Perspectives on the Middle East

Perspectives on the Middle East July 10 - 15, 2022


Despite reasons for optimism in some areas, many nations in the Middle East continue to face extraordinary challenges. Armed conflict and insurrection continue to flare across the region.  An ongoing battle within Sunni and Shia Islam, led by  Saudi Arabia and Iran, has erupted. Egypt has clamped down on every form of dissent, justifying brutal policing tactics in the name of fighting terror. The president of Turkey, a NATO ally, has in recent years consolidated his power and extended his allowable time in office.  He is not alone in having done so.

US policy in the region has wavered, leading to increasing involvement in certain conflicts, attempts to escape others and uncertainty in most. In 2018 the U.S. announced its latest troop surge in Afghanistan.  Ever since it has been looking for an off-ramp from its longest war. Support for Saudi Arabia's erratic leader, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, has been surpassed only by support to Israel. While peace and prosperity remain the advertised objectives of U.S. policy, the path toward these objectives often resembles a quagmire.

Yet there is far more to this extraordinary region than conflict. History in the Middle East runs deep, and the variety of cultures, ethnicities and languages is vast. Islam is the dominant religion, but it means different things to different people in different places. The roles of women are constantly changing, and women are now competing with men across a range of societal spheres. Perspectives on the Middle East will offer an introduction to all of these themes and to the broader heritage of the region. Participants will gain a greater understanding of the cultural and political complexities of the region as well as some encouraging developments. W&L faculty include Seth Cantey, Robert Strong and Alia Bassiouny. Serving as distinguished visiting faculty are Miriam Cooke, Craven Professor Emerita of Arab Cultures at Duke University, and Bruce Lawrence, Marcus Humanities Professor Emeritus of Religion, also of Duke.

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