POMEPS Studies 24: New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement

Engaging and influencing public policy debates on areas of their expertise is a core part of the mission of academics. The last decade has in many ways been the golden age of academic policy engagement. Social media, the proliferation of online publishing platforms, and a generational change in disciplinary norms and practices has unleashed an impressive wave of writing by academics aimed at an informed public sphere.

President Donald Trump’s administration poses a sharp challenge to this model of policy engagement on the Middle East. Trump himself has shown little interest in policy issues, and his White House is stocked with individuals whose careers and rhetoric speak to a fundamental disrespect for academic expertise. Cornerstone policies such as the executive orders restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries demonstrate a profound disregard for academic arguments or data-driven analysis. The White House seems to prefer right wing media outlets as a source of information to America’s own professional intelligence agencies, to say nothing of outside academics.

Is it still possible to effectively engage with public policy debates in such an environment? The answer largely depends on the conception of the purpose and process of policy engagement. There continue to be ample opportunities to support and engage with the residual bastions of professional policymakers within the federal bureaucracy. The need to provide rational, reasoned, fact-based analysis to the broader public sphere has taken on profound urgency. And rapidly evolving social movements and civil society initiatives offer ways for academics to engage well beyond traditional policy environments.

This public engagement includes working across diverse communities and engaging with the many new social movements and civil society initiatives working on issues relevant to Middle East Studies. The response to Trump’s January 27 executive order on immigration offers a powerful model for such effective action. Academic analysis played a critical role in supporting the social movements and judicial action that forced Trump to back away from the initial order. They worked within their universities to help administrations craft responses, within professional associations such as the Middle East Studies Association, and with civil society organizations coordinating the response. Academic public engagement at this social level should be sustained and expanded.

This POMEPS Studies collection brings together analysis of these new challenges facing Middle East political science as an open access PDF.  We hope that this special edition  helps to inform a new era of academic engagement in the public realm.

Download POMEPS Studies 24: New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement

—Marc Lynch
POMEPS Director

Introduction: New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement

Marc Lynch, George Washington University and POMEPS

Academic Middle Eastern Studies in the Trump Administration

Lisa Anderson, Columbia University

Emerging challenges facing academic advocacy

Laurie Brand, University of Southern California

Universities Overwhelmingly Objected to the Trump Travel Ban. Here are the Values they Emphasized.

Marc Lynch, George Washington University and POMEPS

Through the Looking Glass: Information Security and Middle East Research

Sarah E. Parkinson, Johns Hopkins University

Understanding what a “Muslim Registry” might mean

Aslı Ü. Bâli, University of California, Los Angeles

Vetting Trump’s Vetting of Refugees

Wendy Pearlman, Northwestern University

Will Trump-Era Narrative Assaults Shift American Public Attitudes?

Shibley Telhami, University of Maryland

Studying Islamic Movements in the Age of Trump

Abdullah Al-Arian, Georgetown University

Designating the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization may actually backfire

Nathan Brown, George Washington University

Michelle Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

‘Material Support for Terrorism’ Laws and Threats to Middle East Studies

Andrew F. March, Yale University

Research in Iran in the Time of Trump

Shervin Malekzadeh, University of Pennsylvania

This is What we Learned by Counting the Women’s Marches

Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver, and Jeremy Pressman, University of Connecticut

A Dozen Questions about the Islamic Sharia: Some Things You Wanted to Know about Islamic Law but Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

Nathan J. Brown, George Washington University