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PhD projects at the Department of Middle Eastern Politics

Current PhD projects

  • Nadia Abou Shady: The reconfigurations of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood post-2013

    Since the ousting of President Morsi in summer 2013, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been facing the biggest and most important internal conflict since its creation in 1928. This conflict does not only put the organizations’ unity and harmony at jeopardy, but it also challenges its traditions, especially in dealing with internal debates and self-criticism. It is for the first time in the Brotherhood's history that internal debates concerning the organization’s internal regulations, ideological views and political strategies, as well as a complete reevaluation of its political performance in a post-revolutionary era, are being exposed to both the media and the public. Most studies dealing with the aspects of the current conflict claim that the debate is of strategic nature, associated mainly to a generational conflict inside the Brothers. The young members are portrayed as extremists who embrace violence, while the old guard is presented as moderates that refuse the implementation of violence against the regime.   This study, rejects this hypothesis, considering it as not merely superficial but actually incorrect. It argues, that the dichotomies old/young and moderate/violent ignore many facts. For this, it digs deep into the complex internal composition and set-up of the Brotherhood, exploring its coexisting political generations and its adversary wings. It also examines the existing alliances as well as the power balance and inconsistencies inside the Brotherhood pre-2013.  In light of this background, the study analyses the reconfigurations of the Brotherhood post-2013. It thus draws the new alliance map, and tracks the development of the recent rift, its causes and main aspects. These include the generational conflicts, the debate on violence, and the debate over the leadership’s legitimacy.  

  • Christian Achrainer: Egypt’s External Alignments Post-2013: Regime Survival Amid Regional and Global Environments

    Egypt’s foreign relations have changed substantially since the military coup in 2013. The thesis explains the emerging alignment patterns by developing and applying a unique analytical framework, which I refer to as a ‘two-staged alignment formation.’ It combines elements from neorealism, neo-Marxism, and constructivism, and assumes that regime interests and national interests are not always identical, and that any regime’s prime interest is to secure its own survival. In the first stage of the model, domestic threats to the Egyptian regime’s survival (the Muslim Brotherhood, terrorism, a frustrated people, economic decline, military decline) determined specific needs the regime tried to meet by approaching external partners. Yet, the regime was, of course, not entirely free in making choices, but, in the second stage, the structures of the global environment (universal believe in neoliberalism, core-periphery relations, multipolarity) and of the regional environment (intensified power struggle, identity-based dividing lines, multipolarity) defined opportunities and constraints and therefore the regime’s options. In sum, the study finds that the interplay between domestic threats to regime survival and the regional and global environments resulted in a diversification of Egypt’s foreign relations, with China and Russia joining the US and the EU as Egypt’s main global alignment partners, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates emerging as the regime’s prime regional backers.

  • Hanna Al Taher: Imagining, Claiming and Resisting Belonging - Gendered Citizenship in Jordan

    Abstract to follow

  • Luíza Gimenez Cerioli: The Strategic Triangle in the Persian Gulf: dynamics of the relationship between United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia

    The thesis aims to present an innovative framework to analyze the relationship between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States in the Persian Gulf as a single triangular arrangement, instead of three bilateral ones. Authors had investigated Riyadh and Washington’s oil-for-security partnership (Bronson 2006, Vitallis 2007), Riyadh and Tehran’s rivalry (Mabon 2016, Hiro 2019) and Washington and Tehran’s enmity (Beeman 2005, Seliktar 2012), but few studied how the three interact with each other affecting geopolitics. The thesis intends to bridge this gap through the theoretical framework of Neoclassical Realism (NCR), which recognizes the preeminence of structural factors while including insights from unit-level approaches (Rathbun 2012, Kitchen 2010, Juneau 2015, Zakaria 1998). It maintains that NCR has malleable paradigmatic boundaries required for the development of creative research designs that deal with regional peculiarities without resorting to exceptionalism or ostracization. NCR rejects universalism by exploring contextual and local factors, thus deepening analytical and explanatory value. The thesis argues that NCR provides a platform for not only cross-fertilization between discipline and area but also a collaboration between Realist thinking and Global IR. Moreover, the research uses the concept of strategic triangles as an exploratory venture to investigate patterns of relationship among the three geostrategic salient actors. Each relationship is taken liable upon two participants’ relationship with a third, being all essential for the resulting foreign policies. In short, the thesis investigates the relations between Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States from 1969 to 2016 via NCR, hypothesizing that the three countries had shared four types of strategic triangular ties since them: from 1969 to 1979; from 1979 to 1989; from 1989 to 2003, and from 2003 on. The main goal is to illuminate past developments, explain constraints and opportunities that have motivated these three countries and make more comprehensive prospects about the effect of their behaviour on the regional security arrangement. Finally, it also aims to contribute to the debates over complex arrangements between countries (especially asymmetric relations in profoundly permeated regions) by improving the strategic triangle construct via NCR.

  • Clara Easthill: A comparative case study of the influences on Afghan resistance movements between 1979 and 2004.

