Over the past several weeks, as the world’s media converged on Egypt and the Middle East, pundits and journalists have been particularly transfixed by one question: “How did this revolution happen and why didn’t we see it coming?” While most of the literature on Middle East politics and many policy makers had not considered the possibility of a citizen-powered regime change, the AUC Forum publication, The Changing Middle East: A New Look at Regional Dynamics, published by The American University in Cairo Press in October 2010, outlined the circumstances were likely to push Egyptians to the point of revolution,
Baghat Korany, AUC professor, director of the AUC Forum is the editor of The Changing Middle East, a compilation of essays on developments in Middle East politics. The book, says Korany, challenges the prevalent concept of Middle East exceptionalism, or the sense that while the rest of the world changes, develops, and advances, the Middle East remains stagnant and homogenous in its politics and points of view.
In the book, Korany drew early attention to what many are now citing as the catalysts of the revolution, specifically, the youth population bulge and the idealistic gap between this huge group and aging leadership. “My colleagues looked too much at the top of the political system and not enough below. This is why they could not see “the volcano” underneath. The lesson from this is not to limit ourselves; that the politics of ordinary people matter as well,” he said.
Korany believes that the voice of Middle Eastern youth will continue to resonate in the coming months of government and social transition. “I believe that the youth get a lot more credit now. Previously, many used to think that they had no interest in major public issues, but they have proven now that this is not true. Young people have proven now that they can achieve. If the communication between the youth and the new government happens, I believe that the transition will be effective and smooth.”
The Changing Middle East features essay chapters by Middle East scholars, Rasha A. Abdullah, Ola AbouZeid, Omar Ashour, Julie C. Herrick, Amani Khandil and Hazem Khandil. It will be re-released in paperback with a new introduction to reflect recent events.
The AUC Forum is held several times per semester to discuss issues of global importance. The next AUC Forum, titled “The Arab Awakening Revisited: From Tunisia to Egypt and Beyond” will be held March 7 and will feature Clement M. Henry, professor emeritus in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and distinguished visiting professor of AUC’s political science department, discussing civil society theories, practices, and new arts of association.