When speaking of the “Islamic World,” the thoughts of most Americans are likely to turn to the familiar flashpoints of the Levant and the Persian Gulf. Such a perspective, however, leaves out large areas of the Islamic world where the political and cultural ferment is equally profound, and which has equally profound significance for Geopolitics. North Africa, for example, has become an arena for the competition between democracy and autocracy, and between different visions of Islam’s religious and political development. The semi-reformist monarchy of Morocco, a long-term American ally, and the more authoritarian regime in Algeria offer contrasting visions, even as both react to the experiment in democratic reform in Tunisia and to the Hobbesian chaos of Libya, not to mention the growing ethnic and religious tensions further to the south in Africa.
If Americans hope to understand the myriad possibilities for the future course of the Islamic world, they should broaden their vision of that world to include North Africa.
To encourage such deeper understanding, Geopolitics with Granieri is pleased to host FPRI Fox Fellow Vish Sakthivel to discuss Morocco and Algeria’s intertwined histories and their place in contemporary debates on the future of Islam as a political force and the possibilities for democratic reform across the region.
Vish Sakthivel is a Robert A. Fox fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Program on the Middle East, focusing on North Africa. She is also a doctoral candidate in Modern Middle East Studies at Oxford University, where she is writing her dissertation on Islamist politics in Algeria and Morocco. Her research is based primarily on ethnographies and is supplemented by archival consultation. She is also a nonresident adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) responsible for coverage of North Africa, and is the author of the WINEP monograph, “Al-Adl wal-Ihsan: Inside Morocco’s Islamist Challenge.” She has lived in Algeria, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. Her work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, World Politics Review, Al Monitor, and the Oxford University Press Islamic Encyclopedia, among other outlets. She is proficient at various levels in Maghreb Arabic dialects, Modern Standard Arabic, Tamil, and French.