Political Science in the Middle East and North Africa
Venue: Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington DC
Date: August 31, 2019
Time: 12 to 1:30 PM
The Arab Political Science Network (APSN) organized a round-table at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) to discuss the interests, challenges and priorities of MENA-based scholars of political science. In a political climate fraught with uncertainty, repression, dwindling freedoms and access to public spaces, the panelists tackled questions like how do scholars in the Arab World use Political Science, and what are the main research agendas or topics that interest them? How do they carry out their research and position it in public discussions? How does their research interact with the political science research outside the region – in Europe, North America and elsewhere?
The round-table was moderated by Lisa Anderson of Columbia University and the panelists included: Rabab el Mahdi from the American University in Cairo, Hamad Albloshi from Kuwait University, Saloua Zerhouni from Mohammed V University and Nathan Brown from George Washington University. This was the first event APSN organizes at APSA’s Annual Meeting, commencing an annual inter-regional disciplinary discussion on Political Science research and teaching.
The main themes of the discussion were centered around the differential experiences, infrastructural realities, and research outlooks faced by scholars from and in the region, and those who study the region from within Western academic institutions. In particular, both Saloua Zerhouni and Hamed Albloshi provided insights on how specific constraints, either in terms of administration or politics, shape how political science is taught in the region, and what topics are covered. Rabab el Mahdi challenged the often-presumed dichotomy between what is considered “political science” in contrast to “regional approaches,” as if these are necessarily separate, or that theory generation and development could not come from within the region. She warned more broadly of the dangers of methodological and epistemological choices guiding what is, and is not, considered political science. Nathan Brown discussed his experiences in collaboration with scholars in the region, and urged for greater attention to the increased possibilities for meaningful engagement and collaboration due to the growing strength of academic institutions and centers in the region. Lisa Anderson concluded the discussion with a call to reflect on the false dichotomy between political and institutional challenges to research in the region, and ultimately–as much in Morocco, Egypt, or in Wisconsin–the starving of institutions is itself a political issue of critical concern, and one that merits greater attention.
For more information about the event, check the featured article by Al- Fanar Media.