Puzzles, Time, and Ethnographic Sensibilities: Research Methods after the Arab Spring

in Middle East Law and Governance
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Parallel transformations in both the post-Arab spring Middle East and the publishing world present tests for scholars of the region. This essay suggests three strategies for reframing challenges as opportunities and reconceptualizing the seeming liabilities of academic work as resources. First, I propose that the surprising character of recent upheavals ought not demoralize scholarly inquiry but rather invigorate it by showcasing the kinds of difficult puzzles that propel innovation in research and theory-building. Second, I suggest that the fast pace of publishing over the Internet should renew our appreciation for its antithesis: the unique benefits of exploring and developing ideas slowly over time. Third, I argue that these two challenges-turned-opportunities come together to highlight the value of research methods with an ethnographic sensibility. These approaches can help us ground theory in a more nuanced understanding of the individual and the lived experience of change.

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