- Editor’s Note
This issue marks the 70th anniversary of The Middle East Journal. The first issue appeared in January 1947, at a time when the recent Second World War had introduced American soldiers and diplomats to a region where the United States had previously had little direct experience. Scholarly publications on the region concentrated on Orientalist studies of the ancient or medieval periods, not the contemporary region. Indeed, as its first Editor noted in this note from the inaugural issue, the Journal was published amid a shift in the region was referred to: from the “Near East” to the now standard “Middle East.”
The Journal was the first project undertaken by the Middle East Institute, which had been founded by a group of diplomats and academics in 1946. It was envisioned from the beginning that MEI would produce a quarterly journal to introduce Americans to a part of the world that to many was “terra incognita.” The first editor’s note went on to explain that the Journal was intended “to set forth, analyze and evaluate” the “forces and factors engendered in and among these countries themselves … [as they] must be taken increasingly into account if the Middle East is to attain social, political and economic stability and if the foreign policy of the United States is to be soundly based.”1 The past seven decades have shown the wisdom of this statement and its continuing relevance as we begin our 71st volume.
A decade ago, for our 60th Anniversary, I wrote an extended Editor’s Note called “A Short History of The Middle East Journal,” tracing the history to that date, and I refer you to that issue.2 As I have served as the Editor during the intervening decade, I will leave it to others to assess our progress over the past decade, but I believe we continue to provide a peer-reviewed, tightly edited selection of current scholarship in the field. Over 70 years, the region has changed dramatically, as has the scholarship on it, and so too has the Journal has changed with it. I think I speak for the entire editorial staff when I say we are proud to be associated with The Middle East Journal.
I hope the current issue lives up to its 70 years of predecessors. We begin with an article on the role of Tahrir Square in the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution by Dr. Zvi Bar’el, the Middle East affairs commentator for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Senior Lecturer at Sapir Academic College in Sderot. Utilizing theories of space from French philosophers Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, Bar’el makes a complex argument about the transformation of Tahrir in Egyptian political life as the country underwent a rocky transition to civilian rule (however incomplete and short-lived).
On the subject of civilian rule in Egypt, Limor Lavie, a Research Fellow at the Truman Institute at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, traces the idea of the “civil state” (dawla madaniyya) in Egyptian political discourse. She tracks the term’s adoption in early 20th century debates through the Mubarak era, before finally exploring the polarized fight in 2011–13 over whether a civil state meant a democratic state that ensured the civil rights of all citizens or simply a government under civilian control. [End Page 7]
Debates over religion’s role in the state are by no means limited to Egypt. Ranj Alaaldin of King’s College London takes us to Iraq, where he explores how Shi‘a debated these issues in the 1950s and 1960s. Alaaldin looks at the founding and early years of the Islamic Da‘wa Party, which emerged only in the 2000s as the dominant political force in the country, and he argues that it was Da‘wa that introduced sectarian mobilization into Iraqi politics.
Meanwhile, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, sectarianism is embedded into the politics. Despite the fact that both the state and the military are under clerical rule, a large body of scholarship now exists profiling how paramilitary groups have amassed more and more political power in the past 15–20 years. Adding to...