POMEPS 2017: Year in Review

For all the daunting challenges facing political scientists in the Middle East and the United States in 2017, the Project on Middle East Political Science had another exceptionally busy and productive year. All told, 265 individual scholars participated in POMEPS programs and publications in 2017 – not counting everyone who just showed up for our rocking conference receptions!

POMEPS continued to publish a regular stream of informed, rigorous analysis on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, released seven collections of original research, and recorded 29 episodes of its podcast. POMEPS convened ten conferences and workshops, held three conference receptions, and launched a new partnership with the American Political Science Association’s Middle East and North Africa workshops program. We welcomed three new members to our steering committee, and received renewed support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

As director of POMEPS, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Middle East Political Science community who contributed to these activities – and especially those who donated their time to supporting junior scholars.

The Monkey Cage continued to develop its role as the premiere platform for the communication of political science research to the general political public sphere. The polarization of political discourse, assault on expertise, and proliferation of fake news in the United States, the Middle East, and globally has only increased the importance of The Monkey Cage. Publishing nonpartisan, empirically grounded, methodologically rigorous analysis by academics has never been more critical. Over the past year, POMEPS edited and published 116 articles by 106 different authors on The Monkey Cage.

POMEPS published seven collections of original research in 2017, five based on thematic workshops (with another on the war in Yemen forthcoming just after the New Year). We began the 2017 volume of POMEPS Studies with a collection of reflections on challenges to academic freedom in the United States and the Middle East following the election of Donald Trump as President. We then published collections based on thematic workshops on the adaptation strategies of Islamist movements in the Middle East, Islamic media, the Syrian refugee crisis, Islamist politics at the local level, and Shia politics. This fall, we released a collection of previously published articles on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf Cooperation Council crisis. We awarded nine TRE small research grants. Finally, we recorded 29 episodes of the POMEPS Middle East Political Science Podcast in 2017.

Two of the thematic workshops resulted in the publication of symposia in leading academic journals. In July, PS: Political Science and Politics published a symposium on “The Arab Uprisings and International Relations Theory” based on a workshop held at Aarhus University. In addition to the introduction by Curtis Ryan and me, the symposium included articles by Pinar Bilgin, Sarah Bush, Waleed Hazbun, Gregory Gause, Bassel Salloukh, Erin Snider, Ewan Stein, and Morten Valbjorn. In November, Middle East Law and Governance published a special issue on “The Political and Institutional Effects of Syria’s Displacement Crisis,” based on a workshop held at the University of Southern California. In addition to my introduction, the symposium featured articles by Rawan Arar, Fillipo Dionigi, Rana Khoury, Lama Mourad, Wendy Pearlman and Basileus Zeno.

In May, POMEPS brought together more than 40 scholars for its annual conference, with workshop sessions on a dozen journal article length papers and plenary sessions discussing areas of broad concern to the field. In November, Princeton University’s Bobst Center co-hosted our annual Junior Scholar Book Development Workshop, with four pre-tenure scholars receiving feedback on full manuscripts. We were delighted that this year, at least five books discussed at earlier workshops were published by leading presses, including Calvert Jones, Bedouins into Bourgeouis (Cambridge); Nadya Hajj, Protection Amid Chaos (Columbia); Peter Krause, Rebel Power (Cornell); and Ann-Marie Wainscott, Bureaucratizing Islam (Cambridge).

Perhaps our most exciting new initiative this year has been a new partnership with the APSA-MENA workshops network. In July, POMEPS and APSA-MENA jointly hosted a conference in Tunisia with nearly 50 scholars. The participants included a wide range of scholars from the Middle East, Europe and the United States, with a particular focus on the research and professional development of young Arab scholars. Expanding the POMEPS network into the Middle East itself and supporting rising Arab scholars has been a particular point of emphasis this year, with multiple junior scholars from the region invited to participate in all of our events, publications and programming. All told, the POMEPS network worked with more than 100 scholars from the Middle East in 2017.

This enormous volume and range of production would not be possible without the sustained effort of the POMEPS Steering Committee and of our small POMEPS team. Steering Committee members sit on every selection committee, dedicating many hours to careful reading of hundreds of applications. Laurie Brand, Ellen Lust and Stacey Philbrick Yadav co-organized thematic workshops, while Amaney Jamal hosted the annual book development workshop. Finally, the greatest thanks go to Lauren Baker and Stephanie Dahle Adams, the small POMEPS team which does all of this while managing an endless flow of editing, paperwork, email traffic, and organizational activity.  Thanks to all – and here’s looking forward to a better 2018.

Marc Lynch, POMEPS Director