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Middle East Centre

The Middle East Centre, founded in 1957 at St Antony’s College is the centre for the interdisciplinary study of the modern Middle East in the University of Oxford. Centre Fellows teach and conduct research in the humanities and social sciences with direct reference to the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, during our regular Friday seminar series, attracting a wide audience, our distinguished speakers bring topics to light that touch on contemporary issues.

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Book Event: On the Arab Jew, Palestine, and Other Displacements

Jacqueline Rose (Birkbeck), Kfir Cohen (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute), Moshe Behar (The University of Manchester), Hakem Al-Rustom (Michigan), Ella Shohat (New York University) discuss at the book event. Chaired by Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College).

1hr 15mins

28 Aug 2018

Rank #1

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Book Launch: Islam: The Essentials

Professor Tariq Ramadan (St Antony's College) launches his new book; Islam: The Essentials on May 9th 2017. Hardly a day goes by without mention of Islam. And yet, for most people, and in much of the world, Islam remains a little-known religion. Whether the issue is violence, terrorism, women's rights or slavery, Muslims are today expected to provide answers and to justify what Islam is - or is not. But little opportunity exists, either in the media or in society as a whole, to describe Islam: precisely the question this short and extremely accessible book sets out to answer. In simple, direct language it will introduce readers to Islam, to its spirituality, its principles, its rituals, its diversity and its evolution.


12 Jun 2017

Rank #2

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Rory McCarthy (Magdalen College, Oxford) and Fabio Merone (Ghent University) give a talk for the Middle East Centre seminar series. Chaired by Michael Willis (St Antony's College).


27 Mar 2017

Rank #3

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The Gulf Crisis

Madawi al-Rasheed (LSE) and Courtney Freer (LSE), give a talk for the Middle East Centre Seminar Series at St Anthony's College Oxford, chaired by Toby Matthiesen (St Anthony's College). Dr Courtney Freer is a Research Officer at the Kuwait Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her work focuses on the domestic politics of the Arab Gulf states, with a particular focus on Islamism and tribalism. Her DPhil thesis at the University of Oxford revised rentier state theory by examining the socio-political role played by Muslim Brotherhood groups in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE; a book version of these findings will be published by Oxford University Press in Spring 2018 under the title Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies. She previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Brookings Doha Center and as a researcher at the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council.Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed is Visiting Professor at the Middle East Centre, London School of Economics. Previously she was Professor of Social Anthropology at King’s College, London and Visiting Research professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on history, society, religion and politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, Middle Eastern Christian minorities in Britain, Arab migration, Islamist movements, state and gender relations, and Islamic modernism. Her latest book Muted Modernists: the Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia was published by Hurst in 2015. Her presentation draws on her forthcoming edited volume: Salman’s Legacy: the dilemmas of a new era published by Hurst and OUP in March 2018.


29 Jan 2018

Rank #4

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And then God created the Middle East and said let there be breaking news

Karl Sharro (architect, satirist and Middle East commentator), gives a seminar for the Middle East Studies Centre. Chaired by Walter Armbrust (St Antony's College). The Middle East is the mysterious land of veils, minarets and Orientalist cliches. Karl Sharro, aka Karl reMarks, talks about his seven year journey of satirising how his enchanted native land is represented in Western media and punditry. From the Arab Spring to the rise and decline of ISIS, Sharro discusses how his online alter ego tackled those delicate topics in tweets, blog posts, memes, animations and badly-drawn cartoons. From a more realistic James Bond movie that depicts him delivering a shipment of tear gas to a repressive regime to his 'one sentence explanation of the rise of ISIS', the talk will cover an eclectic range of subject matter. It closes with Sharro's Occidentalist work, as he returns the favour to the West in the aftermath of Brexit and Trump. The talk is titled after his recent book which was published in July by Saqi Books in London.


7 Dec 2018

Rank #5

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George Antonius Memorial Lecture: Reflections on Three Decades in Pursuit of Palestinian Statehood

Dr Saeb Erekat (Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization) gives the 2019 George Anronius Memorial Lecture. Chaired by Professor Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College).


