序論 中東の政治変動:―開かれた「地域」から見る国際政治― [in Japanese] Introduction: Political Change in the Middle East—Reconfiguring Region and Evolving Approaches [in Japanese]
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This special issue, comprising nine research articles and one review article, focuses on 'Political Changes in the Middle East'. The Middle East today is in a storm of political destabilization, which was triggered by the Arab Spring in late 2010. Regardless of its consequences, such as peaceful democratisation and bloody civil war, the Arab Spring has caused structural changes for both states and society in their domestic politics, which is seemingly leading to a blurring of the lines between regional and international politics. For example, the collapse of the Mubarak regime in Egypt brought about a realignment in inter-state relations between Egypt and other Arab states, as well as with the US. Thus, Middle Eastern politics and international politics are interconnected, as L. Carl Brown rightly argued thirty years ago.<br>Nevertheless, social science seems to have failed for decades to effectively analyse the interconnections between the political dynamics of the Middle East and international politics. This is mainly because of 'Middle Eastern exceptionalism', which is deeply rooted in various research fields of social science. It claims that the region is culturally, socially, and historically so unique that it is hard to be studied or understood through general theories of social science, particularly comparative politics and IR; it is, thus, in turn,difficult to contribute to furthering the theoretical development of disciplinary social science, as well as Middle Eastern area studies. Some experts point out that this exceptionalism is due to an intellectual divide between two scholarly approaches—area studies and disciplinary social science. In addition, both approaches, though in a different manner, have a tendency to regard the region as if it is an exclusive 'miniature garden' that is insulated from the remainder of the world. As a result, two different approaches have developed separately, one focused within the region, the other, outside the region.<br>In search for a new analytical perspective to bridge such a methodological gap, this special issue attempts to set up two working premises. First, while the Middle East possesses common properties and unifying themes, which ontologically generate its 'regionness', and thus can be considered independent and autonomous, it does not exist in a static and uniform way, but has a variable, fluid, and multi-layered presence. Second, the concept of 'political change' can be an analytical key to connect various levels of dynamics between domestic, regional, and international politics, as well as to overcome the intellectual divide between area studies and disciplinary social science. In this issue, 'political change' is loosely defined as the fluctuation or collapse of long-lasting power equilibrium, such as through democratisation, revolution, civil war, inter-state war, and economic crises.<br>The nine contributions, briefly summarised at the end of this introduction, are all different from one another in terms of their research field, methodology, and case studies. Yet it is clear that all the papers in this issue share a common thesis concerning the above-mentioned problems of 'Middle Eastern exceptionalism' and the intellectual drive to tackle it. They also seek to take steps towards developing studies on Middle Eastern politics and international politics by focusing on 'political changes' in each case.
- International Relations
International Relations 2014(178), 178_1-178_14, 2014
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