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About us

Our history

The Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics (CMENAP) is part of the Otto-Suhr-Institute for Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin. It was established in 1980 through a five-year funding program by the Volkswagen Foundation. The chair and the interdisciplinary research unit attached to it, constituted a novum in the history of the Freie Universität and were set to research the "Politics and Contemporary History of the Middle East". The Center was headed by Prof. Dr. Friedemann Büttner (†) until his retirement in 2004. In 2007, Prof. Dr. Cilja Harders became the new director.

The center was renamed in 2019 following a critical examination of the German title “Vorderer Orient” (literally: Near Orient). The current name "Arbeitsstelle Politik im Maghreb, Mashreq und Golf" (Center for Middle Eastern and North African politics) emerged as a reflection of the normative orientations guiding the center’s work. These are rooted in  critical, postcolonial and feminist thinking about and beyond the boundaries of Eurocentric views.

Over the years, the Center has been able to cultivate a huge national and international network. It has become a hub for many visiting scholars, researchers, and cooperation partners from Germany and beyond. Network activities include the participation in the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies and the Research Programme: Europe in the Middle East --- the Middle East in Europe.

Our areas of focus

The Centers associates work on and teach the various sub-topics of the field of research “Area Studies / Politics of the Middle East and North Africa”. The research focuses on political and social transformations in the region from Mauritania to Iran. Our goal is to capture the complex dynamics of social, political and economic change both in an empirically and theoretically appropriate way.

In our research, we zoom into political dynamics "from below" in authoritarian contexts, we look at civil society and think about the limits and potentials of regional and international cooperation. We make a point of including critical perspectives on the history of Europe and want to foster a constructive dialogue between the classical disciplines of Area Studies and both Political and Economic Sciences.

Our topics

  • State and statehood: "politics from below", transformation of authoritarianism, local politics, informality
  • transformation of statehood in the global political economy- current protests in the region

  • Affect and emotion in politics: midan moments of movements, affects of authoritarian governance

  • Regional relations: regional conflicts and regional cooperation, political cooperation, intra- and interregional integration, South-South cooperation (GAFTA; MEFTA, GCC)

  • Euro-Mediterranean relations: institutional structure, political dynamics, economic implications

  • Perspectives on the research relationship between the West and the "Orient": postcolonial theories, Orientalism, and development policies

Read more in our Working Paper series: https://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/polwiss/forschung/international/vorderer-orient/publikation/working_papers/index.html.