Past Event

Shifting Power Dynamics in the Middle East: Prospects for Democracy and Pluralism

February 22, 2019
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai, 12-13, Maker Chambers VI, First floor, Jamnalal Bajaj Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021

Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai invites you to a talk by Safwan Masri, Executive Vice President of the Global Centers and Global Development, Columbia University, on February 22, 2019.

Events of the so-called 'Arab Spring' appeared to challenge convictions that the Middle East was immune to democratization. Elections in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, electoral reform in Jordan and Morocco, and Libya’s perceived democratic transition left observers in the Middle East and abroad optimistic that pluralism and democracy were within reach for millions across the region. Such hopes were all but immediately dashed, as Egypt is back in the throes of a military dictatorship that is more oppressive than Mubarak’s, Libya – along with Syria and Yemen – are entangled in protracted civil wars, and reforms in the Arab Spring’s peripheral countries have proven to be superficial, at best. Emboldened by petrodollars, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Doha have replaced historic centers of gravity in Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad, with both regional and non-regional actors vying to fill a leadership void. Nine years later, are democracy, pluralism and egalitarian societies tenable in the Middle East? Can the region’s lone success story thus far, Tunisia, serve as a model for the rest of the region?

In this talk, Professor Safwan Masri will discuss how the presence, and lack thereof, of civil society, education, secularism and sectarianism affect the prospects of democratic and pluralistic societies in a post-2011 Middle East.

Note: Seating for this event is limited.

To register, send an email to [email protected]


About the speaker:

Safwan Masri

Safwan M. Masri is Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University, and a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). A scholar on education and contemporary geopolitics and society in the Arab world, his work focuses on understanding the historic, postcolonial dynamics among religion, education, society, and politics. He is the author of Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (Columbia University Press, 2017), which examines why Tunisia was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring as a democracy. The book has received positive coverage in a number of media outlets, including the Financial TimesLe Monde, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and the Journal of Democracy. His writings on education and current affairs have been featured in the Financial TimesHuffington PostThe Hill, and Times Higher Education. He is an honorary fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and a member of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES).