AUC Forum Panels to Address Change in Middle East, Obama’s Policies

This week will feature two AUC Forum discussions addressing change in the region, or the lack thereof, following the events of the Arab Spring.

The first discussion, “Is It a New Middle East?” will feature Holger Albrecht, assistant professor of political science at AUC, and Bahgat Korany, director of the AUC Forum and professor of political science. It will be held today, Wednesday, February 12, from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm in the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall, room P071. The second discussion, titled “Obama and the Middle East” and held in Arabic, will also feature Korany, along with Hassan Nafaa, professor in the economics and political science department at Cairo University. It will take place on Thursday, February 13, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm in Oriental Hall, AUC Tahrir Square.

“The issue of a new Middle East is still controversial, and even well-established experts are divided,” said Korany. “Did the 'Arab Spring' really announce a new era or have we reverted to a chilling Arab winter — plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose or business as usual? The speakers are presenting different views to encourage debate and engage the audience. It is going to be an interactive panel, addressing what has and hasn’t changed at present in the region, as well as how we can identify or measure change and its impact after the Arab Spring.” Albrecht teaches comparative politics courses at AUC’s political science department, and his research interests include opposition and Islamist movements in the Middle East, Egyptian politics, and the relationship between authoritarian regimes and societies in the region. Some of his most recent publications include Raging Against the Machine: Political Opposition Under Authoritarianism in Egypt (Syracuse University Press, 2013) and an essay titled “Authoritarian Transformation or Transition from Authoritarianism? Insights on Regime Change in Egypt,” which was published in Arab Spring in Egypt, Revolution and Beyond (American University in Cairo Press, 2012, 2014), edited by Korany and Rabab el-Mahdi. Korany is professor of international relations and political economy at AUC. He is an elected member of Canada’s Royal Society since 1994 and has been a visiting scholar at prominent universities, including Harvard and Oxford. In addition to approximately 95 book chapters and articles in specialized periodicals such as Revue Francaise de Sciences Politiques and World Politics. Korany has published 12 books in English and French. His first book, Social Change, Charisma and International Behavior (A. W. Sijthoff, 1976), was awarded the Hauchman Prize in Switzerland. He also edited The Changing Middle East (American University in Cairo Press, 2010) and is the lead author of the 10th-anniversary special volume of the United Nations Development Programme’s Arab Human Development Report. Nafaa’s research interests cover Middle Eastern politics and international relations. He served as head of the political science department at Cairo University for eight years and was also the secretary-general of the Arab Thought Forum in Amman from 2007 to 2009. In 1998, he was awarded the State Incentive Award in Political Science, and in 2003, he received the State Excellence Award in Social Sciences. Nafaa is the author of many publications including Egypt and the Arab–Israeli Conflict; The European Union and Lessons Learned by Arabs (The Center Arab Unity Studies). Highlighting the timeliness of the panel titled "Obama and the Middle East," Korany noted, “After there was so much hope that came along with Obama’s arrival to power, and especially his 2009 Cairo University speech, there is now disillusionment. There are increasing reaffirmations that Washington only cares about its own narrow interests and Israel, and only uses the people of the region to attain these ends. Accusations have now reached the point where the U.S either plotted ‘creative chaos’ all along in the region or coordinated with Islamists their arrival to power. There is a need then to rigorously analyze U.S. policy and attempt to decode where Washington stands and why."