Competition: US & Canada
George Washington University
Nathan J. Brown is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has worked on issues of regime change, constitutionalism, and the rule of law in the Arab world, as well as on Islamist movements. His most recent book is When Victory is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics (Cornell UP, 2012).
Brown’s current project, tentatively entitled "Arguing the Islamic Shari‘a after the Rebirth of Arab Politics," is aimed at probing how arguments are made, authority is achieved, and outcomes are shaped in an environment where there is increasingly cacophonous public contestatation over religious issues. It builds on his past interest in religion, law, and the state in the Arab world. The purpose is not simply to celebrate the current flourishing of public debates. More participatory and pluralistic discussions are taking place to be sure, but real ones in the Arab world—as in political debates elsewhere—are emotional, argumentative, manipulative, passionate, and edge into disrespect, prejudice, and even threats. And not only are certain forms of argumentation privileged in the actually existing public spheres, but some participants have privileged entry as well. The project is thus aimed at understanding reborn forms of Arab politics as they really are. In particular it is designed to understand the various political and religious fora in the Arab world; who participates in each forum; how the nature of the fora shapes the arguments that are made and heard; how the various fora interact with each other; and how political outcomes are affected.