19 Jun 2019

Rank #6

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Revolution in Iran 1978-1979: Assessments and Reassessments upon the Fortieth Anniversary

Middle East Centre seminar with Touraj Atabaki (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Stephanie Cronin (Oxford University, Siavush Randjbar Daemi (University of St Andrews). Chaired by Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi (University of Oxford) Paper titles and abstracts: Stephanie Cronin (University of Oxford) - The Global 1970s and the Iranian Revolution.The Iranian revolution of 1977-79 has usually been analysed within the confines of national history. This talk rather places both the revolution itself, and the new regime which eventually emerged from it, in their global contexts and historical periods. Beginning with some comments on the nature of revolutions in general, the talk then locates the Iranian revolution in the context of the 'Red Decade' of the 1970s, and the formation of the Islamic republic in the succeeding global period - one of neo-liberalism, authoritarianism and social conservatism.Siavush Randjbar​ Daemi (University of St Andrews) - Bystanders or Participants? The Non-Clerical opposition to the Shah in 1977-1979​​Most scholarly accounts of the Iranian Revolution have focused on the role and agency of the clergy led by Ayatollah Khomeini and its close lay allies. This talk will provide an overview instead of the initiatives and agency of the non-clerical opposition to the Shah from the start of Jimmy-Kerasi in 1977 to the victory of the Revolution. It will note the non-clerical opposition’s role in the initial stages of the revolt against the monarchical regime, as well as the unfruitful attempts by the Shah to bring one of its main components, the National Front, into government. Touraj Atabaki (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam) - Was the Iranian Revolution (1978-1979) Inevitable?

1hr 4mins

1 May 2019

Rank #7

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Women's Rights Research Seminar - From Kurdistan to Europe: Kurdish Literary, Artistic and Cultural Activism by Kurdish Women Intellectuals

Dr Ozlem Belcim Galip (Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow, The School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford) gives a talk for the Middle East Centre seminar series, chaired by Marilyn Booth (Magdalen College). A movement is observable that sees Kurdish migrant women moving from oppression within a traditional, patriarchal society; ethnic oppression; and being stuck between secularism and Islam, to exhibiting a liberated agency that challenges the monolithic perspectives of social power. The aesthetic and intellectual production of Kurdish migrant women, which leads to the empowerment of women and advancement of gender equality in the Kurdish diaspora, has not been the subject of any notable research yet. By going beyond stereotypical portrayals of Kurdish women either reflected as a victim of honour-based violence or someone who suffers war or violent conflict in any Kurdish region, my presentation titled 'From Kurdistan to Europe: Kurdish Literary, Artistic and Cultural Activism by Kurdish Women Intellectuals' examines the activism of Kurdish migrant women in selected host European countries (France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and the UK) in terms of artistic, literary and cultural practices in both the language(s) of the host countries and women's native Kurdish languages. The goal of this presentation is first to reveal the changing dynamics within Kurdish migrant women's mobilization along with their cultural engagements in the selected European states, secondly to examine the integration policies of the selected European countries within a comparative approach, and thirdly to investigate transnational networking and dynamics between Kurdish migrant women (labour migrants/refugees) in Europe, the agents of cultural production in their home countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey) and other European countries.


1 May 2019

Rank #8

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Governing Divided Egypt

Professor Robert Springborg (Italian Institute of International Affairs, Rome), gives a talk for the Middle East Centre seminar series. Robert Springborg is a non-resident Research Fellow of the Italian Institute of International Affairs, Rome. Until October 2013, he was Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, and Program Manager for the Middle East for the Center for Civil-Military Relations. From 2002 until 2008, he held the MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he also served as Director of the London Middle East Institute. Before taking up that Chair, he was Director of the American Research Center in Egypt, University Professor of Middle East Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia; and assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also taught at King’s College, London; University of California, Berkeley; the College of Europe; the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po; and the University of Sydney. In 2016, he was Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative, Kennedy School, and Harvard University. His publications include Mubarak’s Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order; Family Power and Politics in Egypt; Legislative Politics in the Arab World (co-authored with Abdo Baaklini and Guilain Denoeux); Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East first and second editions, (co-authored with Clement M. Henry); Oil and Democracy in Iraq; Development Models in Muslim Contexts: Chinese, ‘Islamic’ and Neo-Liberal Alternatives and several editions of Politics in the Middle East (co-authored with James A. Bill). He co-edited a volume on popular culture and political identity in the Gulf that appeared in 2008. He has published in the leading Middle East journals and was the founder and regular editorialist for The Middle East in London, a monthly journal that commenced publication in 2003. His new book -‘Egypt’ has just been published in October 2017 by Polity Press.


