Nathan Brown was born in Seattle and brings his love of coffee with him wherever he goes. And he goes to far places, mostly in the Middle East (though he discovered—too late—that his favorite foods are Italian and Korean). His research sometimes takes him to odd places—a military court building in Egypt, a Gazan sixth-grade classroom, a training session for Kuwaiti poll workers, and an Islamic think tank in Jordan. The first Middle Eastern country he visited was Israel, but he does most of his research on Egypt, Palestine, and some other Arab countries. He has taught at GW since 1987 and loves it—he finds the students diverse and curious, his colleagues fascinating, and the biking infrastructure slowly improving.
- Program/Institute: Middle East Studies Program
- Area(s) of expertise: Middle East politics, religion and politics, authoritarianism, constitutionalism
- Undergrad Institution & Degree: University of Chicago, A.B.
- Ph.D. Institution & Thesis: Princeton University, Peasant Politics in Modern Egypt
- Fall 2019 Courses: Cornerstone for the MA Middle East Studies program
What made you interested in your field of study/expertise?
I was curious about a region that always seems to be in the news. And I’m bashful. Really. I signed up for a Middle East politics course as a freshman in college. It was intimidating so I wanted to drop the class. But I needed the professor to sign my form. I was too scared of him. So I was stuck for the rest of the term. And now for life.
What courses did you enjoy the most while still in school and why?
When I was in elementary school, I liked everything except PE (since I couldn’t hit a baseball) and handwriting (since I must have sensed—even in the 1960s–that keyboards were coming). By high school, I still couldn’t hit a baseball, but I liked social studies most of all.
What do you wish more people knew about your field?
Whatever they want. Really. When I enter a classroom, I don’t ask myself “What do people need to know” but “What would it help people to understand about each other?”
What advice do you have for prospective students who are on the fence about applying to a graduate program at the Elliott school?
There are a lot of programs to choose from, but we are distinctive for the flexibility of our curriculum—you can find so many things and make so many different combinations here. And you can change your mind. And since you’ll likely meet people who are doing so many different things, you may very well do so.
What city outside of the U.S. should people visit and why?
Any town in Northern Italy. Why? Go and you’ll find out.
The #ElliottExpert series highlights current Elliott School professors and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by professors profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.
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