→ This text presents the analytical framework for Noria’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Why another MENA Program?

The Middle East may be the most studied geographic area in the field of international politics. Indeed, you will hardly find a think tank, university department, risk analysis firm, or public policy institute without a team or unit focused explicitly on the region. As a result, the literature produced on Middle Eastern and North African societies never ceases growing. Why, then, has Noria decided to enter the fray, and what does it intend to add to a discourse seemingly approaching its saturation point?

“We have witnessed firsthand how ignorance feeds into policy interventions”

Put most parsimoniously, we have chosen to embark on this project because we perceive that many lacunae still remain in our collective understanding of the Middle East and North Africa, because we know that western publics remain uniquely ignorant when it comes to issues concerning the region, and because we have witnessed firsthand how this ignorance feeds into policy interventions of genuinely disastrous impact.

For centuries, political imaginaries laden in self-serving myth and misconception have oriented how states and international institutions engaged the countries of our concern. We hope to do our part in the discardment of these imaginaries, and in the construction of empirically-grounded and humanistic alternative.  

“Our approach is to disentangle the complex webs through which regional, national, and parochial sites interact”

Our program will not attempt to “cover” social, economic, military and political dynamics across two dozen countries as if they emanated from a singular source. We shall proceed, of course, fully cognizant of the sinews and interdependencies that connect the states and societies in question. From capital and informational flows to class formation and government decision making, the salience of these linkages and their impact on local outcomes cannot be overstated, as the uprisings of 2011 establish. Nevertheless, we shall not reify these linkages so to erase the contingent difference of place. Rather, our approach is to disentangle the complex webs through which regional, national, and parochial sites interact.

Noria’s MENA Program will host a number of research projects and editorial series, each pertaining to a specific theme and each engaged by a team of researchers working in constant relation to the field.

Though not undertaken with the goal of winning the ear of policymakers, the MENA program will also seek to influence the business of governments and international organizations. The projects of Noria’s MENA Program shall always be grounded upon three foundations:

→ Unrivaled fieldwork
Led by a multidisciplinary team of experts, our investigative operations will facilitate the collection and evaluation of novel sources of quantitative and qualitative data.

→ Wide dissemination to foster public debate
The MENA Program will regularly publish findings in a number of different formats including reports, journal articles, podcasts, video briefs, and graphic narratives. All our outputs will be free, fully open-access for the public, and translated into multiple languages.

→ Advocacy directed at international decision-makers
The Program’s staff will contribute to consciousness-raising around critical issues in the Middle East and North Africa and their implications for EU and US foreign policy, migration policy, and development policy.

Our Focus

The problematique orienting our research efforts is the counter-revolution that swept the Middle East and North Africa in the aftermath of 2011. This counter-revolution has unalterably changed the lives of millions of people. Depending on the place, it has, amongst other things, precipitated civil war, criminalized political expression, stripped citizenries of basic liberties, intensified inequality, and engendered profound social suffering.

Metabolizing state-sponsored violence in a diversity of forms, its complex coalition of anti-democratic forces has quietly laid siege to states, societies, and the values of an international order founded on human rights.

“The Arab counter-revolution has unalterably changed the lives of millions of people”

Noria’s MENA program shall seek to unwind the many permutations and configurations through which the Arab counter-revolution is expressed. Interrogating the political, economic, and ideational dimensions of the phenomenon in question, our team is committed to shining a light on the overt and submerged properties of an issue whose importance cannot be overstated.

Want to know more about our Middle East & North Africa Program? Click here.