From the Arab Spring to ISIS: On Stateness and Tradition in the Modern Middle East

Date: 

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 1:00pm to Sat, 06/25/2022 - 3:27am

Beginning with the Arab Spring this talk will offer an alternative explanation to the democracy/ autocracy paradigm, arguing that the Arab Spring was actually a clash between the forces of modernity and tradition and an outgrowth of the profound socio-economic crisis that faces much of the Arab world today. Against the background of a modernization process that has had rather limited success the younger generation across the region has been overcome by an increasing sense of hopelessness as it looks toward the future. The pervasive sense of crisis has driven very many into the embrace of traditionalist or neo-traditionalist forces that have come to the fore in recent decades, and most intensively during the revolutionary events of the last few years. These neo-traditionalist forces are mainly three: political Islam of various forms, sectarianism, and tribalism and it is these forces that have dominated the political scene in the countries of the Arab Spring, albeit in very different ways in the various states. The talk will discuss the historical causes for this extraordinary resilience of tradition and traditional identities in the region and the challenges they pose to the cohesion of the Arab state as exemplified by the sectarian dissention in counties like Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon, the tribal conflicts of Libya and Yemen, or the emergence of radical Islamic forces like ISIS that openly call for undoing the Arab state system that has been in existence for a century, since its creation by the European colonial powers in the aftermath of World War One.

Asher Susser is Professor of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and a Senior Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at TAU. He was the Director of the Center for twelve years and has taught for some thirty years in TAU’s Department of Middle Eastern History. His most recent book is on Israel, Jordan and Palestine; The Two-State Imperative (2012). He also wrote the Political Biography of Jordan’s Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tall (1994) and is the author or editor of eight other books and a monograph on The Rise of Hamas in Palestine and the Crisis of Secularism in the Arab World (2010).

 

ASHER SUSSER

STEIN PROFESSOR OF MODERN ISRAEL STUDIES, JUDAIC STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, MOSHE DAYAN CENTER, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY

MENAS Colloquium Series
Friday, October 31, 2014
1pm in Marshall 490

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