[P5987] Past as Prelude? Historical Legacies and State Building Across the MENA Region

Created by Gabriel Koehler-Derrick
Saturday, 10/17/20 11:00 am


A growing body of work in the social sciences argues that legacies of the past were fundamental in shaping the state building projects of the 20th century and, by extension, associated political and economic outcomes. Historians of the MENA region have long argued that colonialism in particular was instrumental in shaping state trajectories, but tend to focus on a single country or case in detail, rather than articulating broader theories about state building writ large.

While few would dispute that “history matters,” it is far from clear why some states that emerged in the 20th century in the MENA region were able to make rapid progress in terms of economic and social development, while others found themselves far more constrained by previous institutional configurations. Nor is it clear why institutional legacies seem to have been “stickier” within some countries but not others. Many states in the region are characterized by huge variation in literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, infrastructure and even national identity, that were all important parts of early state building campaigns, but in other cases these gaps are much smaller, why is this the case?

This cross-disciplinary panel will draw on presentations from across the Maghreb, Mashreq, and Turkey, from historians, economists and political scientists, in a dialogue about how legacies of the past shaped the formation of the state across the contemporary MENA region in the 20th century. In the process we hope to address three core questions: why were previous institutional configurations relevant in some cases, but not others? What are the mechanisms that facilitated institutional perpetuation, and where did these mechanisms not emerge or breakdown? What lessons do these historical approaches have for contemporary scholarship on this key period in the region?




Econ; Hist; Pol Science




Melani C. Cammett

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Presenter;

Allison Spencer Hartnett

(University of Southern California)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Youssef Ben Ismail

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Gabriel Koehler-Derrick

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Co-Author; Organizer;

Lydia Assouad

(Paris School of Economics)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;
Koehler-Derrick, Gabriel - Abstract Second Author