The 2nd Session of IIAS West Asia and North Africa Lecture Series: The Introductory Lecture on the Middle East

On the afternoon of April 30th, 2021, the 2nd session of IIAS Middle East Lecture Series was launched online with the theme of “The Introductory Lecture on the Middle East”. The lecture was presented by Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian, Director of International Relations and Global Studies at the University of Cambridge, and hosted by Wang Tingyi, Assistant Professor at Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU).

Dr. Farmanfarmaian offered a panoramic overview of the Middle East, including its history, geography, politics, religions, energy, economy, identity, ideology, underlying countries, Iraq War and the Arab Spring. She stressed that the modern Middle East and North Africa include 21 countries. Due to the complexity of the region, any introductory course can only provide a brief overview.

This lecture conveyed an introduction to the region from two aspects, the evolution and changes of the modern Middle East. Dr. Farmanfarmaian pointed out that sovereignty and “Shatter Belt” are two of the most important factors related to the Middle East, while World War I is the most important historical event in shaping the state structure of the modern Middle East due to its far-reaching impact. She also presented valuable insights on how sovereignty is practiced in the Middle East, how foreign forces view these sovereign countries and the impact of abused sovereignty on the modern state and government patterns.

In the second part, Dr. Farmanfarmaian reviewed the changes in the Middle East and North Africa in the 21st century, in particular the impacts of the Iraq War in 2003, the Arab Spring in 2011 and the Abraham Agreement in 2020. She also focused on the changes in the bilateral relations between the United States and Iran. From the Pahlavi Dynasty to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, till today, the relations between the United States and Iran have experienced a series of turning points and ups and downs.

After the lecture, Dr. Farmanfarmaian had heated interactions with the audience and responded to a number of questions raised by the audience, including the similarities and differences of policies of the US and the UK towards the Middle East, the alliance among Iran, Qatar and Turkey, the process of the second Gulf War, the importance of nationalism in the Middle East and North Africa, the impact of COVID-19 on religious forces in the Middle East and the impact of Iranian social revolutionary forces.

Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian is currently Director of the Middle East and North Africa on the Master of Studies (MSt) Programme at the University of Cambridge and Head of Global Politics and International Studies Division of the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). She obtained her BSc from Princeton University in Near East Studies, and her MPhil and DPhil from the Centre of International Studies (now part of POLIS) at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests are international relations, security and media in the Middle East, and her publications include Blood & Oil: A Prince’s Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah (New York, 2005) and “Media and the Politics of the Sacral: Freedom of Expression in Tunisia after the Arab Uprisings” (Media, Culture and Society, 2017).

Text by: Wang Zijing
Typesetting by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Wang Tingyi & Zhang Yuan