Historian Ziad Abu-Rish believes that the Middle East is sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented in mainstream media and policy think tanks. “Scholarly research and analysis on the area is overall very good, but there is always a challenge of media and policy circles making better use of that expertise,” said Abu-Rish.
In his academic training, Abu-Rish focused on the history of the modern Middle East, from the 19 th century to the present. For him, the Middle East is that region demarcated by Iran in the east, Morocco in the west, Turkey in the north, Yemen in the south, and those countries within.
Abu-Rish’s primary research area is state building, economic development and social mobilization. He is working on a book about these themes as they pertain to Lebanon during the first decade of independence. He also focuses on political, economic, and social dynamics in Jordan, from the kingdom’s establishment in the 1920s until the present. He is particularly interested in exploring how historical legacies inform the present, like the origins of Lebanon’s institutional gridlock or the fact that the 2011-2014 protests in Jordan were smaller in size and less radical in demands than those in other countries like Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
“We are always looking at the present moment, which is fine because we live in the now,” Abu-Rish said. “But to understand the now, you actually have to understand what happened before. It is precisely history which explains why the uprising in Syria unfolded very differently than that in Egypt, why international intervention propped a regime in Bahrain but overthrew a regime in Libya, or why it never took place in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
His research has been recognized by think tanks such as the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, he has been invited to give lectures at US and regional universities, and has made numerous appearances on media outlets in the United States and beyond.
Abu-Rish earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an M.A. in Arab Studies from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. He is the co-editor of Critical Voices: A Collection of Interviews From and On the Middle East (Tadween Publishing, 2015) and The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012).
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