My independent seminar actually evolved over the summer, as the situation in Syria became more and more intense and the possibility (or even likelihood) of Western interventions grew. As it stands, the situation in Syria is ever-developing and could change at a moment’s notice, a fact that has given me some difficulty in focus recently. I am planning for my final paper to be an all-encompassing research paper, but the fluidity of the situation has made it difficult to choose areas of specific focus. I am planning on three parts in my final paper; a third on history of the conflict, examining the roots in Syria itself, a third on the present situation, which will probably have to be written in a large part as close to the due date as possible, and a third on some basic scenarios.
Each third brings with it its own specific challenges. For the first, the history and roots of this conflict could more accurately be done in the form of a book than in a short paper. The “current” situation is difficult merely because of the fluidity, and keeping the scenarios as precise and succinct as possible will be difficult.
Over the summer, I spent a good deal of time staying on top of the situation, but I also read a lot for background research. Juan Cole and Tariq Ramadan made for excellent background pieces. Cole focused on attempting to, in a way, explain Afro Asiatic views of the West to Westerners, a complex task that he achieved in quite a smooth manner. Ramadan focused on the role Islam played in the Arab Awakening, and was an especially interesting read.
Now that I am back in West Chester, I am working on setting up regular meeting times with my on-campus mentor and a longer, in person meeting with my off-campus mentor. I have certainly made good progress on the research/background knowledge section, but I want to nail down a thesis path before I get any further. Recently, I’ve also been trying to establish a working knowledge of different “rebel” groups in Syria before delving more specifically into the topic later.