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Ideas & Images presentation to focus on history of Middle East tensions, impact of 1916 World War I agreement

Oct 17, 2017

On Nov. 9, Dr. Robert Riggs, associate professor and chair in Religion and Politics at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, will discuss the early foundations of Middle East political tensions by focusing on the competing claims of Jewish, Arab and Turkish nationalists. His presentation, titled "Nationalism, Sectarianism, and Identity Politics in the Middle East: Reconsidering the Legacy of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916,” is part of Flagler College’s Ideas & Images series.

“Not only leaders from the region itself, but many contemporary scholars and policymakers have attributed the current instability in the Middle East to the drawing of artificial borders for new nation-states in the aftermath of World War I, pointing to the ethnic and religious tensions that have developed by competing communities within these new countries,” Riggs said.

“This oft-cited narrative of ancient ethnic hatreds and religious fanaticism betrays a much more nuanced reality, one in which the Middle East of a century ago had already experienced radical social transformations as part of the late Ottoman Empire since the early 19th century,” he added. “When President Woodrow Wilson advocated for the self-determination of nations on Feb. 11, 1918, he thrust the U.S. into the middle of competing nationalisms in the region, an entanglement that deepened throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.”

Riggs is also an associate professor in the graduate program for Global Development and Peace, and director of the University of Bridgeport’s Honors Program.

Flagler College’s Ideas & Images: Scholars and Artists-in-Residence program brings nationally and internationally-renowned experts to the campus, building on a tradition established when Henry Flagler’s Hotel Ponce de Leon served as an inspiration for stories, a haven for new ideas, a canvas for artistic endeavors, a showcase for new technology and a setting for athletic competitions. In its first decade, nearly 100 scholars and artists have participated in the program.

Rigg’s Nov. 9 presentation will be held in Flagler College’s Flagler Room in Ponce de Leon Hall, located at 74 King Street, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Other Ideas & Images presentations for the upcoming academic year include:

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Flagler Room, Ponce de Leon Hall; “American Women and the Russian Revolution – Then and Now”

Laurie S. Stoff, Ph.D., Senior Honors Faculty Fellow, Barrett, The Honors College Faculty Affiliate, Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Lewis Auditorium, Flagler College; “From the Soviet Union to Putin’s Russia:  A Journalist’s Perspective”

Andrew Nagorski, Former Senior Editor of Newsweek International and former vice president and director of public policy for the East/West Institute

Sponsors for the series in addition to Flagler College include: Casa Monica Hotel, National Park Service, Florida Humanities Council, St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, St. Johns Cultural Council, The Joy McCann Foundation, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, St. Augustine Ponte Vedra Florida’s Historic Coast, St. Augustine Yacht Club, Flagler College Bookstore, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Florida National Guard and Margaret Domini.

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