AboutRead about Prof. Gest's background.
CVDownload a curriculum vitae.
PublicationsBrowse books and research articles.
LinksConnect to affiliates.


gest_300Justin Gest is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs. His teaching and research interests include comparative politics, minority political behavior, and immigration policy.

In the field of minority political behavior, his earlier research focused on Muslim political behavior in Western democracies. This work was collected in Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2010). He is currently writing a follow up study that applies his conclusions to white working class people. This work is entitled The New Minority: White Working Class Politics and Marginality.

In the field of comparative immigration politics, his research compares immigration regimes across 50 countries worldwide. This work is being collected in a forthcoming monograph entitled Crossroads of Migration: A Global Approach to National Policy Differences (Cambridge University Press). He is pursuing related work on political incorporation, migrants’ rights frameworks, and immigration policy as part of the International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) Database.

His research has been published or is forthcoming in journals including Citizenship Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Global Governance, Global Policy, the International Migration Review, Migration Studies, and the Review of Middle Eastern Studies. He has also published commentary, analysis or contributed reporting to a number of newspapers including The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Times, Los Angeles Times, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Houston Chronicle.

From 2010 to 2014, Professor Gest was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in Harvard University’s Department of Government. In 2014, he received the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize, Harvard’s highest award for teaching. In 2013, he received the 2013 Star Family Prize for Student Advising, Harvard’s highest award for student advising. From 2007 to 2010, while a doctoral student, he co-founded and served as the co-director of the Migration Studies Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

He is a product of Los Angeles Unified School District’s University High School in West Los Angeles, where he grew up. He later earned his bachelor’s degree in Government at Harvard University and his PhD in Government from the LSE.

Curriculum Vitae


Boucher, Anna and Justin Gest. Forthcoming. Crossroads of Migration: A Global Approach to National Differences. Contracted by Cambridge University Press.


This books asks how to better define immigration policy regimes across countries, and seeks to explain why countries regulate the movement of people in such different ways. Using international demographic data, this book examines a series of immigration policy outcomes across 50 different countries. We first synthesize them into a new typology based on five primary variables—total migrant stock, annual migrant flows, visa distribution, temporary/permanent migration ratio and naturalization rates. With this new classification in hand, we then run an analysis to explain what drives countries' pursuit of different models. The results will provide a valuable public database, a data-driven regime typology, and a powerful conclusion about the key determinants of international migration governance.
Gest, Justin. 2010. Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West. New York: Oxford University Press / Hurst and Co.


Apart explores why many Western Muslims are disaffected, why others are engaged, and why some seek to undermine the very political system that remains their primary means of inclusion. Based on research conducted in London's East End and Madrid's Lavapies district, and drawing on over 100 interviews with community elders, imams, extremists, politicians, gangsters, and ordinary people just trying to get by, Justin Gest examines young Muslim men's daily existences. Confronting conventional explanations that point to inequality, discrimination and religion, he builds a new theory arguing that alienated and engaged political behavior is distinguished not by structural factors, but by how social agents interpret their shared realities. Filled with counterintuitive conclusions, Apart sounds an unambiguous warning to Western policy-makers, and presages an imminent American experience with the same challenges. How both governments and people discipline their fear and understand their Muslim fellows may shape democratic social life in the foreseeable future.

To buy Apart, Click here.

International Affairs: "A rich, groundbreaking work which researchers and government officials alike will find both valuable and challenging."

To view a PDF of this review, click here.

Global Policy: "An important contribution in relation to understanding a much maligned and misunderstood body of people. ...It deserves to be widely read."

To view a PDF of this review, click here.

International Journal for Middle Eastern Studies: “For its policy relevance and thorough examination of two significant Muslim communities, I recommend this book to scholars of minority studies, those interested in policy matters related to minorities, and to everyone who wants to gain some perspective on Western Muslim men—their experiences, hopes, struggles, humanity, and complexity.”

To view a PDF of this review, click here.
Beine, Michel, Brian Burgoon, Mary Crock, Justin Gest, Michael Hiscox, Patrick McGovern, Hillel Rapoport, Joep Schaper and Eiko Thielemann. Forthcoming. "Comparing Immigration Policies: An Overview from the IMPALA Database" International Migration Review


This paper introduces a method and preliminary findings from a database that systematically measures the character and stringency of immigration policies. Based on a selection of that data for nine countries between 1999 and 2008, we challenge the idea that any one country is systematically the most or least restrictive towards admissions. The data also reveal trends towards more complex and, often, more restrictive regulation since the 1990s, as well as differential treatment of groups, such as lower requirements for highly-skilled than low-skilled labor migrants. These patterns illustrate the IMPALA data and methods but are also of intrinsic importance to understanding immigration regulation.
Gest, Justin. Forthcoming. "Introducing Pro- and Anti-System Behavior: A Complementary Approach to Voice and Silence" Citizenship Studies.


