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My Research

My research focuses on religion and politics, goods provision, and political mobilization and voting behavior, and authoritarianism, with a regional focus on the Middle East.  My first book, Winning Hearts and Votes: Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage (forthcoming with Cornell University Press), examines social service provision in authoritarian regimes, the relationship between social service provision and political mobilization, and the precise nature of the linkage social service provision generates between provider and recipient.  The empirical material for the book is drawn from an in-depth study of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood from the 1970s to 2013.

I am also working on a second book project, with Neil Ketchley of Kings College (London), that relies on a variety of new historical data to revisit the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood in interwar Egypt.  Preliminary research for this project has been funded by a TRE grant from the Project on Middle East Political Science, an American Political Science Association Centennial research grant and a Victor Olorunsola Endowed Research Award from the University of Louisville.  An article version of one chapter was recently published in the American Political Science Review.

My research has also been supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Project on Middle East Political Science, and The University of Louisville.  While in Egypt, the Department of Political Science at the American University of Cairo and the French Center for Economic, Legal, and Social Studies and Documentation offered research support.  During the 2015-2015 academic year I was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative. You can hear me discuss some aspects of my research on a podcast with Marc Lynch of the Project on Middle East Political Science here.

Some of the first things I published were studies of violent Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda, its predecessors, and affiliates, and this remains an abiding interest.  Here I am interested in the interaction between ideology, action, and reaction, as well as how violent groups form strategies and tactics, how they learn, and points of contention and difference between them.

Whenever possible, I situate my research in multiple methodological approaches.  I combine historical research and qualitative fieldwork, including interviews and extensive readings in Arabic, with quantitative approaches.  I also believe that studying the spatial relationships between phenomena is a profitable and understudied method of sociopolitical inquiry, and in my work I frequently make use of spatial analysis.  Finally, I am interested in survey, lab, and natural experimental research and the potential to supplement observations with data produced by the  manipulation of key variables.

article manuscripts (under review)

“Campaign Strategies in Competitive Religious Environments: Evidence from Post-Mubarak Egypt” (Revise and Resubmit)

Does the Friday prayer, an ubiquitous communal event in the Muslim World, contribute to Islamist groups’ seeming political advantage?  If so, why?  By combining a structured comparison of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Hizb al-Nour with a natural experiment drawn from the Sixth Wave of the World Values Survey, I show how the communal Friday Prayer service helps Islamist parties coordinate their voter outreach efforts.

“Religious Infrastructure and Electoral Mobilization in Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections”

What accounts for advantage Islamist parties seemingly hold over their non-Islamist opponents on election day?  Tarek Masoud and I couple web-scraped locational data on thousands of mosques and churches in Cairo and Alexandria with a comprehensive set of geolocated ballot-box level electoral returns to show how Egypt’s embedded infrastructure of religious institutions powerfully predicts local-level electoral outcomes.

“Voting After Democratic Backslide”

How do citizens engage with electoral institutions that have been recently stripped of their ability to arbitrate policy?  In these conditions, which particular types of citizens tend to abstain from voting, show up but spoil their ballots, or vote for the incumbent’s opponent?  Elizabeth Nugent and I compare district-level voting patterns for presidential elections prior to (2012) and following (2014) Egypt’s military coup to identify how the legacies of liberalized political competition shape politics in the authoritarian era that follows.

working papers

I am conducting preliminary research and writing for a number of new projects, including an analysis of the quality of web-scraped spatial data, dynamics of recruitment and desertion in the Syrian civil war, a comparative study of state regulation of religion in the Muslim World, the relationship between state violence and civil society, legacies of coercive agriculture practices on contemporary economic development, and the growth of Islamophobia in the United States.

peer-reviewed articles

“Reading the Ads in al-Daʿwa Magazine: Commercialism and Islamist Activism in al-Sadat’s Egypt,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (Forthcoming), (With Aaron Rock-Singer).

