Book Launch: Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective

Abstract: This talk focuses on the speaker’s recently published book, Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave, 2022). It provides a new theoretical framework for how democracy can emerge in the Middle East and wider Muslim world, where political conflicts over religion often predominate. Its novel argument is that rather than resolving intractable theological debates about the role of Islam in politics and the public sphere, democratization hinges instead upon religious actors like Islamists and their secularist rivals to make pragmatic compromises that guarantee their mutual survival. Such pacting can usher in long-term accommodation, and lead to the institutionalization of democratic order. From there, theological shifts can occur, demonstrating that temporal politics can be the catalyst for renewed religious interpretations.

Biography: Hicham Alaoui is the founder and director of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation, which undertakes innovative social scientific research in the Middle East and North Africa. He is a scholar on the comparative politics of democratization and religion, with a focus on the MENA region. In the past, he served as a visiting scholar and Consulting Professor at the Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at Stanford University. He more recently served as postdoctoral fellow and research associate at Harvard University. He was also Regents Lecturer at several campuses of the University of California system. Outside of academia, he has worked with the United Nations in various capacities, such as the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. He has also worked with the Carter Center in its overseas missions on conflict resolution and democracy advancement. He has served on the MENA Advisory Committee for Human Rights Watch and the Advisory Board of the Carnegie Middle East Center. He served on the board of the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University, and has recently joined the Advisory Board of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard. He holds an A.B. from Princeton University, M.A. from Stanford University, and D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. His academic research has been widely published in various French and English journals, magazines, and newspapers of record. His latest book is Pacted Democracy in the Middle East: Tunisia and Egypt in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave, 2022). His memoirs, Journal d’un Prince Banni, was published in 2014 by Éditions Grasset, and has since been translated into several languages. He is co-author with Robert Springborg of The Political Economy of Arab Education (Lynne Rienner, 2021), and co-author with the same colleague on the forthcoming volume Security Assistance in the Middle East: Challenges and the Need for Change (Lynne Rienner, 2023).