Letter from the Editor
When Professor Eva Bellin, who wrote our cover story, “Beyond the Arab Spring,” entered a Princeton Ph.D. program in 1982 to study politics in the developing world, she had to select a region in which to concentrate. Amid an economic recession and a particularly bleak job market for academics, Bellin reasoned that studying a region with a difficult language would at least give her a skill she could parlay into some sort of profession, should joining academe become unrealistic.
China, the Soviet Union and the Middle East seemed the most practical areas of study. So was it serendipity — or kismet — when Bellin settled on Middle Eastern politics, specializing in Tunisia?
Maybe a little bit of both, she now believes. In her fieldwork, Bellin studied Tunisia’s potential for democratization. It wouldn’t happen for a quarter century, but when democratic change did sweep that country early this year, Bellin had just joined the Brandeis faculty as the Myra and Robert Kraft Professor of Arab Politics in the Department of Politics and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies.
Sadly, Bellin never met Myra Kraft ’64, who died in July at age 68. At a time when keen insight into the Arab world has arguably never been in greater demand, Myra and Robert Kraft’s support has further entrenched Brandeis as a source of leading scholarship in the Middle East. It’s just that kind of expertise Bellin displays in our cover story as she deftly puts the turbulent Arab past into unvarnished perspective while weighing its uncertain future.
Another feature, “Mississippi Smoldering,” brings us back to this nation’s own heart of darkness in the Jim Crow South. For two months last summer as part of a social-justice initiative called the Mississippi Truth Project, Professor David Cunningham and 11 students unearthed documents from county and municipal offices detailing the state’s segregated past. In the journals students wrote, several of which are excerpted here, you can find out how they dealt with the unsettling emotions of personally encountering evidence of segregation’s long shadow over Mississippi’s citizens.
Of course, every magazine needs some fun and games, too. For the latter, turn to “That First Championship Season,” by Ian Spatz ’77, the erstwhile Justice photographer who covered the first of only two NCAA Division III championships in Brandeis history. It took place in a soccer field redolent of manure in rural Pennsylvania 35 years ago. For the fun, check out “From the Bing/Schwartz Tapes.” It can be tough when your alter ego is more successful than you are.
Finally, visit www.brandeis.edu/magazine for web exclusives, including video interviews with Anita Hill and a video story about the students’ research in Mississippi last summer.