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Dr Mustafa Elmenshawi

Lecturer in Comparative Politics and Policy

County South



Research overview

I analyse politics as puzzles. My current puzzle, the 'First Ladies of Authoritarianism' project, is an attempt to understand how wives of leaders in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia have contributed to (de-)stabilising authoritarian durability. I apply theories in gender, authoritarianism, and social psychology. Methods include fieldwork observations, interviews, and discourse analysis of texts such as newspapers or diplomatic cables. I also teach a module titled (no surprise!): ‘First Ladies.’ I published articles on the project at Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS) and submitted two others at journals such as Women’s Studies International Forum (Under review) and Digest (Under Review). I am also writing a manuscript on the same puzzle.

My second puzzle is sectarianism. The more we write about it the harder we can even define it. I define sectarianism as a process of boundary-making, hopefully an exhaustive and comprehensive approach to understanding the phenomenon.  This means that boundaries expand, contract or blur within dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. The puzzle of defining the phenomenon can lead us to identifying patterns of similarities and differences with what is taken as rival ideologies such as pan-Arabism. These ideologies share the process of drawing and re-drawing boundaries to include and exclude. If so, sectarianism is not about religion but rather the use of it among other elements in the boundary-making process (think of secularism as part of it!).

There are other puzzles in politics which I tried to deal with. Why the 1973 War is taken as a massive and unquestionable victory in Egypt despite different realities that can announce it a ‘defeat’? (this was answered in my first book), why members of the Muslim Brotherhood disengaged from the group at recent years? (my second book), why sovereignty-making process is part of politics of legitimation and survival in the Arab world (my articles published in journals such as Politics and Third World Quarterly). Solving the puzzles took me towards fields appertaining to sociolinguistics and war studies (yes, I am interested in crossing disciplines).

I won the Dean's Award in 2022-2023, the Lorenzo Natali Prize in 2007 and was shortlisted for Kari Blackburn Prize in 2009. 

Prior to academia, I worked as a journalist/reporter with the BBC World Service. A fascinating experience that took me to countries across the world and gave me opportunities to cover events unfolding such as the Arab Spring

I studied in SOAS, the University of Westminster and Ain shams University.

I worked in different academic institutions such as the LSE, Durham University and the University of Westminster

I worked in the European Commission and with leading consultancy companies such as Albany Associates (UK).

PhD supervision

I am interested in supervising students in these areas/subjects: Middle east politics Political discourse Islamic movements Gender and Politics Sectarianism 1973 War Gulf politics The Muslim Brotherhood First ladies

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