This paper re-conceptualizes political behavior to connect the sociological approach to alienation and the political scientific approach to engagement as two sides of the same coin. I argue that each approach only deals with half of a coherent phenomenon. Accordingly, I introduce a more comprehensive approach to political activity and passivity—voice and silence. I begin by elaborating three selected cases—Western Muslims, European Roma, and white working class people in Europe and the United States. These cases are employed throughout the article to provide a diversity of political behavior that the new model must accommodate in its conceptualization. Once the cases are introduced, I consider existing understandings of voice and silence in democracies. To address under-theorized behavior on democracies' periphery, I then define active and passive anti-system behavior as observable manifestations of political alienation, and contrast them with current understandings of civic engagement. This allows me to extend current classifications of political behavior beyond mere activity and inactivity to account for pro-system and anti-system orientations.
Boucher, Anna and Justin Gest. Forthcoming. "Migration Studies at a Crossroads: A Critique of Immigration Regime Typologies" Migration Studies.


International migration and its scientific examination have reached a crossroads. Today, migrants are pursuing opportunities in new destination societies with growing economies and alternative forms of governance from democratic states—transformations that complicate established understandings about national immigration models and their evolution. In light of these transformations, this article reviews the field of migration studies and its sketching of immigration patterns in the contemporary period. It critically examines existing systems of classification in a way that creates space for revised approaches. In doing so, this article identifies three key limitations with existing approaches. First, existing classifications largely focus on Western states, and especially traditional destination countries. Second, existing classifications are weakened by unclear or poorly defined indicators. Finally, even those classifications with improved indicators are hindered by approaches that examine admission and citizenship/settlement regimes independently of each other, ignoring a possible migration-integration policy nexus.
Gest, Justin. Forthcoming. "Reluctant Pluralists: Western Muslims and Essentialist Identity Structures" Ethnic and Racial Studies.


An emerging consensus amongst scholars of Muslim identity suggests that Western Muslims live out an anti-essentialist critique of identity construction. In considering this view, this article examines evidence from a cross-national comparison of British Bangladeshis in London and Spanish Moroccans in Madrid that solicits the perceptions of working class Muslim men. While the results indeed re-affirm respondents' concomitant relationships to a variety of identity paradigms, interview content demonstrates that subjects' multiplicity is complicated by their desire to meet-not reject-the essentialist standards of belonging to identity paradigms discursively available to them. Rather than defiantly cherry-picking preferred characteristics of religion, ethnicity and nationality, individuals' responses suggest that they are trying to fulfill perceived standards of authenticity. Such a contention helps explain the prevalence of Western Muslims' expressed and well-documented "identity crisis," suggests the enduring relevance of identity essentialisms, and more broadly, complicates post-modern conceptions of identity formation.

Click here to view this article.
Gest, Justin, Anna Boucher, Suzanna Challen, Brian Burgoon, Eiko Thielemann, Michel Beine, Patrick McGovern, Mary Crock, Hillel Rapoport, and Michael Hiscox. 2014. "Measuring and Comparing Immigration Policies Globally: Challenges and Solutions" Global Policy, 5 (3).


Academics and policy makers require a better understanding of the variation of policies that regulate global migration, asylum and immigrant naturalization. At present, however, there is no comprehensive cross-national, time-series data- base of such policies, rendering the analysis of policy trends across and within these areas difficult at best. Several new immigration databases and indices have been developed in recent years. However, there is no consensus on how best to conceptualize, measure and aggregate migration policy indicators to allow for meaningful comparisons through time and across space. This article discusses these methodological challenges and introduces practical solutions that involve historical, multi-dimensional, disaggregated and transparent conceptualizing, measuring and compiling of cross-national immigration policies. Such an approach informs the International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) database.
Wong, Tom K. and Justin Gest. 2014. "Organizing Disorder: Indexing Migrants' Rights and International Migration Policy" Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, 27 (2).


Amidst a flurry of scholarly attempts to code the universe of immigration policy across countries, this article discusses the state of this field and reflects on best practices in developing indicators. We critique the International Migrants Bill of Rights indicators and consider available methods for social science and legal analysis.
Gest, Justin, Carolyn Armstrong, Elizabeth Carolan, Elliott Fox, Vanessa Holzer, Tim McLellan, Audrey Cherryl Mogan and Meher Talib. 2013. "Mapping the Process of International Norm Emergence: Migrants and Minority Rights Agendas" Global Governance 19 (1).


