MESP International Conference

Spring MESP Conference Poster
Click on poster for an enlarged version and to download.

Who is Afraid of Democracy?
New Wave of Transformations
in the Middle East and North Africa
March 25-26, 2022

At the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St, Madison, WI
Free and Open to the Public

It is now more than 10 years beyond the Arab Uprisings from the past anti-regime protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Libya to the latest protests in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, etc. With very little democratic practices taking place, the region is nonetheless characterized by political fluidity and incessant socio-economic and cultural unrests. The new wave of transformations is preoccupied with the same issues of the past. However, the lack of trust in all political institutions has reached the point of no return. Protesters, artists, and civic movements have learned from the failed protests and are seeking new goals by using new strategies to achieve real, lasting, regional advances. But what is different in the latest wave of changes?

To fathom and celebrate the ongoing soul of resistance, the conference departs from a major question that relates to influences and differences between present and past, in form, discourse, means, demands, practices, and long-term aspirations. You are cordially invited to attend Middle East Studies Program’s international conference with 17 outstanding scholars presenting on various aspects of the Arab Post-Uprisings.

Artwork by Bahia Shehab
Instagram: @bahiashehab

Friday, March 25

9 – 9:30 am: Opening Remarks by Prof. Guido Podestá, Vice Provost and Dean of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Prof. Nevine El Nossery, MESP Faculty Director

Keynote address: 9:30-10:30 am
Asef Bayat (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), keynote speaker: Springtime of Counter-revolution
Alumni Lounge

“Roots and Ruptures”: 11 am-1 pm (moderator: Aaron Rock-Singer, UW-Madison)
Room 325 

This panel explores the key institutional structures and animating concepts that have shaped the Arab world over the past century.  What are the historical dynamics of both uprising and authoritarianism in the modern Middle East; how have these dynamics been shaped by both colonial and post-colonial rule; and what can history teach us about the rise and fall of the Arab Spring?

  1. Nahid Siamdoust (University of Texas/Austin): The End of Iran’s “Neither East nor West” Ethos 
  2. Andrew Simon (Dartmouth College): Mass Media, the Middle East, and the Arab Spring
  3. Cole Bunzel (Stanford University): Jihadi Reflections on the Arab Spring
  4. Bruce Rutherford (Colgate University): The Rise of Hyperauthoritarianism under al-Sisi

“Gender and Socio-Political Transformations”: 3-4:30 pm (moderator: Marwa Shalaby, UW-Madison)
Room 325

The panel focuses on the new discursive practices of women under authoritarian regimes and the new ways of mobilization in terms of: the new forms of quotidian visibility through which women protest to the current power relations; how far the discourse has departed from ‘feminist’ to ‘gender’; the daring subversion of the linkage of culture and religion; and sexual violence as a practice that triggers binaries and confrontations.

  1. Nermin Allam (Rutgers University): The Politics of the Veil 
  2. Hind Zaki (University of Connecticut): Egypt’s #me too Movement and the Politicization of Women’s Rights amid Authoritarian Politics
  3. Fatima Sadiqi (Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University): New Post-Uprisings Feminist Voices in North Africa

Saturday, March 26
Room 325 

“Social Movements and Contestation beyond protest”: 9:30-11:00 am (moderator: Steven Brooke, UW-Madison)

The panel will examine repertoires, networks, and organizations that have undergirded social mobilization in the Middle East over the past century. This panel engages with the ways ordinary citizens interact with local, national, and international influences during moments of both upheavals, namely those longer-term trends in which varied social and political movements seek to change society without directly protesting the ruling regime.

  1. Neil Ketchley (Oxford University): Online Repression and Tactical Evasion: Evidence from the 2020 Day of Anger Protests in Egypt 
  2. Ali Kadivar (Boston College): State-led Mobilization in Iran: Organizational Infrastructure, War-time Origin, and Threats
  3. Shamiran Mako (Boston University): Exclusion, Repression, and Ethnic Mobilization in Divided Societies: Iraqi Dissident Elites and anti-Ba’athist Resistance (1991-2003)

“Aesthetic forms of resistance”: 11:30 am -1:00 pm (moderator: Nevine El Nossery, UW-Madison)

The panel looks at the role art plays in society today and how artists address and engage with political changes, or even negotiate the absence of such a role, in addition to producing knowledge under such circumstances.

