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Steven Heydemann

Janet Wright Ketcham 1953 Professor in Middle East Studies

Steve Heydemann


Seelye Hall 103


In addition to holding the Janet Wright Ketcham 1953 Chair in Middle East Studies, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government, Steven Heydemann is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution. From 2007–15 he held a number of leadership positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., including vice president of applied research on conflict and senior adviser for the Middle East. Prior to joining USIP, he was director of the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University and associate professor in the government department. From 1997 to 2001, he was an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Earlier, from 1990–97, he directed the Program on International Peace and Security and the Program on the Near and Middle East at the Social Science Research Council in New York.

From 2011–15, Heydemann directed USIP’s Syria program, including The Day After project (TDA), in which the institute facilitated a transition planning process for Syria with the Syrian opposition. The resulting document, "The Day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria," was widely used by activists, NGOs and governments during the early phases of the Syrian conflict, and it was endorsed by numerous Syrian opposition groups as well as the European Parliament. Following the completion of the planning phase of the TDA project, Heydemann provided technical expertise in support of the creation of a Syrian-led NGO called The Day After Association, based in Istanbul. He currently serves as vice-chair of the board of the NGO.

In addition, Heydemann consults widely with the U.S. government, NGOs, and European governments on issues relating to the Middle East, including Syria policy and the status of the Syrian conflict. He writes regularly on Syria and the Middle East for major media outlets and has appeared as a Syria expert on leading television networks, including the BBC, al-Arabiyya, al-Jazeera, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy Journal and PBS.

Heydemann is a political scientist who specializes in the comparative politics and the political economy of the Middle East. His interests include authoritarian governance, economic development, social policy, political and economic reform, and civil society. Among his many publications are “Rethinking Social Contracts in the MENA Region: Economic Governance, Contingent Citizenship, and State-Society Relations After the Arab Uprisings.World Development (2020); “The Syrian Conflict: Proxy War, Pyrrhic Victory, and Power Sharing Agreements.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (2020); “No Exit: Conflict, Economic Governance, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Fierce States,” in Luigi Narbone, ed., Fractured Stability: War Economies and Reconstruction in the MENA (2019); “Beyond Fragility: Syria and the Challenges of Reconstruction in Fierce States” (Brookings Institution, 2018). “Civil War, Economic Governance, and State Reconstruction in the Arab Middle East,” (Daedalus 2018); "Explaining the Arab Uprisings: Transformations in Comparative Perspective," Mediterranean Politics (January 2016); "Authoritarian Learning and Counterrevolution," in The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East, ed. Marc Lynch (Columbia University Press, 2014, with Reinoud Leenders); Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran (Stanford University Press, 2013, co-edited with Reinoud Leenders); "Tracking the Arab Spring: Syria and Arab Authoritarianism," Journal of Democracy (October 2013); "Social Pacts and the Persistence of Authoritarianism in the Middle East," in Debating Arab Authoritarianism: Dynamics and Durability in Non-Democratic Regimes, ed. Oliver Schlumberger (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007); “Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World,” (Saban Center, Brookings Institution, November 2007); Networks of Privilege in the Middle East: The Politics of Economic Reform Revisited, edited volume (Palgrave Press, 2004); War, Institutions and Social Change in the Middle East, edited volume (University of California Press, 2000), and Authoritarianism in Syria: Institutions and Social Conflict, 1946-1970 (Cornell University Press, 1999).

Office Hours

Spring 2024 
Wednesdays from 2-3:30 p.m. 
and by appointment.


Ph.D., A.M., University of Chicago
A.B., University of Michigan

Selected Works in Smith ScholarWorks