ME 101 Lecture Series 2017   
Date: 22 November 2017 - 29 November 2017 Time: 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM  
Speaker(s): Various Venue: MEI Conference Room, Level 6
29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace
Block B #06-06
Singapore 119620



The Middle East Institute is pleased to announce the launch of ME 101 Lecture Series 2017; a series of 11 lectures that allows participants to gain basic yet fundamental understanding of the Middle East. Each lecture of about 30 to 40mins will cover one aspect of the Middle East followed by a Q&A discussion.

The series is catered for tertiary and university students as well as working professionals who can benefit personally or professionally from having a sound understanding of the Middle East.  A certificate of attendance issued by the Institute will be awarded to participants who attain 70% attendance.


Lecture #00. 20th Sept: Middle East from the Perch by Prof Engseng Ho, NUS Middle East Institute (Completed)

Throughout history, the Middle East has been locked in engagements with the West through crusades, wars, colonialism and terrorism. Contrastingly, their history of engagements with the East has been more positive through trade, pilgrimage, inter-marriage, etc. The introductory lecture to the ME 101 series will give an overview of the circumstances and impact of the encounters between Middle East and the West in terms of politics, economics and cultural norms. These will then be comparatively juxtaposed with their relationship with the rest of Asia where it will be conclusively evident that turning its geographical focus to the East will not only revive its historical significance but also facilitate ample opportunities for its prosperity.


Lecture #01. 27th Sept: Birthplace of Monotheism by Prof Farid Alatas, NUS Department of Sociology (Completed)

More than half of the world’s population adheres to the three major Abrahamic religions that all stemmed from the same geographic location: the Middle East. What are the significant figures and events in these faiths? What are some of the factors among them that remain contentious to this day? Can their common religious histories be a unifying agent rather than a basis for discord?


Lecture #02. 4th Oct: The Ominous End of the GCC? by Mattia Tomba, NUS Middle East Institute  (Completed)

The signing of the GCC Charter in 1981 formally bound the 6 Gulf countries’ into working together to achieve basic common objectives including economic prosperity and regional stability. Among the notable successes in its 3 decades of existence is the establishment of a central patent office, a monetary council and a common market. Although, individually, a majority of the GCC members enjoy booming economic prosperity due to the abundance of oil in the region, these successes can arguably be considered as sluggish when compared to accomplishments of other unions like ASEAN and the EU. Additionally, recent hostilities between half of the GCC on one side and Qatar on the other, underscores the existing animosity that has surfaced more regularly since the onset of Arab Uprisings. Is it time for the loosely bounded charter to finally be abandoned?


Lecture #03. 11th Oct: Sectarian Fault Lines by Dr Fanar Haddad, NUS Middle East Institute (Completed)

Once the cradle of multiple civilizations and cultures for hundreds of years, Middle East is now riddled with divisional conflicts and wars with rivals playing on the same elements that contributed to its former glory. Furthermore, the factions involved in these clashes are fragmented far beyond the conventional Sunni vs Shia rift and, with the help of the internet, have extended their influence way beyond the Middle East. Is the disarray purely geo-politically driven or have such hostilities always existed but merely suppressed? Is there no turning back to co-existence and stability in the region at all?


Lecture #04. 19th Oct: The United Nations and the Arab-Israeli conflict  by Dr Victor Kattan, NUS Middle East Institute  (Completed)

One of the most protracted of political struggles, the Arab-Israeli conflict has never just been concentrated between Palestine and Israel. It has affected regional politics and even international relations in profound ways. As we approach the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on 2 November 2017, this lecture takes stock of the main political developments that have influenced the Arab-Israeli conflict, from the League of Nations to the United Nations, and the extent to which recent developments in the Gulf may be helping or hindering efforts to resolve the conflict. 


Lecture #05. 25th Oct: Rehauling Perceptions of Women in the MENA by Dr Gretchen Head, Yale-NUS (Completed)

“Oppressed,” “Harassed,” “Victims,” are terms commonly associated with women in the MENA. While there is an element of truth to these labels, they do not provide the full picture. In fact, the region is not short of women who are sources of inspiration, be it women of the past or contemporary figures. Women have actively contributed to various fields, from sports to politics, yet the image often portrayed by the media is largely distorted. Understanding the various shades of a woman’s narrative is essential in comprehending the cultural, social and religious fabric of the region.