  1. Shereen Abounaga (Cairo University): Back to Writing but Not the Same River 
  2. Siobhan Shilton (University of Bristol): Art and Revolution: Aesthetics of Resistance in and beyond Tunisia
  3. Nancy Demerdash (Albion College): Memory, Preservation and Post-Revolutionary Egyptian Digital Visual Cultures

“Politics at the periphery and urban space transformation”: 3:30-5:00pm (moderator: Samer Alatout, UW-Madison)

The panel examines the dialectic relation between socio-political changes and urbanization. New models of segregation, gentrification, fragmentation, and displacements articulate and transform urban subjectivities and belongings in the Arab world.

  1. Lana Salman (Harvard University): Contesting the post-revolution city: Popular urbanism, participation, and the local state in Tunisia
  2. Omnia Khalil (City University in New York): Shadow Urban Lives in Post-Revolutionary Cairo
  3. Jillian Schwedler (City University of New York): The Periphery Converges on the Center: The Spatial Dynamics of Political Protests in Amman’s Built Environment

Shereen Abouelnaga is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cairo University and is a feminist literary critic. She has published books (Arabic & English) and critical literary articles in scholarly journals, with a focus on gender. Her Arabic books include: A Passion of Difference: Readings in Selected Feminist Texts (1997); Feminist or Womanist? (2001); Nation in the Narration of Arab Women Writers (2003); and Intellectuals in the Transitional Phase of Egypt (2014). In English she has published Women in Revolutionary Egypt: Gender and the New Geographics of Identity (2016, AUC Press) and several articles.

Nermin Allam is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Rutgers University-Newark. Before joining Rutgers, Allam held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Allam’s research interests include: Social movements theories; gender politics; Middle Eastern and North African studies; and political Islam. She is the author of Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Engagement and Activism during the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Allam sits on the board of the Arab Political Science Network. She is the co-editor of the American Political Science Association-Middle East and North Africa Politics Section newsletter.

Asef BayatAsef Bayat is Professor of Sociology, and Catherine & Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Illinois, he taught at the American University in Cairo for many years; and served as the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) holding the Chair of Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University, The Netherlands. His research areas range from social movements and social change, to religion and public life, urban space and politics, and contemporary Middle East. His recent books include Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North (ed. with Linda Herrera) (Oxford University Press, 2010); Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013); Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2013. 2nd edition), Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring (Stanford University Press, 2017), Global Middle East: Into the 21st Century (ed. With Linda Herrera) (University of California Press, 2021), and Revolutionary Life: The Everyday of the Arab Spring (Harvard University Press, 2021).

Cole Bunzel Photo

Cole Bunzel is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, where his work focuses on the history and ideology of the Sunni jihadi movement, as well as the history of the Wahhabi movement and the Arabian Peninsula. His forthcoming book, Wahhabism: The History and Legacy of a Militant Islamic Movement (Princeton University Press, 2023), is an exhaustive study of the origins and development of the Wahhabi movement in Arabia from the 1740s to the early twentieth century, a period when the movement’s scholars were adamant that true Muslims show enmity to so-called “polytheists” who constituted the majority of the Islamic world. He received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and is the editor of the blog Jihadica.

Nancy DemerdashNancy Demerdash-Fatemi is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Albion College, where she has taught an array of courses in art and architectural history since 2018. She earned a BA in Art History and Religious Studies, with Honors and Distinction, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a SMArchS from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, and her doctorate from the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University. She is a specialist of architecture and visual culture of French colonial North Africa. From 2016-2021, she served as an Assistant Editor at the International Journal of Islamic Architecture. Her work has appeared in Perspective: actualité en histoire de l’art, the Journal of North African Studies, the Journal of Arabian Studies, the Journal of the African Literature Association, and the Textile Museum Journal, among others. She is currently preparing her book manuscript on the intersections of decolonization and development in postwar modernist architecture and urbanism of Tunisia, forthcoming with the University of Nebraska Press.

Ali KadivarMohammad Ali Kadivar is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and International Studies at Boston College. His research has been published in journals such as the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and Comparative Politics, and he has won awards from different sections of the American Sociological Association. His work explores the causes, dynamics, and consequences of protest movements in Iran, Middle East, and globally. Kadivar’s first book Popular Politics and the Path to Durable Democracy is forthcoming by Princeton University Press.

