Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Unfinished Project of the Arab Spring

The Unfinished Project of the Arab Spring: Why "Middle East Exceptionalism" is Still Wrong

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
September 25-27, 2015

The Fallacy of “Middle East Exceptionalism"

Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi
September 21, 2015
Five years after the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the region remains in a deep and profound crisis. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the breakout of proxy war in Yemen and Syria, the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity, the failure of Islamists in power and the subsequent return of a military regime in Egypt, and the survival of autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies have largely contributed to the revival of an old and naive cliché about the Middle East.

This cliché suggests the violent culture of the Middle East exceptionally resists democratic ideals and institutions. We often hear this line of argument, known as the “Middle East Exceptionalism,” in the media. However, this is a very simplistic reading of the current events in the region. Here is the counterargument:

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Making Settled Things Strange

The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.
- G K Chesterton

The intellectual community in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta is a rich source for research, insights and perspective on the pressing political issues of the day. Our department blog provides an opportunity to share those insights in a timely and accessible way, and to contribute to public and scholarly debate. The range of expertise that is housed in our department ensures that the blog will be stocked with a wide breadth of commentary, spanning contemporary electoral politics and political developments in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Europe, the Middle East, and China, issues relating to global finance, trade, migrants, peace and conflict, sovereignty and cruelty, gender, sexual identity, and racial inequality, Indigenous politics, the environment, the media, health and social policy, and democratic deliberation. We are a highly interdisciplinary group of scholars, drawing from philosophy, sociology, history, law, cultural studies and economics to inform our research and analysis. 

We affirm G.K. Chesteron’s charge to use the imagination in the service of “making settled things strange;” an act we undertake in order to reveal common sense assumptions about why and how power operates as it does, and to consider alternatives. Readers will encounter fresh and challenging perspectives in these posts. We hope our contributions are good to think with, that they foster debate and encourage further reflection and investigation. 

Dr. Lois Harder is Chair and Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. Dr. Harder's full profile can be found at: