MENA Academy Weekly Roundup #5 (9.05.23)
Your weekly guide to new academic publications on the Middle East!
Source: The Authority, Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch
I’m just back from this year’s bizarre, strike-disrupted APSA meeting in Los Angeles; for better or for worse I spent most of it in Santa Barbara, far away from the conference (I mean, for better, obviously). During my one day at the conference, though, it was great to see friends, talk to editors about my works in progress, talk with potential authors for my Columbia University Press book series, and join the business meeting of the MENA Politics Section (I’m glad to see it’s going strong, as Stacey Philbrick Yadav ends her two year term as Chair and Curtis Ryan steps up to lead the section for the next two years).
The biggest news and most buzz in political science, in my humble opinion, is the relaunch of The Monkey Cage in a few weeks under the new name Good Authority: sign up for its posts and announcements here. The long TMC run at the Washington Post constituted a core part of the political science public sphere, and by all accounts did as much as anything else to bring good political science to a broader public. Good Authority is going back to our independent blog roots, with a core set of contributors rather than a constant stream of solicited content and a wider variety of formats and content than we were able to feature in recent years. I’ll once again be handling a lot of the Middle East content, and there’s a great team of TMC veterans and newcomers rounding out the editorial team. I’m excited for the launch, and hope that you will all subscribe. I’m also excited to draw on my collection of The Authority comic books to illustrate social media posts about our stuff!
And now to this week’s MENA Academy drawn from around the academic journals!
Carolyn Barnett, “Women’s Rights and Misperceived Gender Norms Under Authoritarianism,” Comparative Political Studies (September 2023). Abstract: Evidence from democracies shows that making laws more egalitarian can increase individuals’ perceptions that others hold egalitarian views. How do citizens in authoritarian regimes that promote women’s rights perceive public opinion on gender issues? While regime actions and narratives could increase perceptions that egalitarian attitudes are widespread, the disconnect between policy and public preferences could inhibit the expressive power of law to alter perceived norms. Drawing on original surveys and qualitative evidence from Morocco, an important case of de jure advances in women’s rights, I find that Moroccans tend to overestimate others’ embrace of patriarchal attitudes on gender issues. The tendency to misperceive conservatism spans demographic categories and is especially pronounced among men. I argue that citizens’ awareness that policy processes are divorced from electoral accountability and the raised salience of conservative opposition during reform processes can reinforce perceived conservatism, even as women’s rights advance.
Ameni Mehrez, Levente Littvay, Youssef Meddeb, Bojan Todosijevic, and Carsten Schneider, “Introducing the comparative study of electoral systems in Tunisia: populist attitudes, political preferences, and voting behavior,” Mediterranian Politics (September 2023). Abstract: Although public opinion research has gained prominence in the Middle East and North Africa region since 2011, data on electoral behaviour and political attitudes are scarce and rarely have a comparative focus. This research note introduces a new post-election survey conducted after the 2019 Tunisian elections. The project contributes to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) database. In its 26-year history no country other than Israel was ever part of the CSES from the Middle East and North Africa region. Tunisia is the first Arab country to be covered in the CSES. We introduce this new research resource, its methodology, and its themes. We also provide some preliminary results from the main topic of the CSES between 2016 and 2021: populist attitudes. Using a three-dimensional model, we find that people who score high on the populist attitudes measures do not necessarily have a higher preference for populist parties or candidates. Contrary to consistent results from advanced industrial democracies, we also find that people who endorse nativism are more likely to support left-wing parties. This research note illustrates the importance of such datasets and how they contribute to a specific topic: understanding populism across multiple contexts.
Mona El-Ghobashy, “The Dynamics of Egyptian Politics,” American Behavioral Scientist (2023). Part of Comparative Sociology, Global History and Contentious Politics: A Special Issue Celebrating the Work of Charles Tilly. Mirjam Künkler and Ernesto Castañeda launch this special issue of articles exploring the legacies and applications of the life’s work of the great Charles Tilly by the last generation of his graduate students at Columbia University. Ghobashy builds on her fantastic recent book to offer a concise discussion of how Tilly’s theoretical perspective allows us to reframe our understanding of authoritarianism and dynamics in Egypt. Here’s the abstract: The political science scholarly consensus has long held up Egypt as a paradigm case of “authoritarian resilience.” Analysts emphasized the Mubarak regime’s shrewd manipulation of elections, strangling of NGOs, and instrumentalization of protest to shore up its power. This narrative was momentarily disrupted during Egypt’s 2011 to 2013 revolutionary situation, but reappeared unchanged after the July 2013 military coup. A Dynamics of Contention (DoC) perspective sees the political world through different lenses. Where “authoritarian resilience” sees stability, DoC sees dynamism. “Authoritarian resilience” and similar social science models start with pre-constituted political actors, whereas DoC investigates how new political actors emerge and interact during episodes of contention. This article identifies three sites of contention that developed over the 30-year span of the Mubarak regime— elections; street protests, and legal mobilization—sketching how changing dynamics within these sites help us make sense of Egyptian politics before and after 2011.
And finally, I was delighted to see a very positive review in Perspectives on Politics by Hesham Sallam of The Political Science of the Middle East: Theory and Research After the Arab Uprisings, edited by me, Jillian Schwedler and Sean Yom. I liked his punchline: “the key argument in PSME’s is delivered very persuasively: Regional expertise was evidently a decisive factor in realizing MENA political science’s theoretical gains during the last several decades. It is in that sense that PSME is more than just a chronology of the field’s scholarship; PSME is an argument about how knowledge production and theoretical innovations occur. Specifically, connecting these diverse chapters is a broader narrative about how regional studies—once dismissed by some as an ineffective approach to studying politics—not only contributed to what we know today about the workings of important political phenomena; it led the way in many respects. For example, Lynch reminds us, rather diplomatically, that attempts by non-regional specialists to theorize the Arab Uprisings and politics surrounding them have largely faltered and that “the more enduring contributions mostly came from those with real area studies expertise” (p. 28)…. PSME itself embodies that inter-disciplinary spirit to the extent that a few of its chapters are coauthored by scholars affiliated with disciplines outside of political science. This is all to say that PSME not only refutes the once prevalent view that area expertise and regional studies are dying currencies in political science; it shatters it into pieces.” Amen.
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