Neil KetchleyNeil Ketchley is Associate Professor in Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations and Fellow of St Antony’s College. He is a political scientist of the Arabic-speaking Middle East and North Africa working at the intersections of political sociology and comparative politics. Neil’s most recent book, Egypt in a Time of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2017), won the Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award. His work has appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, and Mobilization. Neil’s current research interests include historic episodes of mass protest in the MENA, the development of political Islam in Egypt, and the changing profiles of regional political elites.

Omni KhalilOmnia Khalil is a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), anthropology program. Her research and writings focus on city, violence, political economy, and gentrification cross cutting with anthropology of revolution. Since 2008, Khalil focuses, as an urban researcher, on community participatory action planning and she has led many projects in Cairo, working with local communities.

Shamiran MakoShamiran Mako is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. Her research and teaching focus on the international relations of the Middle East with a substantive emphasis on foreign intervention, ethnic conflict, political violence in divided societies, and institutions and statebuilding. She is the author of After the Arab Uprisings: Progress and Stagnation in the Middle East and North Africa, with Valentine Moghadam (Cambridge University Press, 2021), and co-editor of State and Society in Iraq: Citizenship under Occupation, Dictatorship, and Democratisation, with Benjamin Isakhan and Fadi Dawood (I.B. Tauris 2017). Her research has appeared or is forthcoming in International Politics, the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, International Peacekeeping, and Lawfare, among other outlets. She is completing a book project on institutions and ethnic conflict in Iraq.

Bruce RutherfordBruce Rutherford is associate professor of political science at Colgate University. He is the author of Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World (Princeton, 2008 – re-released with a new introduction in 2013); Modern Egypt: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2018 – co-authored with Jeannie Sowers); and several book chapters and articles that focus on Egyptian politics. His opinion essays have appeared on,, and He has been interviewed by a variety of media outlets regarding the Middle East including CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, al-Jazeera, BBC, and Agence France Presse. His research has been supported by the Fulbright Commission, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Social Science Research Council, Colgate University, Yale University, Princeton University, and Harvard Law School.

Fatima SadiqiFatima Sadiqi is Professor of Linguistics and Gender Studies (Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fes); her work focuses on women’s and gender issues in modern North Africa. She is author and editor of numerous volumes and journal issues, including Women, Gender and Language (Brill 2003), Women’s Activism and the Public Sphere: Local/Global Linkages (Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 2006), Women and Knowledge in the Mediterranean (Routledge 2013), Moroccan Feminist Discourses (Palgrave Macmillan 2014), and Women’s Movements in the Post-“Arab Spring” North Africa (2016). Her current recent research interest resides in the intersection between violent extremism and gender in North Africa. Her book Daesh Ideology and Women’s Rights in North Africa will be published by Syracuse University Press in late 2022.

Lana SalmanLana Salman is a scholar of international development and urban protest politics, and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Middle East Initiative, Harvard University. Lana holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on local governance, democratizing politics and the role of international financial institutions in reconfiguring the cities of the Global South. Lana conducted research in Lebanon and Tunisia and worked on projects in Djibouti, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Before pursuing her doctoral studies, she served as a consultant to the Chief Technical Advisor of the Lebanese Prime Minister and was an Urban Specialist at the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa Urban and Social Development Unit.

Jillian SchwedlerDr. Jillian Schwedler is Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and the Graduate Center and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Crown Center at Brandeis University. She is member of the editorial committee for Middle East Law and Governance (MELG) and was member of the Board of Directors and the Editorial Committee of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), publishers of the quarterly Middle East Report. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and the governing Council of the American Political Science Association (APSA). During the Spring 2020 semester, she was Visiting Professor and Senior Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Global and International Studies at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Dr. Schwedler’s books include the award-winning Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (Cambridge 2006) and (with Laleh Khalili) Policing and Prisons in the Middle East (Columbia 2010). Her articles have appeared in World Politics, Comparative Politics, Middle East Policy, Middle East Report, Middle East Critique, Journal of Democracy, and Social Movement Studies, among many others. Her latest book is Protesting Jordan: Geographies of Power and Dissent (forthcoming 2022 from Stanford University Press).

