Steven Heydemann

Steven Heydemann

Nonresident Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

Steven Heydemann is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and the Janet Wright Ketcham ’53 Chair of Middle East Studies at Smith College. From 2007 to 2015, he held a number of leadership positions at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C., including vice president of applied research on conflict and senior advisor 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 Department of Government. From 1997 to 2001, he was an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Earlier, from 1990 to 1997, 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.

During the period from 2011 to 2015, Heydemann directed U.S. Institute of Peace Syria-related activities, including The Day After project (TDA), in which USIP, in partnership with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin, facilitated a transition planning process for Syria with the Syrian opposition. The TDA project brought together some 60 leading Syrian opposition figures for a six-month series of meetings facilitated by subject-matter experts in the areas of political transition, constitutional reform, election systems reform, post-conflict economic development, transitional justice, and rule of law. In monthly meetings, the participants developed principles and strategies to guide a transition process in Syria. The resulting document, “The Day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria,” was widely used during the early phases of the Syrian conflict, 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 remains an advisor to the board of the NGO.

In addition, Heydemann consults widely with the U.S. and European governments on issues relating to Syria policy and the status of the Syrian conflict. He writes regularly on Syria for major media outlets, and has appeared as a Syria expert on leading television networks, including the BBC, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, and PBS.

In his academic capacity, Heydemann is a political scientist who specializes in the comparative politics and the political economy of the Middle East, with a particular focus on Syria. His interests include authoritarian governance, economic development, social policy, political and economic reform, and civil society. Among his many publications are: “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, Vol. 24, No. 4 (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).

International Forum, National Endowment for Democracy
Mediterranean Politics
Middle East Journal
Middle East Law and Governance
Middle East Studies Association of North America
Project on Middle East Democracy
Project on Middle East Political Science

  • Areas of Expertise

    • Authoritarian governance
    • Comparative politics
    • Economic development
    • Social policy
    • Syria
    • Political and economic reform
    • Civil society
  • Current Positions

    • Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution
    • Janet Wright Ketcham ’53 Chair of Middle East Studies, Smith College
  • Past Positions

    • Vice President of Applied Research on Conflict, United States Institute of Peace
    • Senior Advisor for the Middle East, United States Institute of Peace
    • Director of the Center for Democracy and Civil Society and Research Associate Professor at the Department of Government, Georgetown University
    • Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Columbia University
  • Education

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