Key-note speakers

In Praise of Scepticism: Trust but verify

November 11, 2022 at 18.00-19.00 Gulf Standard Time; Al Amwaj Ballroom , Grand Millennium Business Bay, Marasi Dr, Business Bay, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Trust is conventionally believed to have many beneficial consequences for citizens and societies - by lubricating markets, managing organizations, legitimating governments, and facilitating collective action. Any signs of its decline are, and should be, a matter of serious concern. Yet, Pippa Norris’ In Praise of Skepticism questions the prevalent assumptions underpinning modern accounts of trust and recognizes that trust has two faces. Norris unpacks the concept and advances a new four-fold typology based on the interplay of trust and trustworthiness, where trust by principals is compared with indicators of the competency, integrity, and impartiality of governments.

Trustworthiness involves an informal social contract by which principals authorize agents to act on their behalf in the expectation that they will fulfill their responsibilities with competency, integrity, and impartiality, despite conditions of risk and uncertainty. We should trust but verify. Skeptical judgments reflect reasonably accurate and informed predictions about agents' future actions based on their past performance and guardrails deterring dishonesty, mendacity, and corruption. Both cynical beliefs (underestimating performance) and credulous faith (over-estimating performance) involve erroneous judgements reflecting cultural biases, poor cognitive skills, and information echo chambers. Drawing on new evidence from the European Values Survey/ World Values Survey conducted in more than 100 societies around the world, Norris concludes that as well as excessive cynicism, the risks arising from too much credulous trust by citizens towards authorities are commonly underestimated (the book can be ordered online at with promotion code ASFLYQ6)

Pippa Norris is a comparative political scientist who has taught at Harvard for three decades. She is the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Founding Director of the Electoral Integrity Project, Director of the Global Party Survey, Co-Director of the TrustGov Project and Vice-President of the World Values Survey. Her research compares public opinion and elections, political institutions and cultures, gender politics, and political communications in many countries worldwide. She is ranked the 2nd most cited political scientist worldwide, according to Google scholar. Major career honors include, amongst others, the Skytte prize, IPSA’s Karl Deutsch award, fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, APSA’s Charles Merriam award, APSA’s Warren E. Miller award, and APSA’s Samuel Eldersfeld lifetime achievement award, and the PSA’s Sir Isaiah Berlin award, as well as several book awards and honorary doctorates. Publications in 2019 include books on Electoral Integrity in America for OUP and Cultural Backlash for CUP. New books are in press on In Praise of Skepticism: Trust but Verify (for OUP, 2022) and on Authoritarian Culture. For full details, see her biography.

Democratic Backsliding and Threats to Democracy: Evidence from the Arab Barometer

In 2011, citizens across the Middle East took to the streets to demand more representative governments, social justice, and economic reforms. Within just a few years, however, hope had mostly given way to despair: the old order came roaring back—even more repressive than before in some places. That outcome, however, did not settle the underlying question of the future of democracy in the Middle East. Not only have authoritarians further consolidated their rule, but even more important, attitudes toward democracy and political rights have dramatically shifted.

Results from Arab Barometer help understand how views toward democracy have shifted. Most of the people who took to the streets in 2011 were motivated not just by a desire for liberty but also by intense frustration with the material conditions of their lives. The protesters were tired of political repression, but they were also deeply angry about the meager opportunities that authoritarian systems afforded. Reviewing these changes and how the outcomes of the last decade have largely disappointed, the results from Arab Barometer can help elucidate where the region is headed and the possible political changes in the post-COVID era across the Middle East and North Africa.

Amaney A. Jamal is Dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics, and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. She is the former Director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice. Jamal also directs the Workshop on Arab Political Development and the Bobst-American University of Beirut Collaborative Initiative. Jamal is the co-Principal of the Arab Barometer Project (Winner of the Best Dataset in the Field of Comparative Politics (Lijphart/ Przeworski/ Verba Dataset Award 2010). Her book, Barriers to Democracy (2007), which explores the role of civic associations in promoting democratic effects in the Arab world, won the 2008 American Political Science Best Book Award in the Comparative Democratization section. Her other books include, Of Empires and Citizens and her co-edited volume Arab Americans Before and After 9/11. Jamal’s articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Politics, Perspectives on Politics, International Migration Review, and other venues. Her article “Does Islam Play a Role in anti-Immigrant Sentiment: An Experimental Approach.”, in Social Science Research 2015 won the 2016 Louis Wirth Best Article Award: American Sociological Association, International Migration Section. Her areas of specialization are the Middle East and North Africa, mass and political behavior, political development and democratization, inequality and economic segregation, Muslim Immigration (US and Europe), gender, race, religion, and class.