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McDonald, Ciaran (2023) 'Rethinking Approaches To The Study Of Islamist Movements In West Asia And North Africa: Methodological And Ethical Reflections.' The SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research, 15 (2022-2023).

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Abstract

The study of Islamist movements in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) has long benefited from a formative corpus of research—largely consisting of fieldwork conducted in the 1990s and/or 2000s which often entailed directly engaging with Islamists—that has served both as a rich source of empirical evidence and as a basis for theoretical explication regarding various aspects of the phenomenon. While the ensuing passage of time ought to engender reflection regarding the state of the field and future trajectories, the COVID-19 pandemic renders such an endeavour all the more salient. For aspiring scholars, it is often difficult to imagine undertaking research involving in-person observation of, and interviews with, openly identifying Islamists typical of the aforementioned corpus. How, then, can we both build on our predecessors’ insights and extend research horizons in new directions? In accordance with this issue’s theme of ‘Opportunity in Crisis’, I demonstrate how changes in the regional political climate and the academic habitus have reshaped the boundaries—that is, the limitations and the possibilities—of research into WANA Islamist movements. Reflecting on methodology and ethics, and the interplay between the two, I argue that two things can—and should—be done to advance the contemporary study of Islamist movements in WANA: it is time to systematically bring quantitative data and Big Data in from the cold, and to increase meaningful involvement of local knowledge producers in research processes.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Islamist movements, West Asia and North Africa, research boundaries, ethics, methodology, quantitative data, Big Data, participatory action research
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Open Access Journals > The SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research
ISSN: 25176226
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00040647
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2023 14:19
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/40647

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