Book Review: The Political Science of the Middle East: Theory and Research Since the Arab Uprisings edited by Marc Lynch, Jillian Schwedler and Sean Yom

in Middle Eastern Political Science: Theory and Research Since the Arab UprisingsOrganizers Mark Lynch, Jillian Schweller And Sean Yom Bringing together contributors to provide a broad overview of the concepts and case studies that have emerged in the literature on the Middle East and North Africa over the past decade. This rich collection will be a comprehensive resource for students, policymakers and researchers seeking a detailed understanding of the region’s politics, he writes. Betul Dogan Akas.

Middle Eastern Political Science: Theory and Research Since the Arab Uprisings. Mark Lynch, Jillian Schweller and Sean Yom (eds). Oxford University Press. 2022.

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Edited by Marc Lynch, Jillian Schwedler and Sean Yom; Political science of the Middle East It provides a broad overview of theories and case studies that have emerged in the Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) literature over the past decade. The authors emphasize that the book has three objectives: first, to analyze new trends in Middle Eastern studies after the Arab uprisings; Second, to develop the theoretical contribution of regional experts in political science; And thirdly, to include about 50 academics to give ‘testimony to the importance of intellectual collaboration’. It is important to see researchers from different countries and backgrounds working together in a global pandemic. This collaborative intellectual effort provides a good example for graduate students to bring together diverse approaches to collaboratively produce knowledge.

The collection begins with Lynch’s introductory chapter, ‘Research Agendas for the Middle East Political Science Project’, which describes the overall purpose, content, and structure of the book. Lynch explained that there is not much agreement regarding the popular uprisings in the Arab world or what is being praised or estimated: ‘There is no consensus. […] Noting when and how the Arab uprisings started and ended (if they did) or how big the Arab uprisings were’ (3).

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The impact of the Arab Spring on Middle Eastern literature and day-to-day politics has been overstated and exaggerated, but its impact is still clear. Rather than focusing solely on the effects of democratic resistance, the contributors argue that the Arab uprisings had a direct impact on local knowledge production. In May Darwich and other words ‘The MEIR [Middle East International Relations] The subfield has responded to the alarming flood with an incredible outpouring of important and new research. The Middle East has been at the forefront of a wide range of IR scholarship on issues ranging from proxy wars and identity politics to changing grand politics’ (86).

A soldier on a tank in Tahrir Square, Egypt, with protesters on a tank in the background

Image Credit: ‘Army vehicles around Tahrir Square, Cairo’ by Ramy Raoof licensed under CC BY 2.0

The concepts of ‘change’ and ‘post-Arab Spring regional politics’ are conceptually and instrumentally discussed in the chapters, which enrich knowledge production and field studies of the region. The book does not comment on the results of the protests, nor does it condemn the ‘parachute experts’ ‘shortly (or at all) writing in the field’ (5). Instead, the chapters provide conceptual and methodological reviews of the literature on the Middle East. In addition to the discussion of these research practices and agendas in MENA studies, the book provides extensive and contemporary reviews of sectarianism, political Islam, public opinion, military forces, protests, political economy and development, identity politics, migration and environmental politics.

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In chapter twelve, Lisa Anderson talks about her duty in the field and in the academy. In chapter one, she similarly summarizes the main themes of the book and comments on the practice of political science in the Middle East. Anderson explains. Political science of the Middle East as representing ‘victory over adversity’ (281). The purpose of her chapter is to provide a guide to reading and studying MENA to illustrate the changes in Middle Eastern politics and the practice of political studies in the region. According to Anderson, states are weakened, leading to the decay of institutions, the loss of ideals, and the rise of individualistic rulers who ‘give voice to the anxieties and aspirations of the collapse of the old order’ (285).

Anderson emphasized the role of community actors in Middle East research. According to her, communities have been exposed: ‘The once violent and largely apathetic Arab or Middle Eastern “street” has become complex and politically salient, as the 2011 riots have shown’ (286). Combining the unique nature of society with global trends ‘requires a better understanding of the norms and practices that people in such contexts use to define, acquire, distribute and value’ (288). Middle Eastern and North African scholarship acknowledges the diverse practices and nature of regional politics to create a new political science, better suited to an era of great change, mobility, identity, and belonging at different scales of space and time (288).

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The edited volume covers several themes that deserve attention at this point. While the book discusses alliances and conflicts, proxy wars, intra-regional conflicts, and military interventions are three major areas that do not receive a separate chapter. Considering Israel’s occupation, wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as internal conflicts in Libya and Iraq, the military tensions in the region could have given one or two more chapters.

Political science of the Middle East It not only provides guidance on regional research practices, but also provides a deep and advanced analysis of the topics covered, making a significant contribution to the field of MENA studies. The book is a comprehensive resource for anyone interested in reading an in-depth discussion of specific sub-fields of study in MENA studies. Students, policymakers, and independent researchers seeking a detailed understanding of regional politics in relation to the above concepts and themes will find a rich collection.

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