The Suddenly New Study of Egypt

Field Report: The Suddenly New Study of Egypt 1

Mohammed Abed, AFP, Getty Images

Carrying a banner that mocks President Hosni Mubarak, protesters in Cairo last month helped prompt the downfall of his regime. The persistence of authoritarianism had been "the predominant theme in the literature" in Egypt studies, says one scholar.

Scholars who work on the Middle East have been furiously updating their syllabi and revising their book proposals in the past month and a half. The events in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya have upended conventional academic wisdom about the region.

"In some ways it recalls the way Middle East studies was reoriented after the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war, in 1975, and the Iranian revolution, in 1979," says Joel Beinin, a professor of Middle East history at Stanford University.