In 2011 the protests in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) were not only unprecedented in terms of scale and political consequences for the region, they also highlighted a number of long-standing analytical and theoretical misconceptions about Arab politics. In particular, the conventional thesis privileging the idea of a “durable authoritarianism” in the Arab world was partially undermined by a cross-regional civil society that confronted the formidable security and military apparatus of the state. Although in some countries democratic transitions have continued, since they first occurred in Tunisia, other Arab states continue to witness a resilient authoritarianism and strong state repression of civil society activism. These historic events have also set the stage for a new teaching agenda in important ways. Specifically, an agenda for teaching the “new Middle East” must incorporate two important general components: first, a critical review of the influential scholarship on persistent authoritarianism with the objective of addressing past theoretical and methodological misconceptions, and second, the introduction of new conceptual and analytical frameworks relevant to contemporary political developments in the Arab world and the MENA region more generally.
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