PROJECT ON DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST (DIME): IN ITS FOURTH YEAR AND MORE TIMELY THAN EVER!
With Egyptians and Tunisians in the process of crafting new institutions for democratic gover- nance; NATO military engagement in Libya; and continued protests across the MENA region generating a diverse set of state responses, the Project on Democracy in the Middle East (DIME) could not be more relevant to the MES Program and the Maxwell School. Funded by the Moynihan Institute, with programming also supported by a U.S. Department of Education grant (UISFL) to strengthen under- graduate education in Middle Eastern Studies at Syracuse University, DIME assesses contemporary state and societal transformations in the MENA region, utilizing a cross-regional and inter-disciplinary approach. Programming includes a guest speaker series, undergraduate and graduate student projects and independent study, and events that bring faculty and SU students together with visitors from the MENA region in residence at Maxwell through Executive Education’s LDF and CELF programs.
In the Fall 2010 semester, DIME hosted two events. On November 15, DIME Director, Miriam F. Elman (Associate Professor of Political Science and Research Director at Maxwell’s Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration—PARCC) and Sarah Marusek, Ph.D. candi- date in Social Science and then Assistant Director of the MES Program, co-led a discussion on “The United States and the MENA Region: Revisiting Obama’s Cairo Speech and US Democracy Promotion.” Elman and Marusek were joined by other SU faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and Middle Eastern scholars affiliated with the CELF program. Ivan Andreevich Bakin, an undergraduate student majoring in International Relations, assisted in planning the program. On December 1, a panel on “Re- ligion, Democracy, and Conflict in International Relations” featured the work of Miriam F. Elman, Sarah Marusek, and Fall 2010 CELF Fellow Fady Syriani. The panel was co-sponsored by the MES Program, the UISFL grant, and PARCC.
In the Spring 2011 semester, as the political revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt rocked the region and the world, DIME Director Miriam F. Elman delivered a number of talks on the causes of the uprisings and their implications for democracy in the region, U.S. foreign policy, and the study of democratization. Also in the Spring semester, DIME co-hosted, with the MES Program and the Judaic Studies Program, Israel’s Consul General (NY), Mr. Ido Aharoni, who spoke with students and faculty on Israel’s perspective on the current political transformations in Egypt and other countries in the MENA. On April 7, DIME sponsored a lecture by Dana Blander, visiting professor at Tufts University and a researcher at the IDI (Israel Democracy Institute), on “Israel’s Democracy and its Discontents.” The talk, attended by SU faculty and students, members of the local Syracuse community, and Middle Eastern visitors in Maxwell’s CELF and LDF programs, generated a spirited discussion which was re-markable in highlighting diverse viewpoints while maintaining an atmosphere of respect for both the speaker and respondents. “The event with Dana Blander was a good example of how the DIME project and other programming by the MES Program and the larger Maxwell School promote civil discourse on the toughest and most controversial issues related to citizenship and democratic governance,” says DIME Director Miriam F. Elman. DIME’s culminating event of the semester (co-sponsored with the MES Program, the UISFL grant, and the Executive Education Program) was a showcase of undergraduate student projects focusing on the security and politics of the MENA region from a multi-country and multi-disciplinary perspective. Organized and run by Michael Makara, Ph.D. candidate in Political Sci- ence and the former Assistant Director for the UISFL grant, this event drew a large audience and was well-received by students and faculty alike.
“I have enjoyed leading projects on politics and religion in the MENA region for nearly a decade,” Elman says. “But I must admit that I have never been more energized and inspired to direct a project like DIME than I have over the last year. The peoples of the MENA region have shown ex- traordinary courage during the ‘Arab Spring’—academics and policymakers will be talking about what they have accomplished for years to come, and I look forward to DIME taking part in this ongoing conversation.”