Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Dov Waxman

Subject Categories

Political Science


In much of the political science literature, lobbying is conceptualized as a strategic attempt to influence policy. Policy actors are seen as independent agents competing to achieve policy outcomes that closely resemble their preferences. This understanding of policymaking has acquired a taken-for-granted nature and is therefore seldom questioned. The discourse of policy advocacy as a bargaining process has becomes, in part, a constraining discourse, leading academic inquiry to focus on questions of tactics and policy outcomes and ignore questions of how the policy process itself shapes and influences actors' identities and behavior.

Understood in purely strategic terms, Muslim American foreign policy advocacy post- 9/11 seems puzzling, since it appears to confirm the perception of Muslims as outsiders concerned not with American interests, but with those of other nations. This work argues that in order to explain why Muslim American organizations continue, and in some cases intensify, their lobbying on U.S. foreign policy, we must problematize the way lobbying and policy engagement have been traditionally theorized. Rethinking policymaking as a number of acts through which actors perform and communicate a particular identity can have important implications for our understanding of the policymaking process and the role interest groups play in that process.

I will present an in-depth case study of the two existing Muslim American interest groups, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), focusing in particular on their post-9/11 foreign policy advocacy. The primary goal of this paper is to analyze how CAIR and MPAC are (re)presenting Muslim American identity through the various policy acts in which they engage. I argue that examining these acts will help us better understand how, and what kind of, Muslim American identity is being performed. Methodologically, this paper relies on a critical discourse analysis approach. Consequently, the data sources examined and used to illustrate this argument are the policy discourse produced by these organizations, which include policy reports and recommendations, public statements, action alerts, op-eds, and qualitative interviews.