This article provides a systematic understanding of international norm emergence and illuminates the various strategic pathways to altering global dialogue and standards of practice. It traces the steps leading to global norm emergence and identifies the range of conditions that are necessary or sufficient for potential norms to move from one step to the next. Accordingly, it analyzes the progress of six separate international norm agendas to develop a more systematic understanding of the process of global norm creation, which can be applied to fledgling efforts to establish a new regime of international migrants' rights. Based on this examination, it introduces a typology that categorizes the stages of norm development and the range of possible outcomes.

Click here to view this article.
Gest, Justin. 2013. "Divided or Conquered: The Challenges of Organizational Life for Muslims in Europe," Chapter in Kerstin Rosenow and Matthias Kortmann (eds.), Islamic Organizations in Europe and the United States, Palgrave Macmillan.


Contrary to their conventional treatment as a monolithic group with similar political habits and ideals, contemporary European Muslim communities have proven to be quite organizationally active in the their local political sphere in some venues, and disengaged in others. Far from a paradox, such competing depictions reflect how European Muslim communities are confronted by different challenges to their political organization in different venues. This chapter asks how we can understand these challenges to political organization and how we can explain divergent forms of political behavior. It begins with a brief discussion of the methods used to examine the communities of interest. It then introduces and discusses the evidence emerging from a case study of British Bangladeshis, and subsequently, a case study of Spanish Moroccans. It then concludes by considering the implications of the findings from the field.
Gest, Justin. 2012. "Western Muslim Integration" Review of Middle Eastern Studies, 46 (2).


Are Western Muslims integrating? Can Western Muslims integrate? Over the past 20 years, significant attention has been invested in examinations stimulated by the extensive public commentary addressing such questions. This review takes steps to demystify the examination of Western Muslims' integration in the interest of re-embedding this subject matter in the broader scholarship about immigration and settlement. The dialogue between qualitative and quantitative approaches provides research openings to more rigorously push the state of knowledge in this area, and some of these openings are described below. In pursuing these openings, we must be wary of reproducing Western Muslims' otherwise exceptional treatment in the public sphere and careful not to dignify baseless claims about Muslims that assume a priori that Islamic religiosity influences the attitudes of individuals and communities in ways that are different from other religions, and to embed examinations of contemporary Muslims in larger debates about integration. Through a cursory survey of key integration indicators, we see that Western Muslims and their descendants are actually integrating into destination societies the way others did before them.

To view a PDF of this article, click here.
Gest, Justin. 2011. "Avoiding Evasion: Implementing International Migration Policy," Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, 24 (4).


Despite the broadening range of international arbiters of global migration, the state-with its sovereign control of its territory and its subjection to the politics of its society-remains the only arbiter that oversees the actual interactions during which a migrants rights agenda would be followed. Premised on this uncompromising truth, this article will first outline the debate about the role of international law in shaping national migration policies. It will next examine (a) the ways that states have been able to clutch their national sovereignty in matters pertaining to migration, and (b) the ways that international normative pressure has superseded state control. With these lessons of history and political structure in mind, this article will then consider avenues of implementation. In the end, I will argue that rather than portray migrants rights agendas as new acts of international law that states should approve, they should be framed as a selection of fundamental entitlements that are lifted from existing regimes to which states are currently subject. In this manner, migrant rights simply need to ask for adherence to laws that state governments have already enacted. This resolution enables activists to circumvent the backyard politics that have poisoned efforts to coordinate globalized standards in the sphere of migration law.

Click here to view this article.
Gest, Justin. 2011. "Explaining Muslim Sociopolitical Alienation in Western Democracies," in Francois Foret and Xabier Itcaina (eds.), The Politics of Religion in Western Europe, ECPR Press.


Even while popular perceptions portray Islam and its European followers to be a thoroughly antimodern community reluctant to conform to the ultramodern, secular, liberal individualism of the West, a variety of scholars have quite astutely cut through the discourse to recognize a religious community that is very much embedded in and actively participating in European modernity. It is therefore perplexing that explorations of European Muslims' "alienation" from their local democratic system focus on explanations that fail to take proper account of this modernity. Over the past 20 years, a plethora of studies incorporating diverse methods in different disciplines have examined the same general dependent variable-alienation and disengagement among European Muslims. In this chapter, I will critically review these four streams of argumentation, each of which points to certain structural circumstances. In the end, I find each of them to be insufficient in determining why, among young Muslims facing largely the same circumstances, some engage or accept the political system and others reject it. In response, I hypothesize that different behavioral reactions to the same set of sociopolitical conditions is dependent on individual perceptions, which tint interpretations and expectations about shared disadvantages. This conclusion opens the door to a reconsideration of the institutionalist-structuralist account of alienation, toward the development of a more reflective and normative depiction that engages the political beliefs of the individual. This hypothesis embraces the plurality, reflexivity, and individual autonomy embodied by the competitive cultural programs of European modernity.

Click here to view this chapter.