Under the title “Political Contestation and New Social Forces in the Middle East and North Africa,” the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy convened its 2018 annual conference on April 27 and 28 at Stanford University. Bringing together a diverse group of scholars from across several disciplines, the conference examined how dynamics of governance and modes of political participation have evolved in recent years in light of the resurgence of authoritarian trends throughout the region.
Delivering the opening remarks of the conference, Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Larry Diamond reflected on the state of struggle for political change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In a panel titled “Youth, Culture, and Expressions of Resistance,” FSI Scholar Ayca Alemdaroglu discussed strategies the Turkish state has pursued to preempt and contain dissent among youth. Adel Iskandar, Assistant Professor of Communications at Simon Fraser University, explained the various ways through which Egyptian youth employ social media to express political dissent. Yasemin Ipek, Assistant Professor of Global Affairs at George Mason University, unpacked the phenomenon of “entrepreneurial activism” among Lebanese youth and discussed its role in cross-sectarian mobilization.
The conference’s second panel, tilted “Situating Gender in the Law and the Economy,” featured Texas Christian University Historian Hanan Hammad, who assessed the achievements of the movement to fight gender-based violence in Egypt. Focusing on Gulf Cooperation Council states, Alessandra Gonzales, a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, analyzed the differences in female executive hiring practices across local and foreign firms. Stanford University Political Scientist and FSI Senior Fellow Lisa Blaydes presented findings from her research on women’s attitudes toward Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt.
Speaking on a panel titled “Social Movements and Visions for Change,” Free University of Berlin Scholar Dina El-Sharnouby discussed the 2011 revolutionary movement in Egypt and the visions for social change it espouses in the contemporary moment. Oklahoma City University Political Scientist Mohamed Daadaoui analyzed the Moroccan regime’s strategies of control following the Arab Uprisings and their impact on various opposition actors. Nora Doaiji, a PhD Student in History at Harvard University, shared findings from her research examining the challenges confronting the women’s movement in Saudi Arabia.
The fourth panel of the conference, “The Economy, the State, and New Social Actors,” featured George Washington University Associate Professor of Geography Mona Atia, who presented on territorial restructuring and the politics governing poverty in Morocco. Amr Adly, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo, analyzed the relationship between the state and big business in Egypt after the 2013 military coup. Rice University Professor of Economics Mahmoud El-Gamal shared findings from his research on the economic determinants of democratization and de-democratization trends in Egypt during the past decade.
The final panel focused on the international and regional dimensions of the struggle for political change in the Arab world, and featured Hicham Alaoui, a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Georgetown University Political Scientist Daniel Brumberg, and Nancy Okail, the Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
The conference included a special session featuring former fellows of the American Middle Eastern Network at Stanford (AMENDS), an organization dedicated to promoting understanding around the Middle East, and supporting young leaders working to ignite concrete social and economic development in the region. AMENDS affiliates from five different MENA countries shared with the Stanford community their experiences in working toward social change in their respective countries.