My dissertation project at the Department of Politics and International Relations of Oxford University - under the supervision of Dr. Philip Robins - enquires into the relationship between nationalism and democratic stability in multi-ethnic countries, using the examples of Israel and Lebanon.
My thesis seeks to answer the following question: Why is Israel a stable democracy and Lebanon an unstable democracy, given these countries’ structural similarities? Conventional democratization theory has proven insufficient to explain the relative weakness of democracy in the Middle East, suggesting that further research is required to explain the phenomenon. I hypothesize that Israel has retained democratic stability because it possesses a well-defined national project to which parochial interests of individual ethno-religious groupings yield. As a result, a centripetal force emerges which upholds the system; the national vision is invoked to navigate potential political crises, thus re-establishing stability. The absence of such a national project in Lebanon – and by extension in places like Iraq, Syria or Yemen – has bred democratic instability, with centrifugal tendencies shaking the system periodically.
By selecting a handful of historic events in both countries, I will be able to isolate nationalist discourse and determine whether it coincides with relative democratic stabilization, applying process tracing techniques. The results of my research will not only contribute to the current scholarly debate about democracy in the Middle East, but also to the knowledge that policy-makers, engaged in nation building and democratization, draw on.
During the academic year 2015/2016, I will be a visiting research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Residing in Israel for one year will facilitate my access to archival material and interviews that will elucidate the mechanisms that my doctoral project is exploring. I expect to complete my doctorate by the end of 2017 and to reach out for a post-doctoral position outside of Oxford thereafter.
Translator (German Chamber of Commerce)
DPhil Candidate (Oxford)
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