photos, visit our Facebook page.
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- Boko Haram and the 2015 Nigeria General Elections. This event will focus on the drivers of election violence in Nigeria, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency. 6:00 pm March 25
- The Fifth Eubank Conference on Real World Markets: A Focus on Energy. Speakers will examine the shifting economics and geopolitics of the energy landscape, the changing North American energy portfolio resulting from advances in hydraulic fracturing, and regional and global dynamics associated with investment in energy markets. 8:30 am March 26 – Noon March 27
- Drug Policy U-Turns in the Americas: Uruguay, Guatemala and the United States. This Vecinos Lecture Series event brings together experts to explore what changes lie ahead for drug policy in the Americas. 11:30 am April 20
- A Conversation With His Excellency Gérard Araud. His Excellency Gérard Araud, ambassador of France to the United States, will discuss U.S.-France relations. 8:30 am April 22
- Mexico’s Energy Reform: Let the Bidding Begin. Stakeholders from the private sector and government decision-makers will analyze the details of Mexico's bidding process, the feasibility of energy reform efforts in terms of geopolitical and price volatility, and the role of the rule of law. 8:00 am April 28
- Civic Scientist Lecture Series — Restoring the Foundation: Reviving the U.S. Science, Engineering and Technology Enterprise. Experts from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences will explore ways to recapture American leadership in scientific research and innovation. 6:00 pm April 30
For a complete list of upcoming events, visit our events page.
Research and News
- It's Time to Move Forward on Fiscal Reform, by John W. Diamond, fellow in public finance. March 13
- Boko Haram and Africa's Neglected Tropical Diseases, by Peter J. Hotez, fellow in disease and poverty. March 12
- Ambassador Djerejian on Netanyahu's speech, U.S.-Israel Relations, interviews with founding director Ambassador Edward Djerejian. March 4
- Power Moves: The China-Russia Energy Alliance's Unspoken Humanitarian Agenda, by Steven W. Lewis, C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow. March 2
- The Gulf of Mexico: A “Hot Zone” for Neglected Tropical Diseases?, by Peter J. Hotez, fellow in disease and poverty. February 26
For a complete list, visit our research library.