William & Mary

The Past Present and Future of the Middle East: The James A. Bill Memorial Conference

The Reves Center for International Studies at William & Mary presents the “The Past, Present, and Future of the Middle East: The James A. Bill Memorial Conference,” from 8:30am to 5pm on April 7, 2017, at the School of Education at William & Mary. The conference is free and open to the public but participants must register, and space is limited.

Professor Bill—the Reves Center’s Founding Director—died in 2015 after a long illness. This conference in his honor will provide an opportunity for those have been inspired by his scholarly, institutional, policy and pedagogical contributions to gather together to reflect on his life and career, and on the topic which he cared about most deeply.

The panelists are some of this country’s most knowledgeable and respected scholars, diplomats, journalists and experts on the Middle East. They were also Bill’s students, colleagues and friends. 

Wall Street Journal Chief Commentator Gerald Seib will deliver the keynote address as the Kraemer Middle East Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence.  Another panelist, Ambassador John W. Limbert, is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and a former official at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where he was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis.


Coffee and pastries (8:30-9 am)

Panel One: Islam, Politics, and Democracy (9-10:30 am)

Introduction by Michael R. Halleran, Provost, William & Mary

Chair: Stephen E. Hanson, William & Mary, Vice Provost for International Affairs, the Director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies, and the Lettie Pate Evans Professor in the Department of Government

  • John Esposito, “The Future of Democracy and Political Islam”
    Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, and Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • Augustus Richard Norton, “Whom Do You Trust? Practical Politics in the Middle East”
    Professor of both International Relations and Anthropology, The Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. He is also a Visiting Professor in Politics of the Middle East at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
  • Monte Palmer, “Why Religious Extremism and Terror Continue to Grow”
    Professor Emeritus at Florida State University and a former Director of the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut

Coffee Break (10:30-10:45 am)

Panel Two: The Meaning of Nation and International Relations in the Middle East (10:45 am-12:15 pm)
Chair: Rani Mullen, William & Mary, Associate Professor of Government

  • Mehdi Noorbaksh, “The Arab Springs in Egypt and Tunisia: Why One Succeeded and the Other Failed”
    Professor of International Affairs, Harrisburg University
  • Tamara Sonn, “U.S. Policy toward Iran: Revisiting James Bill’s ‘Clash of Hegemonies’”
    Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in the History of Islam at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • Marvin Weinbaum, “In the Global Resurgence of Nationalism, Where is the Middle East?”
    Scholar-in-residence and Director of the Pakistan Center at the Middle East Institute

Keynote Address by Kraemer Middle East Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence Gerald Seib (12:15-1 pm)
Executive Washington editor and chief commentator for The Wall Street Journal

Lunch break (1-2 pm)   

Panel Three: James Bill’s Life and Legacy (2-4:00 pm)
Chair: Sibel Zandi-Sayek, William & Mary, Associate Professor of Art & Art History

  • John Duke Anthony, “Area Studies: Noble Legacy; Future Challenges”
    Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
  • John Limbert, “Jim Bill and the U.S. Foreign Service: A Stormy Relationship”
    Distinguished Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
  • Mowahid Shah, “James Bill: The Man and his Reach”
    Attorney, author, and policy analyst and lead columnist for Pakistan Link, the most subscribed weekly throughout North America for the U.S. Pakistani community
  • John Voll, “Area Studies From the 1960s to the Present: Transformed Realities and Changing Concepts”   Professor Emeritus of Islamic history at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University
  • John A. Williams, "Jim Bill:  Memories of a Colleague"
    William & Mary, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

Reflections from Jim Bill’s Friends, Colleagues, and Family (4:00-4:30 pm)

Reception to follow.

The conference is free and open to the public but participants must register at http://bit.ly/2mVpK0U or call 757-221-3592.