Lisa Anderson

Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor - Class of Fall 2013

President, The American University in Cairo

American Academy Project: Back to the Future: Arab Politics in the Twenty-first Century
Current Institution Affiliation: The American University in Cairo
Current Location: Egypt

Biography

Lisa Anderson is a specialist on politics in the Middle East and North Africa and was appointed president of The American University in Cairo in January 2011. Prior, she was the James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at Columbia University, where she had also served as dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, chair of the political science department, and director of the Middle East Institute. Before joining Columbia, Anderson was an assistant professor of government and social studies at Harvard University. The author of Pursuing Truth, Exercising Power: Social Science and Public Policy in the Twenty-first Century (2003) and The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (1986), among other books, Anderson is also the former president of the Middle East Studies Association, chair of the board of the Social Science Research Council, member of the Council of the American Political Science Association, and member of the board of Human Rights Watch, where she served as co-chair of Human Rights Watch/Middle East. She is currently co-chair of the International Advisory Board of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and a member of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle East Studies. Anderson holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She earned a PhD in political science from Columbia University.

American Academy Project

Back to the Future: Arab Politics in the Twenty-first Century

The uprisings in the Arab world reflect three very differing dynamics: the re-emergence after World War I of a century-old dispute about the region’s historical trajectory; the assimilation of new and unfamiliar demands posed by free expression and participation; and the appearance of potent social forces unleashed by global technological change, particularly among young people. This collision of forces—in debates about the past, profound expectations of the present, and worries about the future—makes for heightened regional and political tensions. Depending on one’s perspective, the Arab world’s recent developments can be understood equally as reflections of deeply-rooted historical rivalries, completely new and unstable opinions, or even as fervently held utopian dreams. It is the task of the political analyst to untangle these interpretive strands, of course, but, similar to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, it may be impossible to determine both the position and momentum of Arab politics at a single moment.

Lecture Summary

Lecture Summary

Published in Foreign Policy

Back to the Future: Arab Politics in the Twenty-First Century

Today's conflagration in the Middle East was set by sparks from long ago

The uprisings in the Arab world reflect three very differing dynamics: the re-emergence after World War I of a century-old dispute about the region’s historical trajectory; the assimilation of new and unfamiliar demands posed by free expression and participation; and the appearance of potent social forces unleashed by global technological change, particularly among young people. »