17 Nov 2017

Rank #9

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War crimes, crimes against humanity and territorial fragmentation: are peace and reconstruction possible in Syria?

Ziad Majed discusses his research on the political situation in Syria, which is the focus of his latest publication. Ziad Majed, a Lebanese/French political scientist, is an associate professor of Middle East studies and International Affairs at the American University of Paris. His research focuses on Lebanon, Syria, Political transitions, Consociationalist systems and Political Islam. In 2007, he co-founded the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy. Dr. Majed’s latest publication: Syrie, La révolution orpheline (Syria, the Orphan Revolution), Paris, 2014. He also has two blogs: ziadmajed.blogspot.com (in Arabic) and vendredis-arabes.blogspot.com (French and English).


22 Dec 2017

Rank #10

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European Policy on the Middle East: Making a Difference?

Nick Westcott (Director Royal African Society and Associate at SOAS) gives a talk for the Middle East Studies Centre on 1st February 2019. Chaired by Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College). Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2011 and the European Union pledged to reinforce its foreign policy cooperation, it has struggled to articulate and implement a policy on the Middle East which effectively protects and furthers its interests in the region. It responded swiftly but not very successfully to the Arab Spring; it played a supporting role in the fight against Islamic terrorism, and championed the Iran nuclear deal; but otherwise became a bystander in the growing conflicts in the region; it tried hard to maintain stability and add some momentum in the Israel-Palestine peace process; but it became increasingly obsessed after 2015 with the challenge of migration from and through the region. The paper assesses why it has struggled to formulate a policy, what it has managed to achieve nonetheless, how national and European policies have interacted, why it is increasingly important for the EU to have a coherent policy on the region, and makes proposals for what that policy should be and how it could be made effective.


6 Feb 2019

Rank #11

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Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo

Dr Seth Anziska (Mohamed S. Farsi-Polonsky Lecturer in Jewish-Muslim Relations, University College London), gives a talk for the Middle East Studies Centre. Based on newly declassified international sources, Preventing Palestine charts the emergence of the Middle East peace process, including the establishment of a separate track to deal with the issue of Palestine. At the very start of this process, Anziska argues, Egyptian-Israeli peace came at the expense of the sovereignty of the Palestinians, whose aspirations for a homeland alongside Israel faced crippling challenges. With the introduction of the idea of restrictive autonomy, Israeli settlement expansion, and Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the chances for Palestinian statehood narrowed even further. The first Intifada in 1987 and the end of the Cold War brought new opportunities for a Palestinian state, but many players, refusing to see Palestinians as a nation or a people, continued to steer international diplomacy away from their cause (Princeton University Press).


26 Nov 2018

Rank #12

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The Rise of the Egyptian Middle Class: Socio-Economic Mobility and Public Discontent from Nasser to Sadat

Relli Shechter (St Antony’s College) gives a talk for the Middle East Centre, on 29th January 2019. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Egypt experienced swift economic growth-the result of a regional oil boom. Oddly, this economic growth hardly registered in Egyptian public discourse, which continuously claimed that the country was experiencing multiple economic crises that became social and cultural crises, as well. In my lecture, and based on a recently published book, I investigate this discrepancy. I document the massive socio-economic mobility in Egypt by analysing relevant statistical data and ethnographic evidence, indicating the changes in the employment structure and the spread of mass consumption. I later examine a wide array of cultural resources, such as Egyptian academic writing, the press, the cinema and the literature, in which critics lamented 'what went wrong' in Egypt. The narrative suggested here offers a local version of a wider, Middle Eastern and international story-the global formation of middle-class societies, whose members strive for respectable lives with only partial success.


8 Mar 2019

Rank #13

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Hirak: A roundtable on the Algerian protests

Roundtable discussion looking at the Algerian protests. With Michael Willis (St Antony’s College), James McDougall (Trinity College), Hicham Yezza (Ceasefire Magazine) and Latefa Guemar (University of East London). Since late February, millions of Algerians have been taking to the streets of towns and cities across the country in massive, peaceful, weekly demonstrations. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose projected candidacy for a fifth term of office sparked the protests, has resigned. Two former Prime Ministers have been referred to the Supreme Court on corruption charges, several of the country’s most prominent businessmen close to Bouteflika’s circle have been arrested, and the last two chiefs of the internal security services are in jail. New presidential elections that were to be managed by a caretaker government have been cancelled in the face of popular pressure. This round table will be an opportunity to discuss these extraordinary, ongoing events, their origins and possible outcomes.Speakers: Michael Willis (St Antony’s College), James McDougall (Trinity College), Hicham Yezza (Ceasefire Magazine), Latefa Guemar (University of East London).


