Class and Lecture Examine the Impact of Arab Spring

Arab Spring

In January, Egyptians marked the first anniversary of the Arab Spring with continued protests against military rule. Susquehanna acknowledged this anniversary with A Year After the Arab Spring: Old and New Fears, a lecture from Lawrence Rubin, assistant professor from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Baris Kesgin introduced Rubin and provided background on the Arab uprisings. At the time of the lecture, the series of revolutions and protests throughout the Middle East had toppled three totalitarian regimes.

Though the Arab Spring impacted many countries, “when Egypt came on the scene, it dwarfed everything else,” Rubin said during his lecture. In spite of deposing the president, liberal revolutionaries have little political control. Egypt’s government is currently under military rule, and the majority of parliament seats went to members of Islamist parties, particularly the Muslim brotherhood. These factions—revolutionaries, the Muslim brotherhood and the military—have a common characteristic: fear. Rubin reported that all sides suspect others of “deal-making and conspiracy.”

The Arab Spring’s international tremors produced global fears as well. Conflicting interests often made it difficult for nations to respond to the movement. “Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history,” Rubin said. He pointed out the United States’ struggle to maintain strategic interests, including its alliance with Saudi Arabia, while supporting the value of freedom.

Besides connecting the revolutions to global politics, the lecture also facilitated personal connections for some students. Rachel Word ’14 was struck by a picture Rubin showed of Egyptian graffiti. “The graffiti was a way for revolutionaries to spread their ideals and share their beliefs,” Word says. “As a creative writing major, the lecture made me think about how I represent my own personal ideals and moral beliefs.”

Kesgin enlightened a spring semester class on the subject through his new course, The Arab Spring: Protest and Revolution in the Middle East. Students studied social mobilization in the Arab world and investigated the domestic, regional and international politics of the Arab Spring, as well as the movement’s emergence and aftermath. “The lecture was, in a way, a precursor to the class and gauged student interest in this topic,” Kesgin says.

When teaching Middle East politics, Kesgin’s first objective is to highlight how diversity and political affairs intersect in the Arab world. He then strives to showcase the region’s rich history and traditions. “The lecture did a great job in presenting the Susquehanna community with domestic dynamics behind the Arab Spring, as well as its implications for Israel in particular,” says Kesgin.

Governments, protestors and Middle East scholars such as Rubin and Kesgin are uncertain how the Arab Spring will be remembered, but Rubin is confident that democracy has already left its mark. “I don’t think the clocks are going to be turned back on it,” he says.

Contributing writers to The ’Grove section are Karen Jones, assistant director of media relations; Megan McDermott ’14, a creative writing and religion major from Lewisberry, Pa.; Dalton Swett ‘13, a creative writing major from Effingham, N.H.; and Elise Tomaszewski, a creative writing and German major from Selinsgrove, Pa.

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