Dr. Jeffrey Sachs
I am an historian and political scientist focusing on the Middle East. I arrived at Acadia in 2017 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Simon Fraser University. My PhD is from McGill University (Islamic Studies). I am also a graduate of the University of Rochester (Political Science) and the University of Chicago (Middle East Studies).
I have two major research areas. The first focuses on law, legal reform, and judicial politics in the Middle East, particularly Sudan and Egypt. Broadly, I’m interested in the function of law and courts in colonial and authoritarian regimes. Do they actually do anything? Or are they just window-dressing? My research explores how unelected leaders use the law to consolidate their rule, manage dissent, and shape policy outcomes. I also focus on the impact of these processes on shari’a and the way it is handled within Islamic legal institutions. My work on these topics has been published in journals like Law & Society Review and Law & Social Inquiry, among others.
My other research agenda concerns issues surrounding speech and academic freedom on college campuses in North America. Is there a “free speech crisis” in higher ed? Do professors brainwash their students? And are students scared to speak their minds? I have written widely on these questions, both in scholarly press and popular media.
TEACHING & PEDAGOGY
My teaching covers a range of courses and topics in the History & Classics and Politics departments, including Islamic political and intellectual history, social movements, authoritarian politics, and Middle Eastern history and politics. I also teach a number of introductory courses, including HIST 1423: Global History after 1500 and POLS 1303: Introduction to Law, Politics and Government.
I believe strongly in the value of a liberal arts education and the critical analysis of texts. My courses tend to involve close reading of documents and images, student debates and presentations, and in-depth research papers. I also work hard to link course content to contemporary events, even when the topic of our lectures happened hundreds of years ago. The point, as always, is to show students how deeply their own lives are affected by politics and historical events.
I am happy to supervise students interested in a range of topics, including Middle Eastern history or politics, authoritarianism and democratization, comparative politics, Islam, and religion and politics.