The recent upheavals in the Arab world have challenged both statist and centrist assumptions of Middle Eastern politics. New social movements in the urban centres, virtual networks as well as actors and actions from the so-called periphery have changed the political landscape of the region within months. Still, these developments are rooted in long-term processes: massive social, political, cultural and economic transformations have – until 2011 – not led to regime change. The dynamics of these “transformations without transitions” (Harders 2009: 301) as well as the current developments, which range between transition to democracy and civil war, deserve a closer look. This contribution maps a research agenda, which accounts for these dynamic, ambivalent and open-ended processes of transformation. It builds on the specific moment of academic, intellectual and political uncertainty, which came with the Arab protest movements of 2011.