Bridges to the World” with Chris Toensing October 30th, 10: 00 am

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The United States and the Arab Revolts:

Bridges to the World” with Chris Toensing

October 30th, 10:00 am


Chris Toensing is the Executive Director of the Middle East Research and Information Project and editor of MERIP’s publication, Middle East Report. He holds an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and later studied Middle Eastern History at Georgetown University. An Arabic speaker, he has lived in Egypt and traveled widely in the Arab Middle East since 1990. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and that organization’s Committee on Academic Freedom.

Additional Resources

  • Articles by Chris Toensing,

  • Appearances by Toensing on,

  • “Foreign Policy in Focus” articles by Toensing,


The Arab world has been in upheaval in recent years. Since December 2010, numerous countries have had revolutions or revolts, including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. Much of the instability is the result of repressive or restrictive governments. Now, citizens in these countries are demanding change. What does this mean for the future of the region? For American policy there?

Lesson Plan
Objective: Students will:

Materials: Access to the video “An Historic Moment in the Arab World” through TEDTalks,

  1. (5 minutes) (Put students into pairs if desired.) Pass out “TEDTalks: An Historic Moment in the Arab World Questions” handout. Give students time to read, then lead a pre-discussion. Suggested prompts:

    1. What information do you think the video will cover?

    2. What do you hope to learn from watching this film?

  2. (18 minutes) Play video, “TEDTalks: An Historic Moment in the Arab World.”

  3. (5 minutes) Give students time to finish answering the questions.

  4. (10 minutes, or time remaining in class) Review answers to the questions. Lead a post-discussion:

    1. Were there any questions that you thought you knew the answers to prior to the video, but were incorrect?

    2. What did you learn? What surprised you?

    3. Point out that this talk was given in February 2011. Update the class on current events in Tunisia and Egypt (The Islamist party in Tunisia who gained power after the revolution recently agreed to step down and allow democratic elections; in Egypt, a military group took over power in July from a very unpopular but democratically-elected government.) Ask: Do recent events support Mr. Khanfar’s idea that democracy and universal values will emerge from these movements? Why or why not?

    4. Is there any information that you hoped to learn, but was not covered in the video? (If so, lead a discussion on resources students could use to find this information.)

Additional Resources

  • Readings

    • “Middle East Research and Information Project” homepage,

    • Kassim, Saleem, “Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring was Helped by Social Media,”, Oct. 2012, Article, 5 Oct. 2013,

    • Margo, Giavana, Brittany Bonning, and Tese Wintz Neighbor, “Understanding the Arab Spring from the Inside,” World Affairs Council, 29 Feb. 2012, Website, 5 Oct. 2013,

  • Visual/Interactive

    • “Photo Essays: Arab Spring,” Time Magazine, Website, 5 Oct. 2013,

    • Blight, Garry, Shelia Pulham, and Paul Torpey, “Arab Spring: An Interactive Timeline,”, 5 Jan. 2012, Website, 5 Oct. 2013,

    • Haddad, Mohammad and Basma Atassi, “Interactive: The youth of the Arab Spring,” Al Jazeera, 29 July 2013, Website, 5 Oct. 2013,

    • Owen, Roger, “Historical Perpective on the Arab Spring,” Wilson Center, 8 April 2013, Video, 5 Oct. 2013,

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