The Enduring Impact of Prof. Augustus Richard Norton

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The Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies held an October 10, 2019 event honoring the enduring impact of our late colleague Professor Emeritus Augustus Richard Norton’s work and contributions to the fields of International Relations and Anthropology. The event was co-hosted with the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) and the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies (BCARS).

The event provided the opportunity for Norton’s colleagues, advisees, and friends to speak about his legacy and the ways in which his research continues to influence and shape their ongoing work. Noora Lori, Pardee School Assistant Professor of International Relations, moderated the event.

Speakers included Pardee School Dean Adil NajamRobert Hefner, Pardee School Professor of Anthropology and International Relations; Denis Sullivan, BCARS Director; Sara Roy, Associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University; Eva Bellin, Myra and Robert Kraft Professor of Arab Politics in the Department of Politics and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University; Lenore Martin, Associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and Professor of Political Science at Emmanuel College; and Susan Akram, Boston University Clinical Professor of Law and Director of BU Law’s International Human Rights Clinic. 

“He was a highly influential scholar of the Middle East and of civil society in particular, a frequent participant in policy debates, and an outstanding teacher, colleague and mentor,” Lori said.

“I’m amongst the many who had the great pride to serve with Richard Norton, and the great distinction of having learned from him,” Najam said. “My area of work is not exactly what his was, but I cannot count the amount of hours we spent talking about both what he did and what I did, and I think that’s a testament to who he was. You always knew that what he was saying was central to the enterprise of education.”

“Here is a man who was a scholar, a practitioner in many ways, who had gone through the trenches in military engagements, who found a way to bring it all together and be true to himself but still fight the fight and improve policies and relationships between people,” Sullivan said. “Like Richard, I would like to believe what BCARS is about is kindness, the way we treat each other, gentleness in our collaborations, and supporting and lifting one another up rather than tearing each other apart while debating important ideas.”

“He had the kind of character that was apparent not only in mentoring his students, but in his ability to speak to people from diverse backgrounds and in Washington D.C. across party lines and bring people together — as he did repeatedly,” Hefner said.

Norton (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1984) joined the faculty of the then Department of International Relations at Boston University, where his research interests focused on strategies of reform in authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and renewal in reformist Muslim thought. In 1996, he was also appointed to the faculty of the department of anthropology. He is survived by his wife, Deanna, and son, Timothy. Read the Pardee School remembrance of Norton here

His experience in the Middle East included residences in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon. Prolific as a policy commentator, his writings focused on inter-sectarian relations in the Middle East, reformist Muslim thought, and strategies of political reform and opposition in authoritarian states. In 2006 he was an advisor the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission. He was also a member of the Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace.

Norton’s books include Hezbollah: A Short History, the two-volume collection Civil Society in the Middle East, Amal and the Shi’a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon , The International Relations of the PLO (senior editor), Political Tides in the Arab World (co-author), UN Peacekeepers (co-author), and Security in the Middle East: New Perspectives (in Arabic). His articles have appeared in Current HistoryForeign PolicyInternational SpectatorJournal of Palestine StudiesMiddle East JournalThe Nation, and in leading newspapers.