This semester, Associate Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav is participating in the Brooking Institution’s new series, “Rethinking Political Islam.” According to Brookings’ website, the series is an “innovative effort to understand how the developments following the Arab uprisings have shaped-and in some cases altered-the strategies, agendas, and self-conceptions of Islamist movements throughout the Muslim world.” The project engages scholars of political Islam, like Philbrick Yadav, “through in-depth research and dialogue to provide a systematic, cross-country comparison of the trajectory of political Islam in 12 key countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Philbrick Yadav, who has conducted on-the-ground research and engaged with the relevant Islamist actors in Yemen, recently completed the first stage of the project, a working paper exploring the role of a faction in the Islamist Islah party, grounded in the intellectual and practical traditions of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“While the Brotherhood originally developed in Egypt in the 1920s, there are affiliated political movements throughout the region and no two are precisely the same,” says Philbrick Yadav. “The Islah party isn’t really “the Yemeni Brotherhood,” but Brotherhood-aligned Islamists form an important cohort within the party. The paper explores their relationship to other factions in the party, to other parties in the coalition they helped to establish in the 2000s, and to what we might call Yemen’s ‘transitional regime.’ After President Ali Abdullah Saleh left power in 2011, Islah became part of the new “national unity” government tasked with overseeing major changes in the political system. This transitional process essentially failed, and Yemen has been at war since March of this year.”
Philbrick Yadav’s builds on the research she has conducted for Islamists and the State, but also includes research conducted since the 2011 uprising in Yemen, especially among Yemenis living elsewhere in the Gulf.
During the second stage of the “Rethinking Political Islam” series, the scholars, including Philbrick Yadav, will write reaction essays which reflect on and respond to the other country cases. These are presented on the Brookings website in a real-time format, so readers can track responses and reactions between the authors. Finally, authors will produce a final paper incorporating the insights gathered from the months of dialogue and discussion. In short, the website notes, “readers will be able to follow along and see how a diverse array of Islamism scholars have “rethought” their cases.”
“The process of “thinking out loud” is an innovative one,” says Philbrick Yadav. “Usually, as academics, we go over our work with a fine-toothed comb, looking to present the analysis as “complete.” This project takes a different – and more realistic – approach to how academic analysis actually works. For this project, we’re trying to make this process visible to others.”
This past June, Philbrick Yadav participated in an authors’ conference, and is now in the “rethinking” phase. “I’m excited to hear from folks who can help to raise new, better questions, who can help me to refine my own analysis,” she says.
Philbrick Yadav, who has lived in Yemen and is a member of the executive committee of the American Institute of Yemeni Studies, has been writing about Yemen’s opposition politics for more than a decade. Since Yemen’s uprising in 2011, she’s published a book exploring the dynamics of Islamist activism and alliance building, and articles in several academic journals, including the latest issues of International Journal of Middle East Studies and Middle East Report.
A member of the HWS faculty in 2007, Philbrick Yadav earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Smith College, and has spent several years conducting field research in Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt. Before joining the Colleges, she taught at Mount Holyoke College, and in 2008 was a visiting scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
“The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. Its mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public.”
To find out more about the Brookings Institutions’ “Rethinking Political Islam” series and to view Philbrick Yadav’s working paper, visit: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/08/rethinking-political-islam