Shift in Middle East Studies?





The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may be about to change Middle Eastern studies -- and not just by adding plenty of new subject material.

The incoming director of Middle Eastern studies at George Washington University last week published a post at his Foreign Policy blog that has set off a discussion about the next generation of Middle Eastern studies students and, eventually, professors.

Marc Lynch writes (and some others agree) that master’s programs and doctoral programs are starting to see an influx -- one he expects to grow -- of veterans, many of them military officers as well as those who worked for non-governmental organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The duration of the war, he writes, has led to an unusually large cohort of future thinkers about the Middle East shaped by their experiences there.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may be about to change Middle Eastern studies -- and not just by adding plenty of new subject material.

The incoming director of Middle Eastern studies at George Washington University last week published a post at his Foreign Policy blog that has set off a discussion about the next generation of Middle Eastern studies students and, eventually, professors.

Marc Lynch writes (and some others agree) that master’s programs and doctoral programs are starting to see an influx -- one he expects to grow -- of veterans, many of them military officers as well as those who worked for non-governmental organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The duration of the war, he writes, has led to an unusually large cohort of future thinkers about the Middle East shaped by their experiences there.

And while Lynch notes that some scholars fear these students will “push the field to the ‘right,’ ” he anticipates a less ideological shift. “The officers I've met are all over the map politically and in terms of their intellectual aspirations. Indeed, I'd guess that the bias would be towards pragmatism and empiricism, and against any kind of ideological doctrines,” he writes, adding that “at any rate, the allegations of the politicization of Middle East studies -- particularly political science -- have always been wildly exaggerated.”


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