Methodological Issues in Political Science, History, Law and Demography

The ACRPS has published Methodological Issues in Political Science, History, Law, and Demography (504 pp.), edited by Mourad Diani. The volume features innovative research across the four areas of politics, history, law, and demography by 13 Arab experts in political science, history and civilization, German literature, social sciences, humanities, civilizational dialogue, security studies, anthropology, archaeology, modern history, contemporary Arab thought, the history of ideas, and international relations.

The problem of methodology and the search for a solution

The problem of research methods in the academic disciplines of political science, international relations, and historical studies has clearly taken on great importance with regard to the outgrowth of their subfields in recent decades, their openness to perpetually widening research horizons, in addition to the dominance of Western-origin paradigms and the challenges of adapting them to Arab research contexts. Methodological Issues offers valuable contributions toward methodologically relating the academic prospects of political science and the demands of a more comprehensive approach to politics to the urgent need to avert methodological redundancy in research questions in favour of a “less is more” strategy.

The book also explores issues such as dispelling ideological biases in the discipline; doing away with the Manichaean “understanding-explanation” dichotomy in international relations by internalizing the perspective of causality and seeking alternatives to dominant rational choice theory and ways to epistemologically strengthen extrapolation and inference in case studies; methodologically revitalizing historical studies through the intersection of the intellectual and the methodological; localizing Arab historical knowledge (i.e., decoupling it from Western perspectives); and promoting symbolic interpretation in the discipline of history. The contributions blend the perspectives of political science and international relations with those of historical studies and other interdisciplinary fields.

Unconventional approaches and methodological ignorance

Abdelwahab El-Affendi takes on “the crisis of contemporary political science” and explores aspects of a potential paradigm to address it, given the broader theoretical framework’s inability to process the rapid political change of today’s world and to reconcile between the discipline’s academic aspirations and the requisites for approaching politics more broadly. In Chapter 2, Sidahmed Goudjili describes how research questions encumbered by a large number of variables represent a form of methodological ignorance, while arguing for economization in research design as a way to simplify research questions and identify claims and variables.

Ideology and the rise of political science and causality in international relations

Khalil al-Anani approaches ideological characteristics (as a field of knowledge) associated with the emergence of political science in the late-18th century, then during the Cold War, arguing that an intellectual problem has developed as the discipline’s transformation into a teleological science affected its substantive and methodological structure. Mohammed Hemchi studies causality in international relations as an epistemological issue, treating such a discussion as an opportunity to draw up a roadmap to a possible “third narrative” rather than the two contradictory narratives of understanding and explanation.

Expected utility theory and sequential analysis in qualitative research

In Chapter 5, Marwa Albadri hypothesizes that rational choice does not necessarily maximize utility; it is contingent on profit and loss considerations, which at times may drive decision makers to take risks. In Chapter 6, Hassane Elhaj Ali analyses the methodology of case studies, which have been the subject of growing interest among researchers across the social sciences but remain limited in their capacity for extrapolation and inference.

Social control in law and legislative reform

Mohamed Kharrat promotes “the anthropology of law in contemporary Arab thought”, discussing legal mechanisms of social control, the capacity of legislation to manage competing interests, and understanding the profound changes that legislative reform demands as some of the most important applications of historical and anthropological methods.

Updating Arab historiographical methods and historiography, and “localizing” methodology

Chapter 8 by Ali Saleh Moula explores “problems of intellectual contexts”, the “disciplinary issues” that arise therein, motives for thinking about updating Arab historiographical methodology and opportunities to improve academic performance in the historical discipline, and the outcomes of past experiences, then demonstrates how the intellectual and the methodological overlap and how Arab historians have been drawn to historiographical reform movements, especially the Annales school and new historicism.

Through a case study of 17th and 18th century Tunisian history, Abdelhamid Henia proposes creating conditions for historiographical revitalization based on the localization of methods, meaning to correctly understand and analyse our societies, in order to surmount ethnocentric Western scholarship in Chapter 9.

The controversial relationship between authors’ and readers’ rights, and The relationship of memory to human phenomena

Brahim Elkadiri Boutchich begins by interrogating the controversial relationship between the rights of authors and readers in the case of historical texts. As history is a discipline rife with symbolism and mythos in need of interpretation, Boutchich reframes the question of revitalizing methodology in the humanities, specifically history.

Zouheir Soukah sheds light on the field of memory studies as a collective articulation that directs the humanities, social, and natural sciences toward “interdisciplinary” approaches that engage with human memory in its communal and collective dimensions and investigate how memory relates to human phenomena.

Methodology of historical demography

In Chapter 12, Tariq Madani presents the field of historical demography and its methods, duly exploring numerous civilizational indicators and their demographic implications for the Islamic cities of Damascus, Baghdad, Aleppo, Cairo, Tunis, Kairouan, Fez, and the Andalusian capitals.

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