Home > News > Learning from history: What 1989 in Europe can (and cannot) say about 2011 in the Middle East: Roundtable in DC on Friday
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Learning from history: What 1989 in Europe can (and cannot) say about 2011 in the Middle East: Roundtable in DC on Friday

- November 18, 2011

Scholars of Postcommunist Europe are meeting this week in Washington DC for the 43rd annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES, formerly the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies), and several of them will take part in a Friday afternoon roundtable that will look at current changes in the Middle Eastern through the lens of the political change that began in Europe in the late 1980’s and continued with another set of major upheavals in the early 2000’s.  I will be participating in the roundtable along with Valerie Bunce of Cornell University, Sharon Wolchik of George Washington University, Graeme Robertson of the University of North Carolina, and Kevin Deegan-Krause of Wayne State University.  We hope to have a wide-ranging discussion that covers many points including:

  • What Actually Happened?
    How are the particular events of 2012 similar to or different from what happened in postcommunist Europe?  Why does democratization seem to come in waves (and how do these differ from one another)?  What is the role of international actors and the military?  Does social media represent a genuinely new factor?
  • How Should We Think About It?
    What names and concepts do we use describe what actually happened in 2011 in the Middle East, especially as compared to what we call the events of in postcommunist Europe in 1989 (revolutions and “refolutions”) and again in the early 2000s (“colored revolutions”)? Which of the analytical tools used to understand postcommunist Europe was most helpful in understanding the Middle East in 2011? Which didn’t work at all?  How do observations by scholars of postcommunism different from those of scholars who focus on the Middle Eastern region, and what does each group of scholars need to learn from the other?
  • What Next?
    What does experience of postcommunist democratic transitions tell us about the most likely possibilities for the future of the region?  Does our scholarship yield any practical (and non-trivial) advice for actors in the region or for policymakers in the US and Europe?

The roundtable will take place on Friday, November 18 at 4pm in the Calvert Room of the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington DC.  We managed to convince the organizers of the conference to open the session to the public free of charge, and we welcome participation.  For more information, please contact Kevin Deegan-Krause at kdk[at]wayne{dot}edu. For those who cannot attend, we will have a number of participants who will take notes and blog on the discussion.