In recent years there have been dramatic changes in the Islamist landscape as Islamist political parties have drastically transformed, violent new groups have burst on the scene, and the proliferation of new media has changed access to information. But have political scientists and other scholars taken the time to step back and examine how these seismic shifts have affected our research methods, priorities, and arguments?
On January 29, 2016, scholars gathered for the Project on Middle East Political Science’s 3rd Annual workshop on Islamist politics as part of our Islam in a Changing Middle East initiative. This year’s workshop focused on the methodological and conceptual issues in the study of Islamism. What assumptions underlying our research need to be problematized? How should we deal with the vast outpouring of information and evidence about these movements now available on social media? What do we mean by the term “Islamist?”
Offering an incredibly rich set of reflections, the papers in this series challenge the utility of core concepts such as “moderation” and “radical Islam.” They investigate the operation of specific causal mechanisms such as repression, identity, and organizational structure. They consider how newly available sources of survey and social media data can change our research approaches and remind us of all we have learned.
The excellent essays in POMEPS Studies 17 Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism take up these questions. While no one claims to have come up with a single answer, this collection is an important first step in grappling with the complex puzzle of “Islamism” today. This critical and reflective scholarship will be useful for the novice student and experienced analyst alike. Read all the essays for free here.