NEWSLETTER: Volume 2, Issue 2

MESSAGE FROM THE EDITORS

This is part of the MENA Politics Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 2, Fall 2019. Download the PDF of the full issue here.

A Note from the Section Chair

Welcome to the second issue of the APSA MENA POLITICS NEWSLETTER. The Section’s first year has been an exciting and productive one, marked by rapid growth and a number of key milestones. Since being formally established at the 2018 Annual Conference, the Section published the first volume of this Newsletter, created a website, selected three well-attended panels for the annual conference, ran a Research Development Group short course for junior scholars from the MENA region and sponsored a Teaching MENA Politics short course ahead of the Annual Conference, and held a reception for the Annual Meeting. In mid-September 2019, Section membership passed the 400 mark, while the @APSAMENA Twitter feed has acquired more than 1100 followers. At the Section Reception (held in conjunction with the Project on Middle East Political Science), awards were announced for Best Dissertation (José Ciro Martínez, “The Politics of Bread: State Power, Food Subsidies and Neoliberalization in Hashemite Jordan”) and Best APSA Paper (Diana Greenwald, “Coercive and Fiscal Capacity Development in Palestine”).

There will be many more exciting opportunities in the coming year. Elections will be held to replace Vice-Chair Lindsay Benstead and At-Large Member Bassel Salloukh. A third annual Research Development Group workshop for junior scholars from the MENA region will be held at the 2020 Annual Conference. A third Section Award has been added to the existing awards for Best Dissertation and Best APSA Paper: “Best Book in MENA Politics,” for books published in 2018 or 2019. We are especially excited that we will be selecting an inaugural POMEPS-APSAMENA Fellow, an early career scholar from the MENA region who will participate in Section activities, spearhead engagement with scholars from the region, and work on translations of political science research to and from regional languages.

What about the Newsletter? I will continue to serve as the editor of the MENA POLITICS NEWSLETTER for the next two years, and Lauren Baker will continue to be the assistant editor. We will be inviting special sections and guest editors for each issue, so please contact me with your ideas—workshop symposia are especially encouraged. The second issue of the MENA POLITICS NEWSLETTER features two special sections on methodological issues relevant to scholars in our network, each organized by one of our editorial board members.

The first section, “New Approaches to Survey Research in MENA,” is based on a workshop organized by Newsletter Editorial Board member Holger Albrecht and hosted by the University of Alabama. It brings together a diverse group of scholars who have developed and employed novel forms of survey data collection or analysis. Justin Gengler explores how Qataris understand and relate to surveys to unpack the meaning of the explosion of such research in the region. Nadine Sika uses surveys to explore the drivers of political trust among Arab youth. Yael Zeira explains how a self-administered life history calendar survey allowed her to get around issues of social desirability bias and recall bias in her study of Palestinian participation in contentious politics. Lindsay Benstead examined theories of clientelism and constituent service through surveys designed to test the effects of contact between Tunisian politicians and their constituents, using this to provide alternative explanations for the relative success of the Islamist Ennahda Party. And Sharan Grewal uses an innovative Facebook survey to explore the resilience of the Algerian protest movement. Matt Buehler employed a unique survey to examine how Moroccans think about nuclear energy, turning up surprising findings which challenge us to rethink assumptions about public attitudes towards foreign policy issues.

 “Text as Data,” the second special section organized by Newsletter Editorial Board member Alexandra Domike Blackman, features cutting-edge research from scholars working with large textual data sets across diverse realms. Blackman introduces the section with a sharply drawn overview of the opportunities for political science research offered by the computational analysis of Arabic texts, as well as critical challenges. Alexandra Siegel focuses on the analysis of social media data to explain Arab politics, highlighting a range of new methodologies and data collection tools. Ala’a Alrababa’h describes new trends in the quantitative text analysis, showing how new tools can reshape the study of Arab media sources. Nate Grubman uses textual analysis of party platforms to develop measures for ideological scaling. Finally, Richard Nielsen shows how statistical text analysis allowed for the rigorous study of a vast body of online Islamic religious production.

The engaging, thoughtful essays in this Newsletter offer both important individual contributions and a collective mapping of two exciting new areas for political science research on the Middle East. We hope that you find them useful, and we look forward to hearing your ideas for future symposia or standalone essays.

Marc Lynch, Section Chair and Newsletter Editor

Lauren Baker, Newsletter Assistant Editor

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