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CIRS Newsletter 20 was published in Spring 2016. This newsletter highlights all CIRS activities over the 2015-2016 period, including the latest research initiatives, publications, faculty research, as well as conference participation and exhibitions.
The CIRS research initiative on media and politics in the aftermath of the Arab revolts has resulted in an edited volume, Bullets and Bulletins: Media and Politics in the Wake of the Arab Uprisings (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2016), offering critical examination into the profound sociopolitical and media transitions that have occurred within Arab states during and in the wake of the uprisings. It explores the intricate ways in which politics and media intersect in their representation and negotiation of political resistance and cultural production in a shifting Arab world. By analyzing different aspects of Arab mediascapes—transformations in the culture of Arab journalism, the construction of media cities, the rise of religious media, and the attention to subcultures and public diplomacy—this volume provides insights into the changing political dynamics of the region, and maps out the rearticulation of power relations between state and society. The chapters adopt a multidisciplinary approach in their analyses of the changing dynamics of media and politics before, during, and in the aftermath of the revolts.
The Asia Papers no.1
Robert G. Wirsing, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and Samir Kumar Das, University of Calcutta, India
This paper assesses five major transboundary-related problems currently troubling the Bengal region and bedeviling, in particular, the relationship between Bangladesh and India. These problems relate to settlement of the land boundary (enclaves and adverse possessions), facilitation of transboundary transit (road, rail, and waterway), curbing of transboundary illicit activity (smuggling, human trafficking, and covert support for radical Islamist groups and separatist militants), sharing of transboundary river resources, and control of transboundary migration. The paper’s focus is on the potential and capacity of the political entities sharing the Bengal region to identify, agree upon, and implement effective and sustainable solutions to these problems. It argues that such solutions, to be sustainable, would have to prioritize cross-border cooperation and mutual benefit—objectives that have thus far neither been aggressively nor consistently pursued in this region. The authors observe that the transboundary problems troubling the Bengal region vary substantially in the extent of their intractability and that some of them will persist far into the future. Nevertheless, they conclude that the present scale as well as the severity of the consequences of these problems are not permanent fixtures and will vary enormously with the political will, perseverance, and skill of those charged with determining the political destiny of this hugely important region.
Kamrava, Mehran. The Impossibility of Palestine. New Haven CT, Yale University Press, 2016.
The “two-state solution” is the official policy of Israel, the United States, the United Nations, and the Palestinian Authority alike. However, international relations scholar Mehran Kamrava argues that Israel’s “state-building” process has never risen above the level of municipal governance, and its goal has never been Palestinian independence. He explains that a coherent Palestinian state has already been rendered an impossibility, and to move forward, Palestine must redefine its present predicament and future aspirations. Based on detailed fieldwork, exhaustive scholarship, and an in-depth examination of historical sources, this controversial work will be widely read and debated by all sides. Read more from Yale University Press.
Kamrava, Mehran, ed. Fragile Politics: Weak States in the Greater Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2016.
The 2011 Arab uprisings precipitated the relatively quick collapse of a number of Middle Eastern states once perceived as invincible. The Tunisian and Egyptian states succumbed to revolutionary upheavals early on, followed by that of Qadhafi’s Libya. Yemen’s President Saleh was also eventually forced to give up power. A bloody civil war continues to rage in Syria. These uprisings highlighted weaknesses in the capacity and legitimacy of states across the Arab Middle East. This book provides a comprehensive study of state weakness—or of ‘weak states’—across the Greater Middle East. Read more from Oxford University Press.
The Arabic CIRS Summary Report no. 11 titled, Fragile Politics: Weak States in the Greater Middle East, details the findings of the larger CIRS research initiative on "Weak States in the Greater Middle East." It begins with a critical analysis of current definitions and terminology of weak and fragile states, scrutinizing the political implications of the prevailing discourse within the setting of the broader Middle East. The research also examines the domestic, regional, and global causes and consequences for the Middle East of the “fragility” of states stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east to Libya in the west. Employing multidisciplinary perspectives, we study the causes and implications of conceptual notions of state fragility across the region in relation to areas such as politics and security, economics and natural resources, intra- and inter-state relations, migration and population movements, and the broader regional and global political economies.
Babar, Zahra, ed. Arab Migrant Communities in the GCC. London: Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2016.
Arab Migrant Communities in the GCC is a unique, original work of scholarship based on in-depth fieldwork shedding light on a topic both highly relevant and woefully understudied. It focuses on the earlier community of Arab immigrants within the GCC, who are among the politically most significant and sensitive of migrant groups in the region. Through its multi-disciplinary lenses of social history, cultural studies, economics, and political science, the book presents original data and provides analyses of the settlement and continued evolution of migrant Arab communities across the GCC, their work in and assimilation within host societies and labour markets, and their political, economic, social and cultural significance both to the GCC region and to their countries of origin. Read more from Hurst.
Bullets and Bulletins takes a sobering and holistic look at the intersections between media and politics before, during, and in the reverberations of the Arab uprisings. It is a multi-disciplinary approach to the topic, with the research backed up by in-depth and rigorous case studies of the key countries of the Arab Spring. The uprisings were accompanied by profound changes in the roles of traditional and new media across the Middle East. What added significantly to the amplification of demands and grievances in the public spheres, streets and squares, was the dovetailing of an increasingly indignant population — ignited by the prospects of economic and political marginalisation — with high rates of media literacy, digital connectivity, and social media prowess. This combination of political activism and mediated communication turned popular street protests into battles over information, where authorities and activists wrestled with each other over media messages. Bullets and Bulletins offers original insights and analysis into the role of traditional and new media in what is undoubtedly a most critical period in contemporary Middle Eastern history. Read more from Oxford University Press.
Kamrava, Mehran, ed. Gateways to the World: Port Cities in the Persian Gulf. New York: Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2016.
The Persian Gulf region has become home to some of the world’s fastest growing, most impressive cities, many of them with global aspirations. Gateways to the World presents an in-depth, systematic, and multi-disciplinary approach to the study of these cities. It begins with a broader look at how the emergence and significance of cities along the Persian Gulf waterway should be contextualized. It then moves to historical examinations of the emergence of national borders and boundaries, how they became ‘port cities’ of various kinds, what are the semantics of studying them, and what the glittering skylines and cityscapes and their remaining traditional neighborhoods mean for the international political economy and for the identity of their residents. This book presents a comprehensive study of the nature and variety, the importance, and the domestic and international consequences of port cities along the Persian Gulf. Read more from Oxford University Press.
Sriram, Chandra Lekha, ed. Transitional Justice in the Middle East. London: Hurst, 2016.
Following the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, many had high hopes not only for democratisation but also for transitional justice to address the myriad abuses that had taken place in the region, both during the uprisings and for decades prior to them. Despite these hopes, most of the transitions in the region have stalled, along with the possibility of transitional justice. This volume is the first to look at this process and brings together leading experts in the fields of human rights and transitional justice, and in the history, politics and justice systems of countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco. While these countries have diverse histories, political institutions, and experiences with accountability, most have experienced non-transition, stalled transition, or political manipulation of transitional justice measures, highlighting the limits of such mechanisms. These studies should inform reflection not only on the role of transitional justice in the region, but also on challenges to its operation more generally. Read more from Hurst.