MECAM invites a limited number of scholars for shorter research stays of up to two weeks as Visiting Scholars to Tunisia, usually in the context of academic events or upon recommendation by members of MECAM’s community of scholars (especially fellows).

Breaking Taboos as a Political Strategy: Right-wing Populism and Anti-Gender Politics

Date of visit: 3-9.3.2024

Prof. Dr. Annette Henninger is a professor for gender and politics at the University of Marburg. Her areas of expertise include labor market, family and gender equality policies, intersectionality and democracy, and anti-feminist mobilizations.

Dr. Funda Hülagü is a research associate and sessional lecturer at the University of Marburg. Her current research interests include organized anti-feminism in Turkey, anti-gender politics in authoritarian settings and critical theory. Hülagü has several publications on state restructuring in Turkey with a focus on gender politics.

Anti-gender campaigns are spreading globally in the wake of a ‘populist moment’ (Graff/Korolczuk 2021). Right-wing populist actors denounce progressive norms concerning the rights of women and LGBTQI+ individuals as a project of globalized elite. Instead, they appeal to the common sense of ‘the people’ whose will should be represented in politics – and thus apply classical populist strategies (Mudde/Kaltwasser 2017). This paper argues that there have been substantial social struggles and consensus-building processes, which made the concept of gender equality a political norm and its breaking a taboo. By invoking common sense arguments to deliberately break these taboos, right-wing populist actors discredit these progressive norms; alter the dominant political discourse; demoralize the progressive opposition forces, and engineer a ‘politics of fear’ (Wodak 2015) that serves into the hands of a range of retrogressive actors.

Yet, this strategy of norm breaking is not effective at all times and places. Hence, a second objective of this paper is to discuss when and under which socio-economic and politicalcultural conditions these strategies succeed, and when they fail in achieving their goals. We provide a comparative analysis of the conflicts around marriage and divorce politics in Germany and Turkey to discuss the following questions: when does the taboo-breaking act of right-wing populism resonate with the common sense? How do social structures and public opinion affect the perception of norms that are broken? What is the role of political counterdiscourses?

Oil for Food: The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East

Date of visit: 07-12.12.2023

Eckart Woertz is director of the Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES) at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg and professor for contemporary history and politics of the Middle East at the University of Hamburg. His research interests encompass the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa, food security and energy issues. He is author of Oil for Food (Oxford University Press 2013), co-editor of the Water-Energy Food Nexus in the Middle East and North Africa (Routledge 2016) and has published in leading academic journals such as Food Policy, Food Security, Middle East Journal, Mediterranean Politics, The International Journal of Water Resources Development and Globalizations. Besides academic publications he has contributed to numerous consultancy and policy reports for clients in the Middle East and at international organizations. Previously he held positions at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), Sciences Po in Paris, Princeton University and the Gulf Research Center in Dubai and worked for banks in Germany and the United Arab Emirates in equity and fixed income trading.

The talk analyzes agricultural development in countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the postwar decades and how food security has interacted with geopolitical risk factors from the oil crisis of the 1970s to the global food crisis 2007/08 and the impact of the war in Ukraine. Special attention is being paid to interconnections between water and food security and how they interact within the Water-Energy-Food nexus.

Eckart Woertz CIDOB I

Invariant Spinors on Homogeneous Spheres (Joint work with Jordan Hofmann and Marie-Amelie Lawn, London)

Date of visit:   : 31.10-04.11.2023

Prof. Dr. habil. Ilka Agricola is a Professor of Mathematics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Phillips-Universität Marburg, Member of the Senate of Philipps-Universität Marburg, Head of the Vertrauensrat. She is also director of the Collection of Mathematical Models, research area: Differential Geometry and Global Analysis and was President 2021-22 of the DMV (Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung).

The classification of transitive sphere actions induces nine different homogeneous realizations of the sphere. We explain what a homogeneous spin structure is and describe which homogeneous spheres admit one (which is then unique).  In each of the cases we determine the dimension of the space of invariant spinor fields, give their explicit description, and study the underlying related geometric structures depending on the metric.  We will sketch how the highly non-trivial representation theoretic computations are based on a rather unusual description of the spin representation in terms of exterior forms.

