PROFILE: MIRIAM F. ELMAN


Miriam F. Elman joins The Maxwell School this Fall as an Associate Professor of Political Science. With expertise in international relations in general, and security studies in particular, Elman’s re- search and teaching interests cover four broad areas in Middle East Studies: the relationship be- tween democracy and war, violence, and terrorism; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; political reform and democratization in the Middle East; and the intersection between religion and politics in the region. She recently published a series of essays which examine the role of democracy in moderat- ing the strategies and platforms of religious political parties, and she is currently at work on two book-length projects. One investigates the impact of war and peace on state-building and democ- ratization, comparing cases from the Middle East with those of other regions. Another will offer an assessment of the way in which various disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities approach the study of Jerusalem and all its complexities—cultural, legal, social, political, religious, textual, and physical.

Next year, Elman also looks forward to launching a cross-disciplinary faculty-student Project on Democracy in the Middle East which will be sponsored by the Moynihan Institute for Global Affairs in affiliation with the MES Program. Elman hopes this project will cross disciplinary lines to explore such questions as:

• how is the meaning and practice of democracy in the Middle East linked to local and global struggles over the place of religion in society—what is, or ideally should be, the relationship be- tween the secular, religion, and democracy?


• what role does gender play in political reform and attempts to forge legitimate government in the region—why do tensions continue to emerge between what is referred to as women’s status and gender equality and democratization movements, religious as well as secular, in the Middle East? • how do war, militarization, and changing local, regional, and global opportunities and constraints affect democratic state-building in the Middle East—how do these changes transform the relation- ship between the state and reformers, as well as the everyday lives of peoples in the region?


“Studying the prospects for legitimate, transparent, and just governing institutions in the Middle East region requires new ways of thinking that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries,” says Elman. “Staying stuck in disciplinary bunkers can result in poor theorizing and even worse—flawed policies.” Elman believes that the MES Program will provide the perfect home for the Project on Democracy in the Middle East. “In most places, the study of democracy in the Middle East is heav- ily dominated by political scientists who have quite narrow understandings of democracy,” she says. “But if new and better approaches to democratization in the region are to develop, a broader range of perspectives must be included. Because its already an interdisciplinary program embedded within a School that encourages and fosters cross-disciplinary engagement, the MES Program is an ideal setting for this research and educational initiative.”