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April 16, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT: Nick Massella


WASHINGTON - Nathan Brown, founding director of GW's Institute for Middle East Studies and director of its bachelor's and master's programs in Middle East studies, has been selected as a 2009 Carnegie Scholar and will analyze the impacts of increased participation by Islamist groups in electoral politics on both the movements themselves and the political systems in which they operate. Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian announced Brown a recipient of the two-year grant of up to $100,000 for his compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam. The intended title of Brown's research is "Islamist Movements in Arab Politics."

Recognizing that Islamist movements and authoritarian rule are both deeply entrenched in the Arab world, Brown will not ask how these movements could operate if circumstances were different and democratic rules faithfully observed. Instead, his comparative work will probe inside the movements focusing on why they enter politics in such an unfriendly environment, how they do so and how it affects them as well as the societies in which they operate. In the resulting book and articles, Brown seeks to develop a nuanced understanding of the significance of these groups and their likely impact on the future of the Middle East. Brown also intends to share the findings with scholars and activists in the region.

"Islamist movements take many forms - but the ones that attract the largest number of adherents are those that try to operate above ground and count normal electoral politics among their priorities," said Brown. "But those that do so in the Arab world find democratic doors firmly shut. I am fascinated by the puzzle of why they organize and invest so much in elections that they sometimes even agree to lose."

Brown was selected as one of 21 well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts and writers. The 2009 awardees are the fifth class to focus on Islam, bringing the number of Carnegie Scholars devoted to the topic to 117 since the program began in 2000.

The Carnegie Scholars program allows independent-minded thinkers to pursue original projects oriented toward catalyzing intellectual discourse as well as guiding more focused and pragmatic policy discussions. Scholars are selected not only for their originality and proven intellectual capacity, but for their demonstrated ability to communicate their ideas in ways that can catalyze public discourse.

The writers, analysts and thinkers supported by the foundation are addressing some of the most critical research questions of our time. By identifying and investing in the country's brightest and most innovative contemporary thinkers, Carnegie Corporation seeks to advance and diffuse knowledge that will uplift our nation and humanity.

Each year, nominations for Carnegie Scholars are invited from more than 500 nominators representing a broad range of disciplines and institutions, including academia, research institutes, non-profit organizations, the media and foundations. Nominators are asked to identify original thinkers who have the ability--or promise--to spark academic and public debate, and whose work transcends academic boundaries.

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