Panel 5a The Arab Spring: New Directions in Teaching and Researching the Middle East (Islamic Studies Network Panel)

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Chair: Dr John Canning, Senior Academic Coordinator, University of Southampton

Discussant: Dr Lisa Bernasek, Academic Coordinator, University of Southampton

Paper 1: The Return of Politics: A Critical Reading of Contemporary Middle East Studies in the Light of the Arab Spring
Dr Rasmus Alenius Boserup, Research Fellow, Danish Institute for International Studies

The paper suggests that the Arab Spring constitutes an opening of a new period in the contemporary political history of the region which is signified by a broad politicization of a variety of actors with overlapping and competing orientations and origins. This politicization, the paper argues, constitutes a rupture with the past decades of popular disengagement from political participation. The paper formulates a critique of the understanding of politics in contemporary Middle East Studies. It investigates the understanding of political dynamics in the literature about the political order of the region. Secondly, it investigates the understanding of the political role of social movements in contemporary Middle East studies. Hypothetically, the paper assumes that this literature while adequately explaining how regime structures condition the activities of social movements, overlooks the potential impact that movements – and contentious politics in general – may have on the political structures (i.e. the regimes). >> download the paper

Paper 2: Research in a Time of Unbounded Flux
Tamara Al-Om, MPhil/PhD candidate, University of Exeter

Conducting research on any contemporary social or political phenomena will inevitably have its limitations in the face of a world that is in a state of perpetual flux (Heraclitus). The events that erupted across the Arab world make this obvious. The question arises as to how research can be conducted when the consequent effects and outcomes of such events are also uncertain and volatile. In light of this predicament, the aim of this paper is to explore ways of framing and conducting research on the Arab world, which is currently undergoing a time of unbounded flux. A focal point of this paper will include a reflection upon previous research that was conducted during events that we now perceive as historically significant (e.g. Prague Spring) and to which these Arab uprisings have been compared – in the hope that it will shed some light on how to approach a subject that is still coming to fruition. >> download the paper

Paper 3: Integrating Current Events into Language Learning and Teaching: Examples from Elementary Arabic
Dr Jeremy Palmer, Assistant Professor, American University of Sharjah

The ongoing events in the Arab Spring provide a myriad of opportunities to breath life into Arabic language learning and teaching, even at the elementary level. The use of a static textbook is often desirable in early levels of language learning, though such textbooks can only provide finite history-in-the-making. This paper will discuss methods for selecting and incorporating real-life examples of Arabic language as seen in coverage related to the Arab Spring. The sources from which these examples may be drawn range from online social media to satellite channels to online news sites and accompanying reader comments. Suggestions per incorporating such materials into an existing curriculum will also be presented.

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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