Beyond the Arab Spring Easter 2012

Thursdays 3, 10, 17 May 2012
Time: 5.15 – 6.45pm
Place: Thomas Gray Room, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge



3 May
Dr Michael Willis, University of Oxford
‘Evolution not Revolution? Morocco and the Arab Spring’

10 May
Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
‘An Islamic awakening? Iran and the Arab uprisings’

17 May

Dr Yair Wallach, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
‘Israel and the Arab Revolutions: It’s Complicated’


Sponsored by the Centre of Islamic Studies, the Centre for the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa (CIRMENA) at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge.


The events of 2011 have both underlined the centrality of the Middle East and North Africa to world affairs and profoundly challenged conventional assumptions about the Arab and Muslim worlds.  Not only did they demonstrate that Arabs and Muslims have political aspirations little different from those of the developed world itself – despite convictions to the contrary that had emerged in Europe and American during the last decade – but the way in which they unfurled underlined a popular capacity for peaceful mass demonstration to achieve release from decades of authoritarian rule.  Quite apart from these internal developments, the recent events also raise questions about how we understand political and social dynamics in the region and to what extent our perceptions have been conditioned by the policies of securitisation of the Middle East and North Africa which have been the dominant theme of Western discourse on the region for the past ten years.

Those assumptions must now be questioned, as events inside the region continue to unfold.  Given both the on-going significance of the region to the economic and security interests of Europe and the United States, and the more immediate social and political fortunes of the region’s inhabitants in the face of such radical change, we believe that we have observed only the opening moves in what will prove to be a complex and lengthy process that will profoundly change our understandings both of the region and of the ways in which fundamental socio-political change occurs.  Given the region’s centrality to global geopolitics and to world energy, events there will have profound implications for our understanding of international affairs in the future.

We therefore propose to institute a standing seminar to discuss, within the University, what has happened and what is yet to come.  We feel that such an initiative should be open to all members of the University and should encourage as wide a discussion as possible of the social, political and economic evolution within the region, as it develops.  The seminar will take place four times a term, beginning in Michaelmas term 2011, and will be located in King’s College, at the Wine Room between 5.15 pm and 6.45 pm.  Initially, the meetings will be led by specialists from within the University itself but will expand to include experts from the wider academic and professional community as well.  However, the quality of discussion will arise from the wider debate amongst all those who attend, which the speakers’ introductions will be designed to encourage.  Do join us in what we believe will be an exciting and illuminating venture to understand one of the most challenging events on the global stage that has occurred in the past two decades.

Professor Yasir Suleiman; FAMES, Cambridge Centre of Islamic Studies and King’s College, Cambridge.
George Joffé; POLIS, Cirmena

The event is free and open to all (poster).
Map is available here.