Politics in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa have experienced serious political upheaval since the beginning of the 21th century. These events have corresponded with specific developments such as the ever-accelerating penetration of the Internet and social media from the late 1990s, followed by the attacks of 9/11 and the American military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which further destabilized both societies. Then followed the second oil price boom (2004-2014), the dramatic increases in commodity prices (fuel, wheat, steel, etc.) and the inability of governments to maintain public subsidies for basic foodstuffs and energy. All this took place as the region continued to suffer from unaccountable governance, endemic corruption of the political elite and crony capitalism as well as the repression and brutalization of citizens and the lack of economic opportunities. This welter of factors ultimately led to an explosion of popular anger and mobilization, beginning in late 2010 and lasting until today. Governments throughout the region have responded with more repression, and in some cases, as in Syria, with the wholesale destruction of much of the country and the displacement of half its citizens. The research focus of the Transregional Institute (TRI) during the academic years 2019-2021 will be on the developments mentioned above. TRI’s researchers will take into account the political history of the region and analyze these recent dynamics using different disciplinary approaches with the aim of providing a better understanding of these contemporary political, social and economic changes in the Middle East and North Africa.
Fariz Ismailzade is a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Transregional Institute during the fall 2021. Since 2006, Dr. Ismailzade has been Executive Vice Rector of ADA University in Azerbaijan and editor of the quarterly journal Baku Dialogues. He serves as a board member of the State Examination Center and governmental working group on Education, Culture and Science for the reconstruction of Karabakh. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western University in Baku, received a master’s degree in social and economic development from Washington University in St. Louis and an executive MBA in international business from the IB Business School before being awarded a DBA in international business from the Maastricht School of Management. At Princeton, he will be conducting research on the economic relations between the US and Azerbaijan. His publications include: “Liberated Karabakh” (2021, ADA University Press); “South Caucasus 2021: Oil, Democracy and Geopolitics” (Jamestown Foundation Press, 2012) and “Azerbaijan in Global Politics: Crafting Foreign Policy” (2009, ADA Press).
Elizabeth M. Perego, PhD is an historian of contemporary Algeria and its global and regional connections. Her scholarship examines the intersection of politics, culture, and gender in Algeria as well as the modern Maghrib more generally. She is currently completing a book project entitled, De-mock-ratiyya: Humor, History, Protest, and Conflict in Algeria, 1988 to 2005, which explores comedy as a site of identity formation and expression of political ideas at times of heightened crisis and censorship. She also looks forward to conducting new research into the transnational and transregional histories of African identities and feminism across the Sahara and Middle East. Dr. Perego received her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University in 2017 and was Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University.
She joined the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa & Central Asia as a postdoctoral research associate in January 2020.
Hugo Micheron earned his PhD in Political Science from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris in 2019. In September 2020 Dr. Micheron joined Princeton University as a postdoctoral research associate at the Institute for Transregional Studies. Here he will be pursuing research on the socio-political and socio-religious changes in the Levant and Iraq after the demise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and their implications for the Euro-Mediterranean region. Dr. Micheron’s PhD dissertation, titled “The Lands of Jihad: neighborhoods, prisons, and the Levant. A Political Sociology of West European Jihadism (1989–2019),” is the result of in-depth sociological surveys in French and Belgian neighborhoods affected by jihadist recruitment. For this research, he also conducted 80 interviews with convicted “returnees” from ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) who are incarcerated in French prisons. He engaged in discussions with jihadist leaders and foot soldiers both through one-on-one and collective interviews. The fieldwork in Europe was complemented by interviews in Iraq, north Lebanon and Turkey with local jihadists and their families as well as with Kurdish fighters and Syrian dissidents. Dr. Micheron’s doctoral research constitutes the largest qualitative and quantitative social science study on French-speaking jihadism. A revised version of the dissertation was published by Gallimard press in 2020 under the title Le jihadisme français, and an English translation and publication is presently underway. More recently, Dr. Micheron did research on a soon-to-be-published project titled “The Evolution of Online Discourses of French-speaking Islamist Communities after the fall of ISIS.” This is a quantitative study, based on historical data feeds and API from Twitter and Facebook, that explores the discursive evolution and mutual interactions between distinct online Islamist communities (jihadist, Salafist and the Muslim Brotherhood). Dr. Micheron has taught at Sciences Po and the ENS and will be teaching a course at Princeton on jihadism.
Christiana Parreira, PhD is a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Transregional Institute. Her research focuses on how local political institutions affect patterns of regime durability and change. Her dissertation (and book project), The Art of Not Governing: Local Politics in Postwar Lebanon, uses local electoral data, an original survey, participant-observation, and qualitative interviews to show how center-periphery ties have shaped governance outcomes in Lebanon. The dissertation demonstrates that Lebanon’s governing coalition has continually relied on municipal governments throughout the country’s history to selectively reward electoral loyalty and punish opposition, foreclosing opportunities for voters to hold incumbents accountable at the ballot box. Her other research examines how local institutions and actors affect welfare outcomes in the modern Middle East. Dr. Parreira received her PhD in political science from Stanford University in August 2020.
Asher Orkaby, PhD is an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Transregional Institute. He earned his PhD from Harvard University in International History and Middle Eastern Studies and is the author of Beyond the Arab Cold War: The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-68 (Oxford University Press, 2017). Orkaby is also the author of a forthcoming book with Oxford University Press, What Everyone Needs to Know About Yemen. Over the course of the current conflict in Yemen, he has contributed regularly to Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, and many other policy publications and has commented on both English and Arabic media such as CSPAN, CGTN, Waqt News and Al-Hurra. His current research focuses on the history of chemical warfare in the Middle East.