It is an honor and a pleasure to be here in Singapore. In the summer of 2010 I accepted an invitation from the National University of Singapore to help develop its new Middle East Institute, and I have taken a leave of absence from Georgetown University in Washington, DC to assume the directorship of MEI. At Georgetown I have been a professor of Middle East politics and the director of its Center for Contemporary Arab Studies for many years, and I am hoping that my experience there will be useful as we try to make Singapore a research and academic hub of Middle East studies in Southeast Asia.
MEI was established in 2007 as an autonomous research organization within the National University of Singapore. Its mission is to generate scholarly and policy research on the broader Middle East with a particular emphasis on the growing interactions between the region and Singapore/Southeast Asia. NUS boasts 22 research institutes and maintains ties with international institutions such as Duke University, Technische Universitat Munchen, Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, and John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. NUS is the quintessence of the global university.
Itself a remarkable global city-state, Singapore is bustling with diversity. As early as the 15th century, families of Arab traders began to settle in Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The familial ties between relatives in Hadhramaut, for example, and Singapore have engendered close cultural and economic ties between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Increasing numbers of Singapore companies in the fields of oil and gas, finance, investment and infrastructure are active in Middle Eastern markets. These developments will undoubtedly be deepened and diversified.
Our strategic plan for MEI involves developing research and debate in three broad areas: politics and regional security, economics and business, and society and culture. We hope to attract researchers across the major disciplines of the social sciences and humanities to help set our agenda, contributing both scholarly and policy research. I invite you to join me and the rest of the MEI team as we go forth to develop the Middle East Institute as an authoritative source of information and analysis on this complex region.
Dr. Michael C. Hudson