Thinking About the Poor   /   Fall 2014   /    Book Reviews

Democracy Labs

B.D. McClay

Mosque window and wall, flickr.

American students can’t understand the Qatari dilemma to be either religious or to be modern.

“For five of the past seven years, I have been in the Middle East,” writes Joshua Mitchell, a professor of political theory at Georgetown University. During much of that time, Mitchell was involved in the creation of a branch of Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He also taught a survey course in Western political thought at the new branch, covering much of the same material he addresses with his American students. He quickly discovered that it met with very different receptions from the Qataris. What the Americans took for granted—for instance, the superiority of liberal democracy—the Qatari students questioned. What the American students barely noticed—religious content, for example—the Qatari students immediately understood as important.


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