“Social and Institutional Origins of Political Islam,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 112, No. 2 (May 2018) (With Neil Ketchley). Download here.

“Sectarianism and Social Conformity: Evidence from Egypt,” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 70, No. 4 (December 2017). Download here.

 “From Medicine to Mobilization: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Egypt,” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 15, No. 1 (March 2017).  Download here.

“Jihadist Strategic Debates Prior to 9/11,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 31, no. 3 (Spring 2008).  Download here.

“The Quantitative Analysis of Terrorism and Immigration: An Initial Exploration,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 18 (Fall 2006) (With Robert S. Leiken). Download here.


Islamic Groups’ Social Service Provision and Attitudinal Change in Egypt, (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, June 30, 2015). Download here.

book chapters

“Exclusion and Violence After the Egyptian Coup,” in Islamists in Hard Times, Marc Lynch, ed., (Forthcoming). (With Elizabeth Nugent).

“Of Promise and Pitfalls: Experimental Research in the Middle East,” in Doing Research in the Middle East, Janine A. Clark and Francesco Cavatorta, eds., (Forthcoming, Oxford University Press).

“Egypt,” in Rethinking Political Islam, Shadi Hamid and William McCants, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).  You can read my working paper (pdf) at the Brookings Institution’s “Rethinking Political Islam” website.

“The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood,” in Western Governments and the Islamic Movement after 2011, Lorenzo Vidino, ed. (Dubai: al-Mesbar Center, and Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Center, 2012). العربية English (.pdf)

“The Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and Europe: The Evolution of a Relationship,” in Transnationalizing Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, Roel Meijer, ed., (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).  Buy it here, or visit your local library!

“The Near and Far Enemy Debate” in Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures, Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, eds., (New York: Routledge Press, 2011).  The chapter was earlier published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, available in .pdf here

“The Preacher and the Jihadi,” in Hillel Fradkin et al eds. Current Trends in Islamist Ideology Vol. 3, (Washington, DC: The Hudson Institute, February 2006). Available in .pdf here.

commentaries and reviews

“Local Religious Leaders and the Rise of Political Islam (With Neil Ketchley)” POMEPS Studies #27 (September 2017). Available here.

Review of Abdullah al-Arian’s Answering the Call, in Religion and Society: Advances in Research, Vol. 7, No. 1 (September 2016), pgs. 141-142.  Available here.

“Old Questions and New Methods in the Study of Islamism,” POMEPS Memo, February 9, 2016. Available here.

“Did the Arab Uprising Destroy the Muslim Brotherhood?” The Monkey Cage Blog, January 26, 2015. Available here.

“Brotherhood Activism and Regime Consolidation in Egypt,”  The Monkey Cage Blog, January 29, 2015. Available here.

“Assumptions and Agendas in the Study of Islamic Social Service Provision,” POMEPS Memo, September 29, 2014. Available here.

“In Egypt, Nasty Business as Usual,” Middle East Research and Information Project, April 29, 2014. Available here.

“Doctors and Brothers,” Middle East Report, No. 269 (February 2014).  Available here.

“Why Do Islamists Provide Social Services?” POMEPS Memo, January 2014. Available here.

“Egypt’s Crackdown on Islamist Charities,” Foreign Policy Middle East Channel, December 27, 2013. Available here.

“Don’t Fear the Muslim Brotherhood,” Foreign Policy, February 4, 2011. Available here.

“The Muslim Brotherhood’s Role in the Egyptian Revolution,” February 1, 2011, CTC-Sentinel (With Shadi Hamid). Available here.

“Promoting Democracy to Stop Terrorism, Revisited,” Policy Review, No. 159 (February/March 2010) (With Shadi Hamid). Available here.

“The Muslim Brotherhood Facing Growing Challenges in Egypt,” CTC-Sentinel, March 15, 2009. Available here.

“Jihad 101 (Review Essay),” The American Interest, May 1, 2008.  Available here.

“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007 (With Robert S. Leiken). Available here.   الترجمة العربية غير الرسمية