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Sarah Anne Rennick's Research Profiled in Lund University Magazine

Photo of Sarah Anne Rennick in front of the CMES building
Political scientist Sarah Anne Rennick is a guest researcher at the Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies. Photo: Ulrika Oredsson

How can youth movements influence and promote democratisation and social justice in the Middle East? Can researchers support and contribute to democratic reform? These are questions that political scientist Sarah Anne Rennick is working on as a researcher at the Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies.

Sarah Anne Rennick is a familiar face among political scientists in Lund. She received her doctoral degree from Lund University in 2015 with a thesis on social movements among Egyptian youths during the Arab Spring. Following this, she started working at the independent think tank the Arab Reform Initiative, with roots in the Middle East.

– The Arab Reform Initiative was established as a response to the Iraq war and the Bush administration's futile attempts to democratise the country through the use of arms, Sarah Anne Rennick comments. We try to promote and support grassroots initiatives that work for democratisation and social justice. 

Action Research

In the think thank, Sarah Anne Rennick has devoted herself to what is commonly called action research, i.e., knowledge produced together with the groups one is conducting research about. 

– The think tank wants to improve the knowledge about youth movements, and show that they can actually contribute to important political changes. Many young people are despondent and view themselves as apolitical despite being part of movements that can change society in a political way, Sarah Anne Rennick says, and gives the example of Lebanese youths who oppose the religious divisions of their society.

The War in Syria and Young People

During her time as a researcher at the Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies, Sarah Anne Rennick will write about the different projects she carried out at the Arab Reform Initiative. Among other things, the projects address how the war in Syria has affected the young generation's entry into adulthood and what the transition from an authoritarian regime to democracy has meant for Tunisian youth. She will also write about how the experiences of the 2011 protests against the Moroccan monarchy has influenced the young generation.

– The interdisciplinary environment at the Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies is intellectually stimulating. I am looking forward to writing about my research, but also engaging in the Centre's more public activities, she adds.

Sarah Anne Rennick developed her interest in the Middle East during a trip to Cairo she took when she was 17.

– When I chose to focus on Middle Eastern Studies in 1998, everyone thought I was crazy. But after September 11, 2001, everyone thought I had made a very strategic choice, she says.

How is the war in Ukraine influencing the Middle East?

– In some countries, for instance among some factions in Syria and Libya, there is a reluctance to take sides in the war. The region's food supply is also impacted by the price of wheat increasing rapidly as Russia and Ukraine are the world's largest exporters of wheat.

Another issue that inevitably affects the relationship between the Middle East and the EU is, according to Sarah Anne Rennick, the double standards that have become stark during the recent arrival of refugees from the war in Ukraine:

– The present-day reception of refugees from Ukraine is in marked contrast to what we have witnessed the last decade with boat refugees from war zones drowning in the Mediterranean or being sent back to inhumane refugee camps in Libya and other places. This is perceived as hypocrisy or racism and influences the view of the EU.

You can read the original article in Swedish here