The roundtable is organized to honor the many important contributions of Laurie Brand to the study of international relations, migration, nation- and state-formation, and gender in the Middle East. A pioneering feminist scholar in political science, Brand produced ground-breaking analyses of institution-building without a state in her earliest research on Palestinians. She developed new approaches to the international relations of the Middle East derived from her political economic analysis of alliance-making, and identified gender as a central analytic lens through which to examine strategies of political liberalization. In each of these projects she defined new research agendas for her colleagues and the next generation of scholars whom she advised and mentored. Her later interest in migration, the framing of national narratives and diasporic networks elicited a new set of deeply generative questions that have contributed to defining the sub-field of the comparative politics of the region. Brand’s lasting legacies as a scholar and teacher in the political science of the Middle East and as a colleague and mentor who embodies a politics of solidarity through her engagements, including in leadership roles, with the academy and academic freedom are exemplary. The roundtable will bring together academics in the social sciences who have been her colleagues, collaborators and students to celebrate her tremendous contributions to the field of Middle East Studies and the scholarly networks that make knowledge production in this field possible whether in North America or in the MENA region.
Middle East Studies Association Conference 2023
Roundtable on Gender, Nation, Emigration and the State: A Tribute to Laurie Brand
Roundtable Presenter Abstract
This presentation focuses on two aspects of Professor Laurie Brand’s contributions to Middle East studies and comparative politics. The first segment focuses on Laurie Brand’s pioneering impact on the fields of migration and diaspora studies. The second segment talks about Professor Brand as a role model for junior scholars in Middle East studies.
Professor Brand’s scholarly contributions are unique and impressive in a variety of ways. The author of five books, her academic work displays a rich, diverse focus and an immense geographical scope across the Middle East and North Africa.
Scholars of migration are widely familiar with her acclaimed fourth book, Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa (Cambridge, 2006). As will be discussed in this roundtable presentation, the book has had a pioneering impact on migration studies and focuses on Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. This work is very significant as it theorizes about how states and political actors create institutions to reach out and exercise power over their diasporas abroad, garner remittances, and conduct monitoring of their expatriates, and thus extend state influence and sometimes sovereignty beyond the territorial boundaries. Professor Brand also broke new ground in research at the intersection of migration and authoritarianism, and on diaspora voting from abroad.
Professor Brand has also been very supportive of numerous junior scholars during her distinguished career. This part of the presentation reflects on the legacy of Professor Laurie Brand, now Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California, as a mentor of and role model for scholars pursuing an academic career in Middle East studies and international relations, and particularly for women.
Professor Brand’s work has had a profound impact on Middle East studies, comparative politics and migration studies, impact which will be felt for many years to come.
While I have read and admired much of Laurie Brand's published work, and while she has clearly been a leading scholar of Middle East politics, I am not sure that I am qualified to offer a useful overview or assessment of her work; I'll leave that to the political scientist(s) participating in the roundtable. But I can speak to what she has given MESA over the years as chair of its Committee on Academic Freedom, by virtue of both her deep engagement with academic freedom issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in North America and her exemplary leadership of CAF, which in many ways has been the public face of MESA. I welcome this opportunity to highlight and celebrate Laurie's intellectual and organizational legacy.
Praise for Laurie Brand. I have known Laurie for many years, since early in her academic career. She wrote an outstanding dissertation on the Palestinians and this became a path-breaking book. Her job at the time was with the Journal for Palestine Studies, and I came to know her then when she invited me to contribute an article on the political Right in Israel. I have remained in touch with Laurie since that time and followed with admiration her many important scholarly contributions, and her very important contributions as well to the cause of human rights and political rights in the MENA region and elsewhere. During the panel, I’ll share a few stories about my personal interactions with Laurie and the way these contributed to my own scholarship.
Substantively, I learned a great deal from Dr. Laurie Brand in my years as her student in the POIR PhD program at the University of Southern California. She is, after all, one of the most prominent and prolific scholars of the Middle East. Yet, in addition to all she taught me about the region, I was also fortunate enough to learn from her "hidden curriculum" firsthand. Often, this secondary lesson plan is used to refer to the ways in which one is taught how to game the system, but in Laurie's case, she provided a masterclass in how not to be gamed by the system. The empathy and integrity she demonstrated in all facets of her life--professional and personal--continue to have a tremendous influence on me and, doubtless, many other junior scholars. I aim to highlight this aspect of Dr. Brand's legacy.
Known for her voluminous work in international relations, Dr. Laurie Brand is also a pioneer in looking at women and gender in the Arab world. Her Women, The State and Political Liberalization: Middle Eastern and North African Experiences, published with Columbia University Press twenty-five years ago, was pathbreaking for the field of Middle East gender studies. In the book, one of five monographs, Laurie looks at how women’s rights intersected with political freedom. Laurie wrote about political freedom and strove to protect it, taking particular interest in the right of academics to free speech. In her role as chair of MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom, she worked tirelessly to shine a light on infringements of academic freedom in the MENA region and among scholars of the MENA region in North America. The hundreds of letters that CAF produced under the leadership of Miriam Lowi and Zachary Lockman stand as testimony to years of dedication to calling attention to violations of rights. Every year, the CAF committee honored champions of academic freedom with a prize. It is time to honor Laurie Brand for her scholarship, service, and advocacy of scholars in and of the MENA region. She has been a model and inspiration to many.
Dr. Laurie Brand is not only a groundbreaking scholar in gender and Middle East Studies, whose innovative work marked the field of international relations, she is also the embodiment of solidarity. Throughout the years she has discreetly extended support to precarized and targeted scholars, and assisted them. A strong advocate of academic freedom and right to education, as well as other rights, Laurie Brand stood in solidarity with generations of scholars. Always poised and ready to think outside of the box, Laurie's work ethic has inspired many of us who were fortunate to work with her. As one of those scholars, I am honored to participate in this panel.
Professor Laurie Brand (Laurie) has been my mentor, co-advisor, and supporter for over twenty years. I got to know her throughout the various phases of my career (as a graduate student, a researcher, and a teaching professor). In this round table discussion, I shall dwell upon the impact of Laurie’s seminal work in the field of Middle East studies and her mentorship. As a student, I was always inspired and impacted by the novel research questions she raised and the eclectic approaches she adopted. There is always an interesting story behind each of her research projects. Laurie’s work is trailblazing. It is necessarily present in all the courses I teach (and taught) on the Middle East: Political Economy, Women and Politics, Migrants and refugees, and Youth. I am always pleasantly surprised to find her work among the sources my students still rely on in their research. There is simply no complete syllabus or research on the Middle East without Laurie’s work. In my personal encounters with her, Laurie was always understanding and accommodating for personal circumstances. She was continuously a generous supporter, encouraging me to pursue new career opportunities. She was even a cultural guide in my own hometown Beirut! In various places across the world, introducing myself as Laurie’s previous student, would open a welcoming door, an engaging conversation, and a wide smile.