Reflection on Semester

I think what we have learned in this class is that all of these tools are important when studying countries in this region. I would say that resource endowments are maybe the most important of these tools, but I think it you want to get a good understanding of how any one country operates all of these factors must be considered together. Looking at the amount of hydrocarbons is important when studying the wealth at stake of leaders in this region but it becomes even more significant when thinking in terms of political economy types. How the size of a country’s population stands in relationship to the amount of hydrocarbons allows us to further understand the presence of authoritarianism in the region. If one breaks down this population by different demographics based on age and religion, we can get an even better understanding of the dynamics within a country. The historical factors that impacted each country are important when thinking about how different regimes came to power and what foreign intervention looked like in each country was also of great importance. The role of the environment is also a major factor in studying this region when thinking about how this region is one of the most food and water scarce in the world. I therefore think that what I’ve taken from this class is that we can’t approach studying this region looking through only one scope.

From reading Wedeen’s book on Syria understanding the nuances to each country and the people themselves living within these regimes is of great importance. Often times I think people get so caught up in the regimes and the leaders of countries and their own thoughts and misconceptions that people lose perspective on the people who live in these countries and how they operate. I think while books like the one we read by Cammett, Diwan, Richards, and Waterbury illustrate on a broad scale how countries in this region operate and where patterns and similarities between countries might be drawn despite key differences but that a book like Wedeen’s allows us to remember that all these countries are profoundly different and that we are not just studying the ‘numbers’ of a country or the patterns of government systems but the homes of real people. And I think to understand a country to a high degree is to get into as best you can the mindset and social understanding of how real people in each of these countries operate.






One response to “Reflection on Semester”

  1. cruzr Avatar

    I agree with your last comment on why Wedeen’s work is important in our studies! I also made a comment on my blog about the ways in which single case studies like hers provide a more humanistic approach to this subject and allows us to view MENA and its countries not through some obscure lens that only focuses on the regime types. Rather you see the effects it has on citizens living there and how they struggle with these issues. They aren’t simply a study subject.

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