Legitimacy, along with security and democracy, is arguably one of the most widely used global buzzwords of our new millennium. The most dramatic focus of the battle for political legitimacy has been the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the 2010–2011 Arab uprisings, yet that battle began well before the Tunisian trigger event on 17 December 2010, when street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in Sidi-Bouzid. It has been waged, often violently, in countries as diverse as Algeria, Turkey,Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine and Israel since at least the 1990s and in many cases earlier.Intellectuals have long been targeted by authoritarian regimes whose legitimacy they challenge, and those targetings are impacting directly on us as we prepare this special issue of Global Discourse. Severe restrictions of academic freedom are experienced by our colleagues in Egypt, where strategies of intimidation of academics, journalists and intellectuals range from bans on entering the country (for those living abroad) to bans on travelling, intimidation, attempts to co-opt and even forced disappearances, detentions, torture and assassination. While the period from 2011 to 2013 witnessed an eruption of freedom and pluralism in Egypt, since 2013 there has been a restriction of the public sphere under neo-authoritarian rule (Jaquemond 2016; Fahmy 2016).However, Egypt is not the only country where academic freedom is under threat.Turkish colleagues are being persecuted by their government for speaking out against the latter’s treatment of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens. Several international petitions in protest have been launched in both cases. Within the international political science community, the decision by the executive of the International Political Science Association, concerned about the security of delegates, to relocate its 2016 conference from Istanbul to the Polish city of Poznań has sparked considerable controversy, having been seen by some Turkish colleagues as desolidarisation and by others as a signal of solidarity. Even within our own intellectual communities, legitimacy has become a vexed question.