Lisa Anderson’s “Searching Where the Light Shines: Studying Democratization in the Middle East”

In Lisa Anderson’s “Searching Where the Light Shines: Studying Democratization in the Middle East”, she explains how American political scientists have been studying democracy in the Middle East from the wrong perspective. In the United States, democracy is seen as the ideal goal for every country, and views American values and establishments as aspirations for the Middle East. Because American theories of democracy are not capable of explaining the politics of the region, it makes it difficult to evaluate how ideas of democracy would be received.

American political scientists continue to be unaware of the history of the Middle East before World War I when countries became independent from European imperialism. The new states that became independent, even if they had a long-lasting history, were created with a large amount of European influence. The states that emerged then developed different national identities, and the politics and dynamics of the states were not recognized by American political scientists who only focused on the region post-independence. In this course, we could compensate for this problem by not focusing on the region only from a Western perspective but in a way that is accurate and factual and less Euro-centric.

The Arab Spring that began in 2010 was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that spread across the Middle East. The Arab Spring did change how political scientists and policy makers viewed the prospects for democracy because it showed that it did have, and continues to have, widespread support in the region. However, the Arab Spring did not result in the widespread change in government as many countries had hoped for with only one country, Tunisia, becoming a constitutional democracy. The Arab Spring was not able to solve the problems Anderson mentioned with political scientists concerning democracy in the Middle East.


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