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Middle East Studies for the New Millenium, Infrastructures of Knowledge


The total volume of work on the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains low in comparison to other “developing” regions of the world, but it has been growing since the 1990s. This growth is due in part to the opportunities for students from the region to receive doctoral degrees in the United States and other Western countries and in even greater measure to the dedication of resources by international agencies and organizations to the cultivation of MENA economists. However, the process entails more of a penetration by Western neoclassical economic ideas and modeling techniques into work in and on the region than it does a meeting of the minds between economists and Middle East area studies specialists.

By way of introduction, this chapter reviews the reasons for the weak links between the fields of economics and Middle East studies (MES) in the United States. It then examines the growth of the economics profession and its work in the Middle East and the shaping of this work by international and regional organizations, especially the Middle East Economic Association (MEEA) and the Economic Research Forum for the Arab World, Turkey, and Iran (ERF). The chapter concludes by considering the contested boundaries between economics and MES and how the political uprisings of 2011 were both affected by and affect the work of economists in the region, as painful economic reality and the contest of economic ideas quietly underlay the louder and more dramatic political turmoil of 2011–13.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript of chapter 3 in Seteny Shami and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Middle East Studies for the New Millenium, Infrastructures of Knowledge, NY: Social Science Research Council and New York University Press

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