Michael
Marcusa

I am a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science, aiming to develop a thorough account of the micro-social dynamics of ideological affiliation in the Middle East and North Africa. In the aftermath of the 2011 Arab revolutions, populations across the region have been bombarded with a profusion of different political ideologies: from secular Arab nationalism, to western-style liberalism, to moderate Islamism, to Islamic absolutism. While it may be tempting to view ideological choice as a mere expression of material interest, I contend that institutional, psychological, and even emotional factors represent a crucial, though neglected piece of the puzzle. As a social scientist, I wholeheartedly embrace the challenge of conceptualizing, measuring, and testing hypotheses that employ these deep, amorphous variables.

In addition to this broad focus on ideological socialization, I have a side-interest in transnational Islamic militancy–with a particular emphasis on the social roots of Salafist Jihadist movements. Rather than engaging the phenomenon within the framework of “counter-terrorism,” my study of Islamist militancy seeks to understand these movements from a position of total objectivity. My purpose is not to glorify or condemn, but rather to understand the social dynamics of these movements as they are.

Although my intellectual home is the Political Science Department, I seek to engage my region of focus on many levels. In addition to my interest in politics, I have a deep passion for the Arabic language, Islamic jurisprudence, and Middle Eastern and North African music. I have significant on-the-ground experience in the region and have lived extensively in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.

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