Asia Research Institute -RSIS Panel Seminar
Can the Middle East Learn from Southeast Asia? A Comparative Analysis of Political Transitions in Volatile Regions
Embroiled in vicious cross-border sectarian wars, the Middle East dominates daily headline news. Turmoil in the Middle East contrasts starkly with encouraging signs of democratic transition in Southeast Asia even if at times, it seems fragile as in Myanmar. The Philippines and Indonesia have completed their transition and developed relatively open but messy, flawed and highly contested political systems. Thailand’s authoritarian resurgence highlights the threat of democratic reversals. What accounts for these differences? This seminar will discuss three key factors: the impact of a civil society infrastructure or the lack thereof; the importance of coalitions between the military, civil society and the business community; and the significance of properly managing inter-ethnic relations. There are lessons to be learnt from transitions in Southeast Asia, but these have to be are treated with caution and consideration, given the different historical, social, political and economic context in the Middle East. Yet experiences in Southeast Asia and Tunisia demonstrate that transition in the Middle East and North Africa is possible and inevitable. The 2011 Arab revolts were the beginning of a torturous process of two steps forward, one step backward that could take up to a quarter of a century or more, as in Southeast Asia. The comparison of the two regions provides insights on how the process in the Middle East and North Africa can be moved forward.
Discussions during this event is in conjunction with the launch of a newly-published book entitled “Lost in Transition: Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa” (Palgrave Macmillan).
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Teresita Cruz-del Rosario is Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore. She was previously an Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Senior Research Fellow at the Center on Asia and Globalisation. Her teaching experience has been in Development Policy, Social Movements, and Sociological/Anthropological Theory and Methods. She has a background in Sociology, Social Anthropology and Public Administration from Boston College, Harvard University, and New York University. Apart from peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, she has authored the following books: “Lost in Transition: Comparative Political Transitions in Southeast Asia and the Middle East” (co-authored with James M Dorsey, Palgrave MacMillan 2016); “The State and the Advocate: Development Policy in Asia” (Routledge UK 2014) and an edited volume entitled “The Democratic Developmental State: North-South Perspectives” (forthcoming Ibidem Publishers). A fourth book is currently under preparation and is entitled “Vanished History: Recovering Pre-colonial Transnational Philippine History” (Hong Kong University Press 2018). Her current research interests are in the broad field of Arabia-Asia historical and sociological connections, religion and globalization, and comparative regional development.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a recently published book with the same title, and also just published Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario. His other forthcoming books include: China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom (Palgrave MacMillan); Shifting Sands: Volatile Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, Essays on Sports and Politics (World Scientific) and Creating Frankenstein: Saudi Arabia’s Export of Ultra-conservative Islam.
Rita Padawangi is Senior Reserch Fellow at the Asian Urbanisms Cluster at Asia Research Institute (ARI)-NUS. Dr Padawangi was previously a researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. She has also been a Research Fellow at the Global Asia Institute, National University of Singapore; Center for Urban Research and Learning at Loyola University Chicago; and Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has taught at the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore and at the Department of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago, with a special focus on urban sociology and the sociology of the built environment. She received her PhD in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago where she was also a Fulbright Scholar for her M.A. studies. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Parahyangan Catholic University and was a practicing architect in Bandung, Indonesia. Her research interests are in the following: (1) public space, urban heritage, place-making and spaces of hope through community engagement in city-building; (2) sociology of architecture and the built environment; (3) social movements and politics of space; (4) environmental sociology in the city; (5) environmental resource governance with a focus on water.
Mohamed Nawab Osman is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Malaysia Program at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at NTU. His research interests include the domestic and international politics of Southeast and South Asian countries, transnational Islamic political movements and counter-radicalization. Nawab has written various papers, books and journal articles relating to his research interests. Nawab is a frequent commentator on political Islam, terrorism and Southeast Asian politics He also sits in the boards of Association of Muslim Professionals and Jamiyah Singapore.