Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Politics of Youth: new issue of Middle East Report

(Confession: I'm an editor, and I have an article in the new issue. Please note that you can access my article along with Marc Lynch's for free. But buy the issue anyway!)

Middle East Report 245
Winter 2007


In many countries of the Middle East, as in other developing regions, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up a fifth or more of the population. These youth face serious socio-economic problems, including unemployment, under-employment and delayed marriage, but not the least of their burdens are the expectations and anxieties of their elders. In recent decades, indeed, youth have come to be seen as a problem in and of themselves. "The Politics of Youth," the winter 2007 issue of Middle East Report, measures the image against reality.

Anthropologist Ted Swedenburg sketches the "imagined youths" that preoccupy policy planners and pundits in the Middle East and the West. Youth are perceived both as people who need to be protected -- from radical political Islam or from "vulgar" popular culture -- and people from whom the social order may need to be protected. A corollary, among Western observers, is to see youth as the inevitable emancipators of closed political systems.

Real Middle Eastern youth confound elite hopes and fears in ways both conventionally political and mundane. In Egypt, finds political scientist Marc Lynch, young Muslim Brothers are challenging their older leaders' platforms and habits of mind with the open discussion fostered by their blogs. In Beirut, as Lara Deeb and Mona Harb demonstrate, the purchasing power of pious Shi'i youth is generating an "Islamic" culture of fun to parallel the hard-partying "Paris of the Middle East" downtown. In Israel, argues sociologist Tamir Sorek, young fans of Likud-supporting Beitar Jerusalem and the Arab team from Sakhnin both use the soccer stadium to demand full integration as citizens, rendering the Beitar-Sakhnin matches more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in miniature.

In a special report, James McDougall checks in on the recovery of Algeria from its long and brutal civil war. Many of the war's deep causes remain in place: The options in formal politics are limited to opportunism or principled, but impotent opposition, while the newly liberalized economy is working best for those who were already prosperous.

Also featured: Norma Claire Moruzzi reviews Shahram Khosravi's Young and Defiant in Iran; Khaled El-Rouayheb reviews Joseph Massad's Desiring Arabs; Rosemary Sayigh reviews Laleh Khalili's Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine; and more.

Subscribe to Middle East Report or order individual copies online at

For further information, contact Chris Toensing at

Middle East Report is published by the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), a progressive, independent organization based in Washington, DC. Since 1971 MERIP has provided critical analysis of the Middle East, focusing on political economy, popular struggles and the implications of US and international policy for the region.

Middle East Report Online is a free service of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).

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