Nathan J. Brown

Nonresident Senior Associate
Middle East Program
Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, is a distinguished scholar and author of six well-received books on Arab politics.


PhD, MA, Princeton University
BA, University of Chicago


Arabic; English

Contact Information


Nathan J. Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, is a distinguished scholar and author of six well-received books on Arab politics. Brown brings his special expertise on Islamist movements, Egyptian politics, Palestinian politics, and Arab law and constitutionalism to Carnegie. Brown’s latest book, When Victory Is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics, was published by Cornell University Press in early 2012. His current work focuses on religion, law, and politics in the Arab world.

In 2013, Brown was named a Guggenheim Fellow; four years earlier, he was named a Carnegie scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. For the 2009–2010 academic year, he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In addition to his academic work, Brown serves on the Middle East and North Africa advisory committee for Human Rights Watch and the board of trustees at the American University in Cairo. He has previously served as an advisor for the committee drafting the Palestinian constitution, USAID, the United Nations Development Program, and several NGOs. For 2013-2015 he is president of the Middle East Studies Association, the academic association for scholars studying the region.

Brown is the author of Between Religion and Politics (with Amr Hamzawy, Carnegie 2010); Resuming Arab Palestine (University of California Press, 2003); Constitutions in a Non-Constitutional World: Arab Basic Laws and Prospects for Accountable Government (SUNY Press, 2001); and The Rule of Law in the Arab World: Courts in Egypt and the Arab States of the Gulf (Cambridge University Press, 1997). He also edited The Dynamics of Democratization  (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

  • Op-Ed Washington Post October 13, 2015
    Why Egypt’s New Parliament Will Be Born Broken

    A combination of ad hoc decision-making, historical inertia, and absent-mindedness are likely to produce an ineffective parliament in Egypt’s upcoming elections.

  • Who is running the Egyptian state?
    Op-Ed Washington Post July 31, 2015
    Who Is Running the Egyptian State?

    “Sisi’s Egypt” might last as long as “Pinochet’s Chile” or “Salazar’s Portugal.” But that will not be because it is well designed—or even designed at all.

  • Paper July 30, 2015 عربي Full Text
    Unprecedented Pressures, Uncharted Course for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

    The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement and one of its oldest, is squeezed between an unprecedented crackdown from the security state and a young generation pushing for more assertive action against the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

  • Op-Ed Elders July 24, 2015
    Israel and Palestine: Starting the Peace Process Again, This Time From the Real World

    After a generation of subordinating so much to the priority of the peace process, it seems that the point of negotiations might have been allowing a new round of negotiations.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Affairs June 15, 2015
    Leading From Everywhere: The History of Centralized Islamic Religious Authority

    Many Islamic scholars say the so-called Islamic State has diverged from classical Sunnism, but the lack of a central voice, a decline in Islamic education, and attempts by states to influence religious thought have hampered the development of a strong counter-narrative.

  • Op-Ed National Interest June 4, 2015
    The Right Way to Bring Peace to the Middle East

    With the peace process at a standstill, it is now time to begin thinking about incremental alternatives focused on improving lives and renewing efforts with international organizations.

  • Mutual Escalation in Egypt
    Op-Ed Washington Post February 9, 2015
    Mutual Escalation in Egypt

    Egypt may be upon a new and deadlier phase in which the extremists on each side fulfill their prophecies of a fight to the death between good and evil.

  • Article February 4, 2015 عربي
    Building a Better Post-Oslo Era

    The United States and Europe should encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to use international organizations and law as an alternative to violence.

  • Syria in Crisis December 29, 2014
    The Middle East in 2015: What to Watch

    Carnegie scholars assess the Middle East in the year ahead, including potential game changers that could have a big impact for the future of the region.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Policy December 1, 2014
    The Vote to Boycott Israel’s Universities

    The Middle East Studies Association insists that whatever one’s opinion of the campaign to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the principles of academic freedom protect the right of faculty to advocate for, as well as against, such boycotts.

  • Between Religion and Politics
    Washington September 21, 2010
    Between Religion and Politics

    As Islamist movements in the Arab world become more politically active, they are struggling to pursue their moral and religious agenda under unfriendly or repressive regimes.

  • Middle East
    November 19, 2014 Brussels
    Europe in the New Middle East

    After the EU floundered in its initial response to the Arab Spring, it now has to reconsider some of the fundamental tenets of its strategic approach to the Middle East.

  • September 12, 2013 Washington, DC
    Prospects for the Future

    This panel explored on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship twenty years after the Olso accords were signed.

  • September 12, 2013 Washington, DC
    Twenty Years After Oslo: The Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

    A panel of U.S. and regional experts assess the legacy of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the outlook for progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • July 31, 2013 Washington, DC
    The New Political Order/Disorder in Egypt

    In the wake of the June 30 popular uprising and the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, a new political order is taking shape in Egypt.

  • May 8, 2013 Washington, DC
    Religion and Politics in Revolutionary Egypt

    The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, and a host of state institutions dedicated to Islam are being reshaped profoundly by their growing involvement in politics, often in ways that are difficult to predict and even more difficult for their leaders to control.

  • November 9, 2012 Washington, D.C.
    The Role of Political Islam

    Syrian academic and former Syrian National Council spokesperson Bassma Kodmani, journalist and researcher Aron Lund, and Sufi Sheikh Muhammad al-Yacoubi discussed the role of sectarianism and Islamism in the Syrian uprising and the immediate challenges Syria could face after the fall of Bashar Al-Assad.

  • April 5, 2012 Washington, D.C. عربي
    Writing a New Constitution

    In the wake of the Arab Spring, new governments are struggling to determine how constitutions can be drafted to have maximum support and act as an instrument of reconciliation, and how to define the place of Islam and sharia in the new system.

  • March 15, 2012 Brussels
    The Arab Awakening One Year On: What Kind of Partner Can Europe Be?

    A year has passed since the first uprisings in Tunisia spurred a fundamental change in the dynamics of Europe’s southern neighborhood, creating a host of domestic and external challenges for the region and its neighbors.

  • October 6, 2011 Washington, D.C.
    Post-Revolutionary Egypt: New Trends in Islam

    The ongoing revolutionary changes in Egypt have brought new Islamist actors to prominence and posed sharp questions about the constitution, the official religious establishment, and the electoral process.

  • May 31, 2011 Washington, D.C.
    Options for the United States

    Washington’s response to the Arab Spring was crafted in the context of competing priorities: the challenge of managing simultaneous land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an increasingly assertive Iranian regime, international terrorism, climate change, and an economic recession.


Areas of Expertise

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