The Middle East and Central Asia have seen dramatic changes to the established order of governance within the region in the 21st century. The Arab Spring which represented a fundamental challenge to the prevailing order was largely quashed with many speculating a return to the authoritarian status quo. A prominent consequence of the Arab awakening is new conflicts between central governments and non-state actors. Post-Arab Spring Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen have all succumbed to conflicts and competing interests that have departed from the original aims of the Arab awakening. The evolving challenges to prevailing order is also a common theme for the Central Asian states, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. In Central Asia, we have witnessed insurgency and violence in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan challenging governments and their legitimacy. These have been exacerbated by inter-state tensions, competition for power and geopolitical interference from external players.
Some of these conflicts have eroded the legitimacy of central governments given their brutal responses as well as their breach of the social contract. Alternatively, some non-state actors have assumed the responsibility of the states in providing strategies of survival for the people. This turmoil has brought unprecedented change to the region affecting social, political, military and gender spheres. Moreover, unconventional asymmetrical warfare is being developed to legitimize and solidify the establishment of these new structures. In Central Asia, the ongoing trajectories of post-Soviet transition within states and society have recently been complicated by an emerging new wave of violent radicalisation and extremism. Indigenous Islamic militant groups in Central Asia have forged ties with militant groups in Syria and Afghanistan. This has fuelled speculation on the consequences of their return to Central Asia, in particular to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. These new realities represent a significant departure from the long-held expectations about the evolutionary vector of the Middle East and Central Asia based on democratisation and decolonisation.
This conference seeks to bring together recent and cutting edge scholarship on the new realities emerging in the Middle East and Central Asia. It will prize interdisciplinarity in studying the interconnectedness of the emerging social, political, economic, and cultural structures. Moreover, it will discuss how international actors, including Australia, engage with these new trends. The fundamental aim of the conference is to seek practical knowledge and understanding of key issues in the Middle East and Central Asia in order to evaluate regional policies, military strategies, security concerns, gender roles and patterns of governance.
In addition to the conference, there will be a workshop and seminar to discuss theoretical and practical approaches to studying the Middle East chaired by the keynote speakers as well as additional experts.