professor of political science Carrie Rosefsky Wickham has been
studying Islamic movements for more than fifteen yearslong
before four hijacked airplanes thrust the subject to the forefront
of national consciousness.
in a post 9/11 context, Wickham says, the perceived
significance of research on political Islam has dramatically
has been named one of thirteen new Carnegie Scholars by the
Corporation of New York, the first Emory scholar ever selected
for this prestigious honor. Carnegie Scholars receive up to
$100,000 over two years to pursue pathbreaking research in their
fields, which in turn will be communicated to the broader public.
plans to use the grant to research and write a book, The
Path to Moderation: Lessons from the Evolution of Islamism in
the Middle East. She hopes to explore the origins and development
of a new strand of Islamist political thought that departs from
prevailing revivalist (or fundamentalist) views
on issues such as democracy and human rights. Toward this end,
Wickham seeks to identify the conditions and policy choices
that encourage certain Islamic leaders to forge a moderate political
agenda based, in the words of one advocate, on a humanist
reading of Islam.
I want to discover is, who are the voices which are promoting
new interpretations of Islam, which provide a rationale for
support of pluralism, democracy, and human rights? Wickham
says. Why have these voices gained more support from some
mainstream Islamist groups than others? And what are the domestic
and regional conditions likely to enhance or diminish the resonance
of their message in the future?
the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamist
radicals and the ensuing war in Iraq, centrist leaders are struggling
to keep their footing. Never a widely popular position, moderation
is even more precarious now, Wickham says.
moderate Islamists are not liberal democrats, Wickham
cautions. But they do represent a trend that is qualitatively
different from the more scripturally literalist trend which
has dominated Islamist discourse for much of the last century.
will conduct a comparative study of Islamist opposition groups
in five Arab states as well as Turkey to analyze how different
sorts of political and civic participation have influenced Islamist
goals and behavior. She particularly wants to explore whether
those who advocate a more flexible and inclusive form of faith-based
politics do so merely to speed their rise to power or because
they have experienced a profound shift in their core beliefs.
strategic explanation would imply these leaders are like wolves
in sheeps clothing, taking a position just for show,
Wickham says. But there is also the possibility of a learning
explanation, in which experience drives change in peoples
values and beliefs. I want to look at whether the practice of
democracy within institutions can help promote democratic values,
even when democracy is absent at the level of the regime.
studies the politics of developing countries with a focus on
the Middle East and Islamic groups, specifically looking at
the cultural foundations of social and political protest. She
is the author of Mobilizing Islam: Religion, Activism, and
Political Change in Egypt (Columbia University Press, 2002).
Her article The Path to Moderation: Strategy and Learning
in the Formation of Egypts Wasat Party is due to
appear in the journal Comparative Politics this winter
in a special issue on the Middle East and Democratization.
Wickham is among a group of talented scholars at Emory who are
working on some of the most difficult and important issues of
our time, says former Provost Howard O. Hunter. She
is a gifted teacher, a great citizen of the university, and
she is rapidly developing into one of the most important political
scientists studying the Middle East. Wickham joined the
Emory faculty in 1994 and received the William H. Fox Award
for Emerging Excellence in Teaching and Service to the Emory
Community in 2001. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, she
is fluent in Arabic.
Carnegie Corporation selects scholars doing leading-edge work
in its particular program areas, which include the implications
of Islamic politics and identity. As the Carnegie Scholars
program approaches its fourth year, the announcement of the
new class of scholars underscores the importance of the role
the creative intellectual plays in a democratic society,
says Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation.
Wickham, the most exciting possible outcome of her work would
be to make not only an academic contribution in her field but
to influence public policy as well, by helping U.S. political
leaders better understand how to strengthen moderate voices
within the Islamic movement as part of their broader strategy
for coping with anti-Western Islamic extremism. One key aspect
of the moderate strand of political Islam, Wickham says, is
that it is rooted within the local culture, and therefore have
a much greater likelihood of attracting support than a set of
ideas and institutions imposed upon Muslim societies from the
aims are very ambitious, Wickham says. Im
excited and grateful to be pursuing a project of this scope,
and despite the challenges Im sure to encounter, Im
hopeful that I can do it justice.P.P.P.