Twitter @DrJSchwedler |

Siobhán Shilton is Professor of French Studies and the Visual Arts. Her research and teaching interests lie in cultural encounters (particularly in France, the Maghreb and West Africa) in late twentieth- and twenty-first-century photography, video, graffiti, graphic novels, installation, performance art and literature. She has also published on art and the ‘Arab Uprisings’. Her most recent book is Art and the Arab Spring: Aesthetics of Revolution and Resistance in Tunisia and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Nahid SiamdoustNahid Siamdoust is an assistant professor of media and Middle East studies at the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also a member of the Provost’s Cluster in Global Media Flows and (Dis)Information. Prior to that she was the Colorado Scholar at Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program, and a postdoctoral associate at Yale University’s Program in Iranian Studies. Her research centers on the intersection between media, cultural production, gender, and social movements. Her first large research project culminated in her book Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran,  published in 2017 by Stanford University Press.

Andrew SimonAndrew Simon is a historian of media, popular culture, and the modern Middle East. He holds a B.A. in Arabic, Middle East, and Islamic Studies from Duke University and was a fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University and is currently serving as a lecturer at Dartmouth College. Andrew’s interdisciplinary research has received generous support from the Social Science Research Council and the American Research Center in Egypt, and his work has been published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies and cited in the Washington Post. Andrew’s first book, Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt, will be published by Stanford University Press this April (2022). |

Hind ZakiHind Ahmed Zaki is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, with a joint appointment in the Department of Language, Culture, and Literature. She is specialist in comparative politics with a special emphasis in gender and politics and the Middle East and North Africa. Her research focuses on theories of state feminism, feminist movements, gender-based violence, and qualitative research methods. Her current book project focuses on the politics of women’s rights in Egypt and Tunisia in the period following the Arab Spring. The book manuscript analyzes how historical constructions of women’s rights, as represented in institutions and narratives of state feminism, shaped feminist mobilization in the course of the Arab Spring, resulting in surprisingly empowering episodes of legal and political mobilization for women’s rights.  In addition to her academic work, Ahmed Zaki serves as a consultant to a number of local women’s rights organizations in Egypt and the broader Middle East.


At Memorial Union, just two buildings down from the Pyle Center on Langdon Street. There’s plenty of tables on the beautiful terrace overlooking Lake Mendota.

Der Rathskeller, pub food

Strada, Italian

Carte, sandwiches

Sunset Lounge & Outdoor Restaurant

Daily Scoop in Memorial Union, ice cream made on campus!

Peet’s Coffee, coffee/tea/desserts

Pub fare

Colectivo (café with a variety of sandwiches) 583 State Street

Coopers Tavern 20 W Mifflin Street

Great Dane 123 E Doty Street

MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes 571 State Street

Old Fashioned 23 N Pickney Street. (Try the cheese curds!)

State Street Brats  603 State Street

Teddywedgers 101 State Street (carryout Cornish pasties)


Fugu 411 W Gilman Street

Himal Chuli Restaurant (Nepalese) 318 State Street

Ruyi Hand Pulled Noodle 334 State Street

Sol’s on the Square (Korean) 117 E Mifflin Street

Chen’s Dumpling House  505 State Street


International food carts on Library Mall on campus, including Korean, Mexican,
Ethiopian, and Thai.

Dubai Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar  419 State Street

Forage Kitchen (make your own salads) 665 State Street

Mediterranean Café (open at lunchtime) 625 State Street

Parthenon Gyros  316 State Street


Tutto Pasta  305 State Street

Ian’s Pizza on State 100 State Street

Cento 122 W Mifflin Street

Osteria Papavero 128 E Wilson Street

FURTHER AWAY (not walking distance)


Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese) 1353 Williamson Street

Lao Laan-Xaang (Laotian) 1146 Williamson Street

Sa Bai Thong (Thai) 2840 University Avenue



Bar Corallini 2004 Atwood Avene

Pizza Brutta 1805 Monroe Street


Maharani Indian Restaurant 380 W Washington Avenue

Petra Bakery & Restaurant (Middle Eastern) 6119 Odana Road

Swagat Indian Restaurant 707 North Highpoint Road

Pub Food

Alchemy Cafe 1980 Atwood Avenue

Green Owl Café (no indoor dining, vegetarian and vegan)  1970 Atwood Avenue

Everly (eclectic eatery) 2701 Monroe Street

Monty’s Blue Plate  2089 Atwood Avenue

The Weary Traveler 1201 Willilamson Street