Our intent with this issue is simple: to present a critical evaluation of the current state of the field of Middle East studies. We focus centrally on the United States but also look at Middle East studies in other parts of the world, highlighting some of the important issues that have shaped the field. A 1975 issue of this magazine addressed the determining imprint of US policy interests on the development of a “Middle East Studies network” of institutions, foundations, security agencies and influential scholars. This issue charts some of the key developments since that time — new trends, debates and greater diversity as well as the continuing influence of state policy and power.
Scholarly debates and agendas are produced through and reflect larger intellectual and political forces. Middle East studies in the US emerged as a field of “area studies” after World War II, concurrent with the study of various other regions. The transformations in area studies over the last half-century have been shaped largely by the ascendancy of the US in the global order. An abiding concern, raised by several of the articles here, is the way in which Middle East studies intersects with policymaking and the demand for and use of information by the political establishment. More broadly, the end of the Cold War and trends toward the globalization of liberalism raise new questions about the direction and continued existence of the field. Analyzing the political economy of Middle East studies also raises questions about the interplay of various “actors” and institutions, and the scholarly and political agendas governing the centers of intellectual activity. We address some of these questions here.
We also would like to inform our readers that on January 1, 1998, Blackwell Publishers will assume responsibility for management of the circulation, promotion and distribution of Middle East Report — all functions that MERIP’s small staff has performed in the past. Under this new arrangement, MERIP will remain completely independent both organizationally and editorially. We will continue to produce the magazine completely “in-house” at MERIP, both with respect to editorial content and layout.
Blackwell will represent us at book fairs and conferences that we would otherwise be unable to attend. They will help us get in touch with subscription agents and books stores around the world and promote the magazine through their advertising literature and online services.
By turning circulation, promotion and distribution tasks over to Blackwell, we will be able use our limited staff resources more efficiently. We also hope to save money by working with Blackwell. Because of economies of scale (they represent more than 200 journals and magazines), they expect to be able to reduce our printing costs substantially, and we anticipate savings in other areas.
While we at MERIP will no longer have the daily pleasure of interacting with subscribers who call with questions about their subscriptions, we very much hope that you will feel free to continue to call us at our office (202-223-3677) or contact us by e-mail to share your views about the magazine or MERIP’s other activities.