The Effect of the “Woman Life Freedom” Protests on Life Satisfaction in Iran: Evidence from Survey Data

Date of visit : 12-17.11.2023

Mohammad Reza Farzanegan is a full professor of Economics of the Middle East at Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS) and the School of Business and Economics of Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany. In Marburg, he is the coordinating professor for international MSc program in “Economics of the Middle East-EMEA”. He is a Research Fellow of the Economic Research Forum (ERF, Cairo) and a member of its Advisory Board. In addition, He is a CESifo Research Network Fellow (Munich) and Executive Secretary of International Iranian Economic Association (IIEA).

We examine the effect of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests in Iran during the last quarter of 2022 on individual life satisfaction. We use two original representative surveys in Iran conducted in 2022 before and during protests. Our results, based on an ordered logit regression analysis for a sample of more than 2,000 individuals, show that the violent protest environment had a significant and negative effect on life satisfaction in Iran. To determine the exposure of the respondents to protests, we calculated the number of protests within a 25km radius of the respondents’ locations. The protest environment reduced the probability of life satisfaction by 3.7 percentage points. Moreover, we find significant heterogeneity among the respondents with respect to their life satisfaction before and after protests. The largest negative impact of the protests on life satisfaction is observed among women, members of working class, and those with primary and tertiary education.


Does current European funding policy in the human sciences influence the global view of the Arab world?

Date of visit : 18-22.10.2023

Prof. Dr. Albrecht Fuess is professor of Islamic Studies at the Centre for Near and Middle East Studies (CNMS) at the Philipps-Universität Marburg since 2010. His main research interests are the history of the Near and Middle East from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries and the contemporary Muslim presence in Europe. He is currently coordinating with Nicolas Michel (Aix) the ANR-DFG project: EGYLandscape. Exploring the historical landscapes of Egypt through the 13th and 18th centuries. Another ongoing project involving him and German colleagues is the reconstruction of the history of Muslims in German through the archives of German mosques.

The relationship between the European Union and the Arab world remains complicated. It is still marked by the effects of colonialism and migration from the Maghreb to Europe. More recently, the Arab Spring, Syrian refugees and illegal migration have dominated European debates. These debates have also found their counterpart in European science funding programmes, which very often follow political orientations.

The contribution will therefore first present European science funding in relation to the Arab world over the last 10 years. It will then show the objectives of the funding and how this funding also shapes the image of the Arab world in Europe and the rest of the world.

Climate Security in West Asia and North Africa: Investigating Risks of Weaponization and Prospects of De-Weaponization

Date of visit : 03-10.09.2023

Amjed Rasheed is a University Lecturer in the Politics of West Asia and North Africa (WANA) in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, and an Associate Fellow at the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme, Durham University.

Using critical security studies as a theoretical framework, this research project aims to explore the relationship between climate resilience, climate security, green recovery and conflict prevention in West Asia and North Africa region, with a focus on case studies from Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunisia. We propose a three-part analysis involving impact assessment, implementation evaluation, and outlook assessment to understand the role of climate resilience in peace and conflict dynamics.

photo MAJED ahmed

Transitional justice in process: plans and politics in Tunisia

Date of visit : 30.10.-05.11.2022

Dr. Mariam Salehi heads the junior research group ’Transnational Conflicts’ at the INTERACT Center for Interdisciplinary Peace and Conflict Research at Freie Universität Berlin. Previously, she was A.SK Social Science Fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and worked at the University of Marburg. Her PhD thesis on the Tunisian transitional justice process won the 2019 dissertation award of the German Middle East Studies Association.

«Transitional justice in process: plans and politics in Tunisia » is the first book to comprehensively study the Tunisian transitional justice process. After the fall of the Ben Ali regime in 2011, Tunisia swiftly began dealing with its authoritarian past and initiated a comprehensive transitional justice process, with the Truth and Dignity Commission as its central institution. However, instead of bringing about peace and justice, transitional justice soon became an arena of contention. Through a process lens, the book explores why and how the transitional justice process evolved, and explains how it relates to the country’s political transition.