The Crown Center for Middle East Studies is committed to conducting balanced and dispassionate research of the modern Middle East that meets the highest academic standards.

The Center seeks to help make decision- and opinion-makers better informed about the region. The scope of the Center’s research includes the 22 members of the Arab League as well as Turkey, Iran, and Israel. The Crown Center’s approach is multi-disciplinary in its study of the politics, economics, history, security, sociology, and anthropology of the region’s states and societies. 

Upcoming Events

November 3, 11:00am-12:15pm EDT
Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik '11
"The Maghreb Generation: The New Pan-Africanists of North Africa (1950-1980)"

December 1, 11:00am-12:30pm EST
Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, Raphaël Lefèvre, and Laurence Louër
"Reassessing the Impacts of the Iranian Revolution Elsewhere"

Catch up on past seminars over at our new YouTube channel

Recent News and Publications

September 17, 2021

Middle East Brief 144 (Summary)The creation of the suburban Baghdad district of Madinat al-Thawra (Revolution City, later known as Saddam City and today as Sadr City) in 1959 is widely remembered as a heroic act by Iraq’s new republican government to house the thousands of rural migrants living at the time in reed mat and mudbrick huts. In this Brief, Huma Gupta revisits the birth of this famous housing project and argues that it was not due to the benevolent action of a populist leader and should not be seen as a model for top-down development projects in Iraq. She traces how migrants who came to Baghdad in the early- to mid-twentieth century formed an enduring urban underclass that collectively organized to demand housing, services, and higher wages. Thawra was conceived in response to years of worker protests, but its creation led to violent land dispossession on Baghdad’s outskirts and the enclave’s lack of basic services exacerbated economic inequality and hardened patterns of class-based spatial segregation. This history of dispossession and deprivation help explain why Thawra/Saddam City/Sadr City became and remains to this day a center for mass-based social mobilization in Iraq.

August 31, 2021

In the News (summary) — From the dawn of the 1978–79 Iranian Revolution until the consolidation of Hizbullah in the late 1980s, a network of Iranian, Lebanese, and Palestinian clerics played a crucial role in spreading the revolution to Lebanon and laying the groundwork for Hizbullah. Whereas the historiography of the post-1979 Iran–Lebanon relationship is overwhelmingly focused on Hizbullah, the present study, by drawing on oral history interviews with these clerics and archival materials, contends that the Iranian Revolution came to Lebanon primarily through these Shi‘i and Sunni clerics, who joined ranks and established the Association of Muslim ‘Ulama’ in Lebanon in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion. This study argues that these clerics modeled their struggle on the ‘ulama’-led and mosque-based example of the 1978–79 revolution, which this paper describes as the Khomeinist script, to transcend sect to seed a revolution in Lebanon and mass mobilize against the invasion. This article concludes that the ecumenical script was highly appealing to non-Shi‘i Islamists, a key factor in the success of exporting the revolution and the rise of Hizbullah in Lebanon.

August 11, 2021

Crown Conversations 9 (Summary) — On July 25—Tunisia's Republic Day—President Kais Saied dismissed the country's prime minister and government, froze parliament for thirty days, suspended lawmakers' parliamentary immunity, and announced that he (alongside a yet-to-be-named prime minister) will temporarily exert executive authority "until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state." A thirty-day curfew was announced the following day. In the first of a series of Crown Conversations on Tunisia, we spoke with Eva Bellin about the challenges of governance in Tunisia and what President Saied’s actions mean for its fledgling democracy.

July 21, 2021

Middle East Brief 143 (Summary) — Several Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states recently announced independent plans to abolish what is often called the "kafala system," regulations that require noncitizen residents to be sponsored by a citizen or citizen-owned business. Sponsorship is widely blamed for the exploitation of and poor conditions faced by noncitizen workers, and the reform announcements followed increased international attention on the issue. In this Brief, Alex Boodrookas unpacks three widely-held misunderstandings about labor and migration in the Persian Gulf. He argues that sponsorship legislation does not reflect long-standing regional tradition. Instead, it dates from the imperial period and reflects the shared economic interests of elites and multinational companies. And “kafala” is not a single system; it is a diffuse set of coercive mechanisms and practices controlled by different actors. Dismantling sponsorship alone, therefore, will not bring an end to the systemic exploitation of noncitizen workers. Finally, Boodrookas details a long history in the Gulf of citizen workers allying with noncitizen workers to improve labor conditions and rights for all. The divide over sponsorship, he argues, is better understood as one of class interests and racial hierarchy than one that pits citizens versus noncitizens, which has implications for the prospects of further and deeper reform in the future.