Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

As what was once called the "Arab Spring" moves through its second summer, democratization advances by fits and starts, sometimes with retrograde motion. Egypt has an elected president, but its elected parliament has been dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Syria is mired in war, and the future of Libya is as uncertain as ever. Tunisia is perhaps the greatest success to date, but not without violence between secular and religious forces.

This issue includes studies of some relevance to the issue of democratization. Our lead article, by Steve L. Monroe, deals with the role of Salafiparliamentary blocs in two Gulf parliaments, Kuwait and Bahrain. It is a useful study of the oldest Gulf parliament (Kuwait's, also just dissolved) and the younger one in a troubled country, Bahrain; it is also a reminder that serious contributions are being made by graduate students: Monroe's paper grew out of an undergraduate thesis at Stanford and has been expanded in his present capacity as a Master's candidate at the Fletcher School at Tufts.

Andrew Barwig addresses parliamentary and party life in two monarchies, Jordan and Morocco, discussing the emergence in the 2007 elections of "New Palace Guards," elites balancing loyalty to the Crown with efforts at reform. Specifically, he looks to electoral systems to explain these candidates' political behavior. An outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation, it is another of several articles in this issue by recent Ph.D.s or promising Ph.D. candidates, producing innovative contributions at the start of their careers.

We don't often get articles on methodology or dealing with the problems facing researchers trying to gain access to information in the all-too-real world, but most researchers dealing with recent periods of Middle Eastern history, not to mention those dealing with contemporary politics, have learned from experience that questions of access to information in the contentious world that is the Middle East is not usually a model of the research approaches envisioned in some Ivory Tower. Lauren Banko's "Occupational Hazards, Revisited" borrows the title of an article by Ted Swedenburg in Cultural Anthropology back in 1989 on ethnographic research in Palestine. Banko, a doctoral candidate at SOAS, is a historian working on Palestinian issues during the Mandate period. The article examines the difficulties of access confronting outside historians seeking to work on the period in records in Palestinian and Israeli holdings in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the even greater obstacles confronting local Palestinian scholars. …

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