[ The Arabist has commented, so why not I? ]
Harvard’s MESH blog is an important resource for scholars and for students of the Near and Middle East. It is nevertheless heavily biased, particularly on Levantine affairs, and its discussion of the Maghreb is grossly underdeveloped. This is perhaps a reflection of American Middle Eastern studies generally, in which the study of the Levant is both emotionally and ideologically skewed from several vantage points, each competing with the other for the ear of policy makers, the media and students. This leaves the study of the Maghreb to be engaged only in passing, usually as it relates to some facet of whatever wrangling the Levant has found itself in. Compared to European analyses of the the MENA region, such assessments are vastly inferior, if at all present.
It also has a curious habit of publishing shoddy postings by Raymond Ibrahim or other authors who peddle crude, base and grudging analysis of the region and its religions and peoples. It bears a heavy ideological bias towards Israel, and many of its contributors tend towards the right. This is not to say that the contributions of MESH’s members are not valuable. Much of the work found on MESH is of the highest quality and offers readers important insights into the region.
But it is lacking in diversity in the sense that it includes few North Africa specialists and rarely discusses the region. Following with this lack of specialists, it also includes a lack of postings on the Maghreb all together. Searching MESH for “Algeria,” and “Morocco,” turn up four posts, none of which deal directly with those countries. “North Africa,” “Maghreb/Maghrib,” and “Tunisia” all turn up no postings. Libya returns several postings, all of which mention it only in passing or in the context of its former nuclear program. This lack of interest is characteristic of American Middle East studies, where the “MENA” region often extents only so far as interest in Israel, Palestine or one’s personal ethno-religious background can be examined, as opposed to American national interests or regional and global trends. Therefore, MESH is guilty of geographic bias to the same extent that most MENA/ME specialists and centers are. At the same time, it reflects many of the worst of its contributors in its heavy ideological bias. Not all of its posts are so dreadful, but one must take care to parce through them, else he becomes rather quickly dissolutioned with it.