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History and Politics

Ziad Majed Named AUP’s Third Professor of Promise

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Professor Ziad Majed

AUP is pleased to announce that Ziad Majed, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Politics and Program Coordinator for AUP’s major in Middle East pluralities, has been named AUP’s third Professor of Promise. He will hold the title of Elliott E. Burdette Professor of Middle Eastern Studies for the next five years.

Professor Majed’s research deals with politics and political culture in the Middle East, with focuses on state and society evolutions in Syria and Lebanon, on political Islam and on the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. He holds a BA in Economics and an MA in Arabic Literature from the American University of Beirut and a PhD in Political Science from Sciences Po, Paris, and has worked extensively on Middle East–related projects both within the region and in Europe, including for the Lebanese Red Cross, the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (in Stockholm). Majed joined AUP in 2009, following a meeting with Professor Ali Rahnema, then head of AUP’s graduate program in Middle East studies. “I’ve been fully involved in AUP life and with the Middle East program since, thanks to Ali,” says Majed. “I enjoy working closely with colleagues and friends in other programs where we can have cooperation and collaboration.”

Since 2011, Majed’s work has increasingly related to the ongoing conflict in Syria. “It’s kind of a laboratory for what a conflict in our world could be today,” says Majed. He looks at how local questions of democracy and resistance against a totalitarian regime overlap with regional confrontations and international military interventions, especially from Russia. In a recent AUP forum following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Majed argued that the way the invasion is taking place would not have been possible if it had not been for Russia’s impunity in Syria.

Alongside his academic work, Majed contributes two articles a month to a pan–Arab newspaper based in London and is regularly invited to speak to French and European media and think tanks on events related to the Middle East. He also maintains his own blog at vendredis-arabes.blogspot.com. “I’m aiming to influence debates that are related to the region I know best,” he says, explaining that his contributions are opinion pieces and policy recommendations. He aims to balance academic and journalistic approaches in a way that highlights themes from his classroom discussions and students’ questions in his articles. “My challenge has always been how to bring in critical points of view that are not always available in regular media coverage and make them accessible to the larger public.”

Majed is grateful for the Professor of Promise grant, which he says will help increase the visibility of his research by funding the translation of his work. “There are always problems in the coverage of the Middle East,” he says. “There are a lot of clichés – lots of self-proclaimed experts who promote wrong ideas and false assumptions.” Majed has published several books in French and Arabic relating to the region, most recently with 2018’s Dans la tête de Bachar Al-Assad (Actes Sud, Paris), which he co-authored with Subhi Hadidi and Farouk Mardam-Bey. He hopes that by publishing in languages other than Arabic he will help combat negative stereotypes of the Middle East and change global perceptions of the region’s people and their political and social struggles. “People and societies aren’t at the heart of much of the work you see in academia and the media related to the Middle East,” he says. “It’s usually more geostrategic politics and macroeconomics.”

The professorship grant will also allow Majed to travel more frequently to the region when it is safe to do so. He is currently working on two new books, the first related to Lebanon’s current economic and existential crisis and the second taking a comparative approach to the region’s history, reflecting on how major events since the 1920s provoked different yet comparable political processes in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Visiting the region will provide him with much-needed meetings, interviews and on-the-ground context. “It stops me feeling far from daily life and challenges,” he explains. Majed also hopes to organize study trips to the Middle East for AUP students taking courses in the Middle East program, thereby encouraging their engagement with the region. He already works closely with two student clubs, Arabesque, which promotes Middle Eastern culture and debates social questions related to the region, and Baytna à Vous, which mainly supports Syrian refugees in France.

Majed’s professorship was made possible thanks to a generous donation from AUP trustee Elliott E. Burdette, who believes that Majed’s perspective on Lebanon and the Middle East will enhance students’ understanding of this critically important area. “Our AUP student life is powerfully shaped by the classroom experience,” explains Burdette. “Professors who achieve excellence both in the classroom and as scholars are treasures who deserve our support.”

Professor Ziad Majed is the third recipient of a Professor of Promise title and grant. You can read about the two other recipients in previous articles: Stephen Sawyer, the Ballantine-Leavitt Professor of History, and Professor Brian Schiff, who is Esmond Nissim Professor of Psychology.