New Faculty Feature: Meet Visiting Scholar Ellis Goldberg

January 30, 2013

There are more than 180 faculty members at Harvard Kennedy School, and every semester we are fortunate to welcome a few new ones.

We asked those joining us for this spring semester a few questions – about their research, their teaching, their other interests – so they could introduce themselves to the Kennedy School community in their own words.

Professor Ellis Goldberg is the first Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar. Goldberg, whose home institution is the University of Washington, was a Guggenheim Fellow at Princeton University in fall 2012. A Harvard College class of 1967 graduate, he will return to Harvard this spring following several years living and working in Egypt.

Q: What are your primary areas of research?

Goldberg: My primary areas of research are citizenship and community. Most of my empirical interests are in Egypt, but I think the question of how people come to recognize which others can keep commitments is important everywhere. I’m especially interested in what kinds of obligations citizens of a country feel they have to each other as citizens.

I also have a project on how Egyptian jurists in the early 20th century understood the rule of law. They had some very sophisticated ideas and were part of a global movement which engaged in some intellectual cross-discussion, which included Roscoe Pound, the Harvard Law School Dean. It’s fascinating because I think they were arguing that Max Weber’s notion of law was wrong, but unfortunately their voices have never really penetrated the social sciences.

Q: What courses will you be teaching?

Goldberg: I’m teaching DPI-443 on the politics of the Arab spring. We’ll be critically examining the arguments scholars and policy makers have made about the Arab spring and gaining a deeper empirical knowledge of the events of the last two years. As of now we still don’t even agree on whether we’re watching revolutions or democratic transitions.

Q: What attracted you to Harvard Kennedy School?

Goldberg: The Harvard Kennedy School has wonderful as well as justly celebrated faculty and the large Harvard community is the best group of colleagues studying the contemporary Middle East.

Q: How can the work being done here at HKS help address some of the world’s most significant public policy challenges?

Goldberg:  HKS plays a very important role in the work that the faculty do but also in bringing together students and practitioners from all over the world to discuss problems.  I’m not very familiar with HKS or the policy world but I think the diversity of courses, approaches and students is crucial for having an impact.  That and the tradition of critical inquiry.

Q: What are you currently reading?

Goldberg: I’m reading memoirs of ministers in the initial transitional governments in Egypt and Hilary Mantel’s novel "A Place of Greater Safety."

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Ellis Goldberg, Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar

Ellis Goldberg, Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar

"The Harvard Kennedy School has wonderful as well as justly celebrated faculty and the large Harvard community is the best group of colleagues studying the contemporary Middle East," writes Goldberg.