Odense Lectures in Contemporary Research on the Modern Middle East

In launching this new series of lectures, the Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense attempts to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of ongoing research on the modern Middle East in Denmark and beyond. The series will invite younger and more senior researchers in order to facilitate a national exchange on contemporary research on the Middle East conducted in Denmark. The lectures will take place at 16:00-18:00 on the last Thursday in the months of September to November and February to April.

Lecture on November 25

Program: Fall 2010

Thursday, 30 september, 16.15 - 18.00 (Room U91)

The Anti-Coup Legal Investigations in Turkey: What Exactly is Going On?
Necati Polat, Department of International Relations, METU (Middle East Technical University) Ankara.

The recent political climate in Turkey has been strongly branded, concomitantly with a deep imprint of a split in the society, by allegations of a number of military and paramilitary gangs supported by elements within the bureaucracy. The gangs, purportedly active since at least the late 2002, when the ruling political party came into power, have allegedly aimed to create far-reaching chaos and uncertainty in the country with the objective of creating a fertile ground for a possible military takeover in the face of a debilitated government. Various legal investigations into the matter, under way since 2007, increasingly take the form of a bewildering maze, eliciting both shocking alarm and incredulity from the observers; hence the ongoing abysmal split in the society. This lecture seeks to situate the main allegations in this mammoth legal case in a context and address some of the critical comments, which tend to view the allegations as no more than a mere government conspiracy to suppress the opposition.

Necati Polat teaches international law, theories of international politics and the philosophy of social science. His most recent publications include “Peace as War,” in Alternatives: Global, Local, Political (Vol. 35, No. 3, 2010), and “European Integration as Colonial Discourse,” in Review of International Studies (Vol. 36, No. 4, 2010).

Thursday, 28 oktober, 16.15 - 18.00 (Room U91)

Behind the Ramadan dinners in the Danish Parliament - The Gülen-movement and the embedding of Turkish Islam in a Danish context.
Jens Stensgaard Jakobsen, cand.scient.anth. External lecturer at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies (ToRS), University of Copenhagen. Jens has written his Master’s thesis on the Gülen-movement on the basis of a six months fieldwork among followers of the movement. Further, Jens works with issues relating to the school-to-work transition among young New Danes and the relationship between religion and social mobility.

The lecture relates how the Fethullah Gülen-movement was founded in Turkey, how it became globalized and how it is being embedded in Danish contexts. At the same time it raises some of the questions spurred by the presence of the movement in Denmark: What does it mean to be a Danish Muslim? What is Danish secularism? What are the implications of the non-secular relationship between the Danish state and Church for Muslims living in Denmark? 


Thursday, 25 November, 16.15 - 18.00 (Room U91)

Putting on display – on the makings of politics and political subjects in Turkey.
Daniella Kuzmanovic, PhD, Assistant Professor, Turkish section, Institute for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, The New Islamic Public Spheres Programme, University of Copenhagen.

Conspiracy thinking has become a prominent feature of the way in which people engage with politics also in Turkey. But conspiracy taps into a broader understanding of politics as consisting of the visible and the hidden. In Turkey, as elsewhere in the Middle East, politics as defined by ‘what is going on behind the scenes,’ and as being comprehendable only if one is able to discern relations between a visible front stage and (semi)hidden back schemes, are prevalent popular notions. People who think otherwise are perceived as naïve. But how are we to understand the phenomenon of conspiracy thinking then. Should we simply dismiss it as ‘pathological’ or an anomaly hindering the development of political culture as has often been put forth? This presentation instead argues that conspiracy thinking must be taken seriously as a particular and central form of political subject formation, and explores how through ethnographic fieldwork material from Turkey.

Program: Spring 2010

Thursday, 25 February, 16.00 – 18.00 (Room U91)

Iran in the Gulf: Dynamics in a Tri-polar Region

Gulshan Dietl (Visiting professor SDU, spring 2010, Former Director of the Gulf Studies Program at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

The Gulf possesses all the three essential attributes of a region - contiguity, commonality and connectedness – even if in varying degrees. Iran, Iraq and the Saudi-led GCC constitute a triangular power balance in the Gulf. Today, Iran finds itself in a comfortable situation in the regional dynamics. The Gulf, however, is also the most war-prone region having witnessed three wars in the last three decades; and it is the most penetrated region in the world having external powers permanently poised there. Finally, the regions are ill-defined, overlapping and open to extra-regional ambitions and concerns.

Gulshan Dietl areas of teaching and research are domestic developments, foreign policies and security issues in the Gulf and West Asia. Her publications include; The Dulles Era: America Enters West Asia (Lancer International, New Delhi, 1985), Through Two Wars and Beyond: A Study of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Lancer Books, New Delhi, 1991), Saudi Arabia: People, Politics and Policies (National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2006), and Contemporary Saudi Arabia and the Emerging Indo-Saudi Relations ( Shipra Publications, New Delhi, 2007; Co-edited).

Thursday, 25 March, 16.00 – 18.00 (Room U91)

‘Gulf Rising. Developmental patterns in the resource rich economies of the Arab Gulf Region’

Martin Hvidt, (Associate Professor, Center for Middle East Studies, SDU)

The GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) have attracted considerable attention over the last decade because of their rise as a global, economic and political player – a trend that has continued after the advent of the credit crisis in 2008. This has resulted in a call for scholarly attention to the historical background of growth in the region, the specific development strategies pursued and not least their current developmental aims in order to estimate the possibly future growth trajectory of these countries. This presentation will discuss those issues and forward preliminary findings.

Martin Hvidt is a geographer and economist focusing on developmental issues within the Middle Eastern region. He has researched the specific developmental model found in Dubai and is currently researching variations in developmental strategies, - patterns, and outcomes among the six GCC countries in order to establish empirical and theoretical explanations as to why such divergence in patterns has emerged over time. His most current writings encompass “The Dubai Model: An outline of key development-process elements in Dubai.” International Journal of Middle East Studies. Vol. 41, No. 3, August 2009 p. 397-418 and “Public – private ties and their contribution to development. The case of Dubai.” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4, July 2007. p. 557-577.

Thursday, 29 April, 16.00 – 18.00 (Room U91)

'Engaging the Past - Historicity and Political Imagination in Contemporary Bahrain'

Thomas Brandt Fibiger (Ph.D Fellow, Aarhus University)

This presentation, which is based on my PhD dissertation, discusses uses and perceptions of the past in present Bahrain. In the unsettled politics of this heterogeneous Gulf society, interpretations and appropriations of the past is a source of contested legitimacies. In my dissertation, I explore the relationship between past and present and how people today employ various pasts to make sense of their present and future, and I focus especially on the role of the past in present political imagination. Inspired by the ethnographic notion of historicity (Hirsch/Stewart 2005), I study how these pasts may be present through different genres: writings as well as events such as religious or national festivals, forums such as the matam or majlis, and places such as historical or religious sites. I argue that historicity, seen in this way, play an important role in the political imagination in modern Bahrain and that a further understanding of this variety of pasts in the present will deepen the understanding of identity formation in the Gulf.

Thomas Fibiger is a PhD student at Aarhus University, Section of Anthropology and Ethnography. He has carried out field work in Bahrain over a number of periods 2003-2009, primarily focused on uses of the past in the present. He is due to submit his PhD in 2010.

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