20 Jun 2019

Rank #14

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The Syrian Conflict

Raphael Lefevre (New College, Oxford) and Kevin Mazur (Nuffield College, Oxford) discuss the ongoing Syrian conflict on 20th January 2017.


1 Feb 2017

Rank #15

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The Middle East: Should We Give Up?

Joost Hiltermann (International Crisis Group), gives a talk for the Middle East Centre Friday Seminar Series on 25th January 2019. Professor Eugene Rogan chairs. In many places in the Middle East, and in various ways, the region’s people continue to thrive: in business, art, music and other fields. Yet Middle Eastern states are undergoing a profound social and political transformation in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings and the civil wars these sprouted. The region has seen the collapse of state systems and, in some cases, the return of inherently brittle 'fierce' states, while others are merely trying to stay afloat. Never coherent as a cultural, much less a political, entity, the region is coming apart at the seams. External actors, in Europe and elsewhere, are substantially affected by what is happening. But is there a role for these actors in halting and even reversing the downward slide, given the enormity of the challenge and a history of destructive external intervention? And if so, how should they go about doing so?


1 Feb 2019

Rank #16

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Situating the Study of Islam in Global Intellectual History: Toshihiko Izutsu's Middle-Earth

Armando Salvatore (McGill University) gives a talk as part of the following conference: Neither Near Nor Far: Encounters and Exchanges between Japan and the Middle East. The lecture investigates the contribution to the study of Islam by a non-Muslim, yet non-Western and non-Eurocentric personality, the Japanese linguist and philosopher Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1993). It traces Izutsu's original trajectory from his early practice of Zen Buddhism, through his discovery of the religious fervour of Greek philosophers, to his exploration of the spiritual and intellectual powerhouse represented by Islam as enacting a historical culmination of prophetic speech. It shows how this powerhouse represented for Izutsu a veritable Middle-Earth bridging Western (Abrahamic) and Eastern cultural and religious traditions and making obsolete the rigid geo-cultural divide on which their mutual radical divergence was premised. The lecture reflects on how the work of Izutsu has become a game changer in a variety of locales thanks to his power to help breaking through an increasingly suffocating short-circuit: the obsessive face-to-face between Western and Islamic views, between Euro-American academia and the Middle East, leading to an inconclusive and circular game of irenic openings and deep-sited conflicts. This unique development underscores the possibility for a scholar of the calibre of Izutsu to redesign the global intellectual map of the study of Islam also by relying on obvious failures and fissures in the Western monopoly of knowledge on the Middle East. By doing so, he contributed to institute vital, direct, and mutually enlivening scholarly connections between Japan and the Middle East.


29 May 2019

Rank #17

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The Iraq War Inquiry - a study in contemporary political, diplomatic, military and reconstruction history

The seminar will consider the Iraq Inquiry’s origins, terms of reference, mode of operation, and issues which arose in the course of its work, in framing its conclusions, and on its publication and reception.

1hr 16mins

8 Feb 2019

Rank #18

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Lords of the Desert: Britain’s struggle with America to dominate the Middle East

James Barr (King's College London) gives a talk for the Middle East Centre, chaired by Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College). Thanks to the now-infamous 1953 conspiracy to oust Iran’s prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, the prevailing wisdom is that Britain and America colluded in the Middle East. In his talk James Barr will challenge this assumption, arguing the opposite was in fact the case: in the quarter century following the battle of El Alamein in 1942, Britain and America were invariably competitors and often outright rivals.


13 Nov 2018

Rank #19

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The Conflict in Libya

Lydia Sizer (Libya Analyst MENAS), Mary Fitzgerald (Journalist and Author) and John Hamilton (Cross Border Information) discuss the conflict in Libya on 27th January 2017.

1hr 5mins

1 Feb 2017

Rank #20