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Political Science Lens: The Middle East… Redefining or Reading an Emerging Phenomenon

 The Middle East has attracted the interest of many scholars. This fact can be explained due to the internal and external conflicts that have affected the region over the past few years. This research on politics and societies developed new ways of defining the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to the social developments in the region. Interdisciplinary approaches of democracy, contentious politics, conflict and violence, identity and nationalism, refugee studies, and local politics are key entries to provide explanations to a broader audience on -redefining the Middle East. In addition to the impact of international powers conflict and their controversy internists in the region led to the need of redefine this concept among political and social scientists.

Politics and society institute hosted a lecture by both Professor Marc Lynch and Professor Sean Yom who both spoke about the importance of political science knowledge upon Middle East affairs.  They observed that theoretical knowledge can critically shape how domestic and foreign policies are understood, particularly for issues such as refugees and migration, economic development, regional conflict, and effective governance.  The most vital contribution was that political problems have no simple answers because every crisis is driven by multiple, overlapping causes.  This is the contribution of scholarship: it is not to give us easy answers, but to remind us that the questions themselves are complicated.  

The authors the new book the “political science of the middle east: Theory and research since the Arab Uprising” which isa definitive overview of what political scientists are working on within the Middle East and North Africa. This book describes a new wave of rigorous, deeply informed research on the politics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In The Political Science of the Middle East, the authors present the definitive overview of this pathbreaking turn.

The book chapters cover an exhaustive array of topics, including democracy, contentious politics, regional security, military institutions, conflict and violence, the political economy of development, Islamist movements, identity and sectarianism, public opinion, migration, and local politics. For each of these topics, leading MENA experts and specialists highlight innovative concepts, vibrant debates, diverse methodologies, and unexpected findings. The result is an indispensable research primer, one that stands as a generational statement from a regional subfield.

This interactive session opened the door to senior and early career scholars who attended the session to discuss with the professors the Political science priorities in the Arab region and how to look into social phenomenon in a way that matches with new academic generations languages and areas of interests. They discussed the idea of identifying Middle East in political science especially after the so-called Arab Uprising.

Politics and Society institute held a discussion session to review their new book, “Political Science in the Middle East: Theory and Research Since the Arab Spring,” (in English, and its translation into Arabic will be published by the Arab Center for Research and Study). Politics), the book includes 12 chapters by many researchers and specialists in political science, dealing with many topics, such as authoritarianism and democracy, the political economy of development, military institutions, sectarianism and identity, regional order, conflict, and violence, and Islamic movements … etc.

Essentially, the book represents an important model presented by researchers and experts in understanding the transformations of the Middle East region, after the Arab Spring, but it is really sad to find a real and significant shortcoming in the role of universities, academic institutes, studies and research centers and thinking about making real and in-depth contributions in this field, despite the efforts of Some research institutions (it can be said in particular that the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and the Center for Arab Unity Studies represent advanced models in this field, but they are limited); There is a great shortcoming in the Arab world (in the field of social sciences in general) in the field of scientific research to understand problems, phenomena, challenges, transformations and future directions.

Sean Yum said that there is a real crisis in building coherent theories to understand the ongoing transformations in the Arab world, and he gave an example of this in the Tunisian case, as most theories and explanations for the success of the Tunisian model focused on many factors, including the factor Cultural, as it has been linked to the differentiation of Tunisian culture from other Arab countries, especially in the field of religious culture and civic tendency historically, but most of these theories have been undermined with what is currently happening there.

As for Mark Lynch, he focused on the dynamics of external and internal variables in the Arab world, as he indicated that the line separating what is happening in the world, the region and within the countries, themselves is very thin, which leads to the overlapping of factors and variables together, which is a note of a degree of importance because it calls for Looking at international and regional politics and their repercussions on the internal political situation in the Arab countries, which is more important if we take the “Israeli factor” mainly as one of the important variables in understanding Middle Eastern politics, which makes the geopolitics of a higher degree of importance in understanding the region and its policies.

Speakers’ bios:

Professor Marc Lynch received his B.A. in Political Science from Duke University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. He teaches courses on Middle Eastern politics and international relations. He is the director of the Project on Middle East Political Science, a contributing editor for The Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage political science page, editor of the Columbia University Press series Columbia Studies on Middle East Politics, and a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Professor Sean Yom: is an associate professor of Political Science at Temple University., specialized in the comparative politics and international relations of the Middle East and North Africa, where his research democracy, government, and US foreign policy. As of April 2022, he is also Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy, his main focuses on the politics of Jordan, but also work on Kuwait and the Gulf. Another strand covers the limits of American hegemony. Ongoing work extends beyond the MENA to explore the nature of transnational repression and the dynamics of patron-client relationships in the international system.

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