Lecture #06. 1st Nov: Glorification of Revolutions in the Middle East by Assistant Professor Fahad Al-Sumait, Gulf University for Sciend & Technology, Kuwait [PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE] (Completed)

The Arab uprisings were initially regarded as a remarkable turning point in Middle Eastern politics.  Fast forward six years,  Egypt has returned to authoritarianism, Syria is blighted by a catastrophic civil war that has affected its neighbours,  Tunisia, often touted as the success story, is troubled by security issues and its government continues to struggle in finding its footing. The aftermath of the uprisings calls into question the efficacy of protests and popular mobilisations. Are protests not as transformative as we think? If they do not produce the desired results, why is it often used as a tool of political change?


Lecture #07. 8th Nov: From Rural Life to the Souq by Dr Linda Matar, NUS Middle East Institute (Completed)

Food security is a complex and often overlooked topic. While not the entire MENA region is food insecure— Turkey, Algeria and Morocco are able to export food products and are self-sufficient—food security is an issue that has affected the region for decades. Countries such as the Gulf states do not have land suitable for food production and need to rely on food imports and other means to sustain food supply and consumption. Food insecurity is also the cause and the result of unrest. Despite such wide implications, these countries are not any closer to resolving this issue which is becoming more serious due to the ensuing conflicts. The volatility has led to soaring prices, disruption of food supplies and lack of investor confidence, causing large numbers of people in the MENA to be increasingly food insecure.  Are there solutions to making the region more food secure or is it too late?


Lecture #08. 15th Nov: The Possibility of Arab Territorial Stability through International Law by Dr Michelle Burgis-Kasthala, Australian National University [CHANGE OF TITLE] (Completed)

International law provides states with a highly sophisticated if contingent and contested body of doctrine for determining the territorial bounds of sovereign rule. Such a body of law now universal in scope first emerged from within the European states system and its expansion through colonialism. Arab states then are very much a product of both Ottoman and European colonial legal histories that radically confined the way in which Arabs would become ‘independent’ in the wake of both World Wars. Despite witnessing a variety of diplomatic and military confrontations over state borders in the era of the UN, increasingly (often imposed) state boundaries served to provide some semblance of national and regional stability until the Arab uprisings. Here, in this lecture, I explore the extent to which the Uprisings constitute a challenge to the Arab state system and reflect on the role that international law has and could play in resolving extant territorial conflicts, particularly in relation to Palestine, Western Sahara along with Syria’s territorial configuration and a possible sovereign Kurdistan.


Lecture #09. 22nd Nov: China’s Pivot to the Middle East  by Dr Shuang Wen, NUS Middle East Institute

Historically, China has managed to stay above the fray in the Middle East, but its actions in past few years seem to hint a change in China’s non-interference policy towards the region. One of the largest importers of oil from the Middle East, China plans to continue expanding its economic footprint in the region through the One Belt One Road initiative. Veering from its usual policies, China has begun to engage the MENA at a diplomatic and security level. A high-ranking military envoy was posted in Syria in 2016, its first overseas military base in Djibouti is close to completion, and it has actively increased the number of joint counterterrorism exercises due to Uyghur Muslims fighting alongside ISIS and Al Qaeda. What does China’s involvement mean to the United States and Russia who have been dominant international players in the region? Will China be able to successful in navigating the Middle East’s complicated geopolitical situation?


Lecture #10.  29th Nov: Interlacing of Middle East with South East Asia by Dr Zoltan Pall, NUS Middle East Institute

Although they are two relatively distant regions, the Middle East and Southeast Asia share a number of common interests. These commonalities go beyond religion, terrorism and energy. In fact, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are bound to each other by a deep historical connection that is even cited in the Sejarah Melayu—a historical and literary text written in the 16th century about the history of the rulers of the Melaka Sultanate and their descendants. With the rise of Asia in the 21st century, Arabia is becoming ever more engaged with the rest of Asia, making it necessary to also look forward and assess potential trends between the regions.


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