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Nathan J. Brown is Professor of Political Science and International A≠airs at George Washington University and Nonresident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. These remarks were delivered on November 5, 2013 as part of the Dallah Albaraka Lectures on Islamic Law and Civilization.


Some years ago, when I was considering various paths my scholarly agenda could take, I asked a colleague of mine who worked on international law regarding Antarctica how he had selected his specialization. He responded that the obscurity of the subject was its own reward: even if he produced bad scholarship, he would still be one of the top people in his field.

It was in this spirit that I decided to focus on constitu­tionalism in the Arab world. What little attention the topic had attracted was negative. For centuries, Middle Eastern political systems have been held up by Western students of constitutionalism to be negative models: helping us understand who we are by showing us what we are not.

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