The multiple sites of public protest and resistance seen during the Arab Spring were a result of the coalescing of different social forces and the spontaneous display of citizens’ activism not seen for decades. The mobilization of those different sets of informal actors that has been rooted in previous activism within the informal sector of society revitalized the significance of looking beyond the state in order to understand social and political forces and dynamics. Since the Arab Spring there has been an increasing academic and policy interest in studying the role and influence of informal spaces where networks of activism and resistance might develop and grow. CIRS is launching this new research project on Informal Politics in the Middle East to, among other things, expand our understanding of the historical roots of informal networks in the Middle East, their capacity to engage as an alternate setting for political engagement, and to study the continuities and discontinuities in the state-informal actors relationship in the region.
Over the past several years some countries in the region are increasingly encountering a resurgence of authoritarianism while others are experiencing heightened civil conflict. In addition, in our immediate neighborhood, the geopolitics of the GCC are in a process of reconfiguration, and the current rupture between the six monarchies are creating serious difficulties for scholars, doctoral students, and academics. In light of its commitment to study regional and international issues through dialogue and exchange of ideas, research and scholarship, and engagement with national and international scholars, opinion-makers, practitioners, and activists, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) is launching a project that explores issues around how the research community can address the multiple challenges encountered when carrying out studies on the Middle East.
Much of the existing literature on the region, when it comes to citizenship, has been fixed on the limitation of rights afforded to citizens in authoritarian states, and on the inherent imbalance between citizens’ access to rights versus the power of autocratic regimes that govern them. There has been less of a focus on the linkages between citizenship, class, and persistent inequality in the Middle East. In line with this, Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) is launching a new research project to examine some of the central questions around issues of citizenship, identity, nationalism, class, marginalization, and inequality. Through this project, CIRS hopes to broaden and deepen academic understanding of the conception of citizenship within the context of the Middle East.
As part of a wider strategy to expand its research boundaries to areas east of the Middle East, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) is launching a new research project to examine some of the central questions relating to nation-building processes as they have unfolded in Central Asia. A foundational underpinning to this research effort is an interest in examining how the Central Asian states have navigated their early dilemmas, what their path towards nation building over the past thirty years has been like, and what the consequences for particular strategies adopted for the different states have been. Among other things, through this project CIRS hopes to broaden and deepen academic understanding of how these young states launched efforts to build their unified, modern nations, in what ways they have managed to establish political and social cohesion, and how they have engaged in the processes of administrative and institutional consolidation.
The issue of water scarcity continues to be one of the critical challenges that the Middle East faces. The region is arguably the most water-impoverished in the world, and the effects of changes in climate, consumption and agricultural practices, as well as poor governance over water allocation have exacerbated concerns regarding the future of water resources in the Middle East. The United Nations estimates that 18 out of the 30 nations that will be water-scarce by 2025 are located in the Middle East and North Africa. These bleak projections are especially troublesome considering the foundational role that water serves for socio-economic needs such as food, energy, sanitation, and industry.
In the Middle East, sports have, for decades, been of pivotal importance to players (both professional and amateur), to impassioned fans and supporters, to industry and business stakeholders, to journalists and the media, to physicians and health professionals, to educators and policymakers, and to societies at large. In various shapes and forms, sports have served as vehicles and venues for political expression and engagement, economic development, national identity creation and assertion, as well as regional and international relations. And yet despite this flowing field of potential sites of research inquiry, there has been a limited amount of scholarly interest in the role that sports have played in the contemporary socio-economic, cultural, and political milieus of the region.
This research initiative explores middle powers in the Middle East by studying the varying levels of material power, behavioral aspects, and ideational characteristics of six regional middle powers, namely Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, as well as other aspiring middle powers, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. It focuses specifically on the conception of middle powers in the context of the Middle East, the causes and consequences of the rise and decline of middle powers in the region, the nexus between domestic politics and foreign policy of middle powers, their self-perceptions as global middle powers and regional superpowers, and shifting alliances and tensions with great powers and with each other. Addressing these and other similar topics will help fill gaps in the burgeoning literature on the international relations of the Middle East, and particularly on middle power politics. This research project addresses an increasingly important but largely understudied topic in Middle Eastern studies.
This research initiative focuses on the veracity of the resource curse thesis explanation for many of the political, social, and economic dynamics in the region in the context of the current downward price cycle. It aims to examine the relationships between resource revenues and democracy; political and economic arrangements; states’ structural foundations and bureaucracies; policy-making; privatization efforts; occupational specialization, urbanization, and education; national security architecture; economic diversification; labor market demographics; regional and international cooperation; social and cultural changes; gender relations; art production; and identity.
This research initiative investigates the dynamics, position of, and role played by spiritual leaders of different religious communities in the Middle East during and after the Arab uprisings. The research project includes examinations of the leaders of the multiple religions and faiths present in the Middle East, which will include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahá’ism, Druze, Yazidism, Alevism, and Zoroastrianism. The project explores a variety of topics such as religious leadership; traditional authority; sovereignty; state conceptions and management of religions, faiths, and sacred sites; women religious leaders; training and religious qualifications; political economy of the religious establishment; and religios- political movements, sources of power, and resistance.
Migration on a global scale is an everyday practice. The term itself is used to describe patterns of human mobility that occur internally within a state or region, as well as those taking place internationally and trans-continentally. Migration can be applied to the process of people moving as a result of their own agency, voluntarily and as a choice. It can also be used to describe the process of having to move under duress, and this includes the categories of forced migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers.This project recognizes regional migration as a complex, widespread, and persistent phenomenon in the Middle East, and a topic best studied from a multidisciplinary approach. It broadens our understanding of the complex population movements that are seen in the Middle East, and includes the movements of those who may be identified in multiple different ways—migrants, migrant workers, guest workers, temporary migrants, low and highly skilled economic migrants, trafficked persons, forced migrants/forced workers, smuggled persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. Also included will be other migrants such as unaccompanied minors, environmental refugees, and stranded migrants.