Current Research

I am working on three separate research projects at the moment. Please email me if you have any questions about any of these projects:

1. Syrian Refugees and Internally Displaced Populations:

Along with Professor Yasser Munif (Emerson College), I hold a grant from the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) to conduct research in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan on Syrian refugees and IDPs. Our research project will be complete by August 2014.

Title “Reconstructing Livelihoods Among Syrian Refugees and IDPs: a multifaceted approach”

Abstract: The plight of the refugees and IDPs has highlighted the tragic fallout from the Syrian uprising and internal war and their displacement has been used as a rallying cry to mobilize the opposition movement both internally and externally. However if regional history is any guide, refugees are more useful to a cause than a cause is useful to them. Our research will examine how refugees are configured in post-conflict reconstruction of livelihood and the built environment in Syria. Over a period of 18 months the research will take place primarily in Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon. Our project lies at the intersection of the three themes of inequality, mobility, and development. We examine how refugees and IDPs will fit into future Syria using a “multi-sited” action research methodology in a) refugee settlements and camps in Lebanon and Turkey; b) regional and international forums summoned around post-conflict reconstruction; c) networks of scholars, refugees, practitioners, and activists operating inside and outside Syria; and d) local councils inside Syria.

1a. Producing the Public in the Arab Societies

Related to the above project, I am also participating in a new research initiative, also by the ACSS, titled “Producing the Public in the Arab Societies”. The initiative has three working groups on space, participation, and media. I will be participating in the working group on “space” which is coordinated by Professor Paul Amar.

Here is a brief description of the “space” working group’s goals:

Cities and countryside in the Arab region are undergoing massive transformation because of population processes, growth, planning and development projects. The program will specifically focus on public space and question what is happening to public spaces which traditionally brought people together across classes and groups. Research will also focus on the new emerging spaces, some of which may be more exclusive than inclusive. The changing nature of city centers and urban peripheries will be a major focus of this part of the program as well as the role of national and international policy in enabling and disabling the formation of new public spaces.

2. The Political Economy of South-South Trade and Finance:

I am writing a book with Professor Firat Demir (University of Oklahoma), under contract with Anthem Press, on South-South trade and finance.

Description of scope and content of the book:

The last 20-30 years have seen a dramatic rise in South-South economic relations, yet no book exists that systematically examines these changes in the global economy. Most studies on South-South relations focus on regionalism, i.e. regional integration in South America, preferential trading agreements, or China-Africa relations. While studies/books on South-South trade existed in the 1970s and 1980s, the new round of South-South linkages has not been covered. In addition to filling this gap, this book also includes a historical, theoretical, and empirical examination that attempts to both place current South-South relations within their historical trajectory and examine in what ways current South-South relations differ from previous attempts(i.e. ‘new-regionalism’), especially that most of the previous discussions took place under the Import Substitution Industrialization or relatively protectionist era. The book contains rigorous empirical analysis of trade and finance to uncover the developmental implications of South-South trade and finance. Finally, the book engages with the burgeoning “new-developmentalism” to discuss how South-South economic integration and the rise of the South as an economic power and as an actor in multinational institutions both benefits and harms the developmental opportunities for poor and middle income South countries.

3. Economic origins of the Arab Uprisings: Syria 2000-2010

The revival of political economy analysis in the aftermath of the MENA uprisings of 2011 has brought into greater focus the impact of those policies. This emerging literature is important in several respects: it poses a challenge both to mainstream economic policy proposals regarding the impact of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation as well as contesting the official celebratory story about the success of reform in several MENA economies that had been put forth by multinational institutions. Furthermore it contests the view that only authoritarianism was the problem in MENA thereby connecting the MENA uprisings with the broader protests against inequality and unchecked corporate power.  In this research, I focus on the case of Syria that at the time of writing this article, has descended into a bloody civil and proxy war with tragic consequences to the civilian population and is at risk of becoming not just a failed state but one that suffers de facto territorial disintegration. I go further back in time to examine the roots of the current crisis and examine the decade leading up to it. I argue that despite the authoritarian nature of Syria’s government, economic policies also played a major role in fueling the protests that erupted in March 2011. In short, I examine how market oriented policies created and exacerbated the cleavages within Syrian society and decimated the unique social contract that kept Syria together.  I argue that these policies were outcomes generated both by struggle within domestic social forces as well as a changing regional and global economic landscape, rather than discrete policy choices by a relatively autonomous state. I believe Syria’s experience, though unique, contains important lessons for economic development in the twenty first century.