Joel S. Migdal is the Robert F. Philip Professor of International Studies in the University of Washington ‘s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. Dr. Migdal was formerly associate professor of Government at Harvard University and senior lecturer at Tel-Aviv University. Among his books are Peasants, Politics, and Revolution; Palestinian Society and Politics; Strong Societies and Weak States; State in Society; Through the Lens of Israel; The Palestinian People: A History (with Baruch Kimmerling); and, Boundaries and Belonging.
Dr. Migdal is the founding chair of the University of Washington ‘s International Studies Program. In 1993, he received the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching Award; in 1994, the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award; in 2006, the Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award; and, in 2008, the Provost Distinguished Lectureship.
Joel Migdal’s research interests have run in two directions. First, he has been interested in how to investigate the relations between governments and those they want to rule. His approach–called state-in-society–starts not in the capital city but in the periphery. It is there that the laws and decrees of government are experienced and reshaped in real life situations. It is a bottom-up approach that departs from much of the standard research in international studies. Migdal’s second line of research involves Palestinians and Israelis. Here, he avoids (as much as possible) direct research on The Conflict. Instead, his investigations have been on the long-term changes in state-society relations on each side and how what goes on among Israelis affects the internal dynamics of Palestinian politics and society and visa versa.
Migdal’s current project is a departure from these two topics, although it uses both as building blocks. He has just finished a book manuscript on the experience of the United States in the Middle East since World War II. The book will probably be called Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East and will appear next fall from Columbia University Press.
Two new projects are now in the stage of gestation. One would be a more general version of Shfiting Sands, expanding to the role of the U.S. in the world since 1945. The second is on American democracy and how the unwritten rules people employ in their interactions with strangers in public space are constructed and challenged, and how they shape the nature of democratic life.