Past Event


Social and Institutional Origins of Political Islam

23 October 2017 13:00–14:30

Institute of Development Studies, Library Road, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RE

Under what conditions did the first Islamist movements organise? Which social and institutional contexts facilitated such mobilisation? A sizable literature points to social and demographic changes, Western encroachment into Muslim societies, and the availability of state and economic infrastructure.

To test these hypotheses, we match a listing of Muslim Brotherhood branches founded in interwar Egypt with contemporaneous census data on over 4,000 sub-districts. A multi-level analysis shows that Muslim Brotherhood branches were more likely in sub-districts connected to the railway and where literacy was higher. Branches were less likely in districts with large European populations, and where state administration was more extensive.

Qualitative evidence also points to the railway as key to the movement’s propagation. These findings challenge the orthodoxy that contact between Muslims and the West spurred the growth of organised political Islam, and instead highlight the critical role of economic and state infrastructure in patterning the early contexts of Islamist activism.

About the Speaker

Dr Neil Ketchley a political sociologist working at the intersection of the disciplines of political science and sociology. His research focuses on social movements and collective protest in the Arabic-speaking Middle East and North Africa.

His latest book Egypt in a Time of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2017) uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative evidence to provide the first systematic account of the 25th January Revolution and its aftermath. He is currently working on a new book (with Steven Brooke) on the rise of organised political Islam in interwar Egypt. Other ongoing research projects relate to state repression, food protests, sectarian violence, and student activism.


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