    C. Easthill


    Between 1979 and 2004, the Afghan central state underwent a number of noteworthy changes. After the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1979, several distinct phases of war impacted Afghanistan: From the initial fight, which saw many Afghans joining resistance movements against the Soviet forces and communist central state, to a civil war, to the Taliban regime, war defined the country’s development. After 9/11 and a renewed effort to drive out the Taliban, Afghanistan established a new governmental system with international (military and political) support. These decades of varying conflicts inflicted severe damages on the country and changed the political landscape within it, with political actors changing their roles and positions to adapt to the political context. Some of these actors, notably the Mujahideen, who had initially emerged as a resistance movement to the Soviet regime, mirror these changes:

    The Mujahideen had initially emerged as guerrilla forces fighting the central state. There were distinct and often oppositional factions of Mujahideen who received varying levels of support. After the fall of the Soviet-supported Communist regime, the Mujahideen briefly governed the country in a coalition, while civil and factional war continued. Mujahideen factions then positioned themselves in different, often changing, ways towards the Taliban regime, and finally many played a central role in the emergence of the new state post 2001. This thesis aims to present an analysis of Afghan resistance movements between 1979 and 2004.

    This thesis embeds the transformations of the state and the changing military-political role of the Mujahideen, into rentier theory. There are two main, connected, foci to this work: Firstly, the thesis aims to analyse the rent-seeking activities of the Mujahideen, showing which activities of the Mujahideen can be classified as rent-seeking and emphasising the effects thereof on the Afghan state and population. The second focus highlights the role of the international community within the conflict by analysing in which ways they incentivized and influenced these rent-seeking activities. By following these two research foci, the thesis aims to show the factors that contributed to Afghanistan’s fragmentation, the effects of which are noticeable until today. The underlying assumption is that the specific national and international context in which the wars arose, specifically the dominant rentierism, caused this fragmentation. The analysis will be carried out by comparing five case studies, i.e. five Mujahideen leaders who were active in the period under analysis. Their political and military activities, and changing roles, are analysed from a biographical and comparative perspective. Importantly, these activities include the relations of the Mujahideen to one another, with the central state and the (international) public.

    Theoretically, the thesis follows the rentier approach, and the main methodology includes the Biographic Method as well as a comparative approach.


  • Thomas Jakob: Trade Unionism and the Institutional Equilibrium in MENA States. A Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) supported Study of the Arab Upheavals 2011 – 2013 in Twelve Countries

    This study uses Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) inside a broader framework of Comparative Historical Research (CHR) in order to asses and categorise the role of trade unions during the „Arab Spring“ 2011 – 2013. It identifies the institutional equilibria of twelve Arab countries by the help of rich case descriptions and tackles the question whether trade unions attempted to change these pattern of power. In a further step, five variables are set up, being non-compliance of the State concerning the Authoritarian Bargain (SOEC), intertwinedness of trade unions with opposition forces (INOPP), the degree of centralisation of trade union structures (CEN), importance of tribalism for upward mobility within the state (TRI), and eventually the trade unions‘ bargaining power im key sectors of the economy (KEYS). These variables are minimised with the help of the Quine McCluskey Algorithim and the results are srutinised qualitatively. Major findings of the study indicate that CEN is a necessary condition for transformative trade union activity, in combination either with INOPP (Gulf Countries) or SOEC (North Africa). Furthermore, this study suggests that the lack of centralisation and / or a high degree of tribalism weaken independent trade unionism in MENA.

  • Elyssa Jalloul: The Religious Education and the Reconfiguration of Political Islam in Tunesia after the Revolution 2011

    Abstract to follow

  • Katharina Siebert: Collective Identity in Social Movement Organizations

    This thesis focuses on the collective identity of social movement organizations (SMOs) and aims at discovering how the nature of a group’s collective identity affects the organization’s actions. By comparing the collective identities of case study organizations and tracing their development, this thesis tries to shed light on how variations of collective identity translate into differences with regard to their behavior, especially flexibility and change.
    As this question has not been sufficiently answered by the existing theoretical research on social movements and SMOs, this thesis will firstly discover how variations of collective identity in SMOs can be identified and made comparable. To this end, a theoretical instrument will be developed in order to systematically assess the collective identity of a SMO. Secondly, this study will explore how variance with regard to collective identity affects the behavior of SMOs.

  • Katrin Sold: Neue Mittelschichten in Nordafrika. Die Rolle junger Unternehmensgründer im politischen Transformationsprozess in Algerien, Marokko und Tunesien

    Further information concerning the research of Julius Dihstelhoff is available here.

Completed Dissertation Projects

André Bank: Regionale Kriege und lokale Ordnungen im Nahen Osten: Irak, Palästina und neue Herrschaftsformen in Jordanien. (completed 2010)

Sabrina Bonsen: Eine politikwissenschaftliche Untersuchung zum Märtyrerkult im Libanon. (completed 6/2016)

Julius Dihstelhoff: „Handlungsstrategien deutscher Außenpolitik im Kontext der Umbruchprozesse in der MENA-Region seit 2011 mit Fokus auf moderat-islamistischen Akteuren - Fallbeispiel Tunesien“ (Disputation: 19.02.2020)

Leandros Fischer: Der Israel-Palästina-Konflikt und die deutsche Linke am Beispiel der Partei DIE LINKE. (completed 2015)

Jens Heibach: Oppositional Cooperation under Authoritarianism – The Case of the Joint Meeting Parties in Yemen (completed 12/2016)

Christian Neugebauer: Economic liberalization and authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa: A comparative political economy of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco, 1950 - 2011 (Disputation: 20.01.2020)

Taoufik Rached: Die politische Rolle der Mittelschichten in Marokko: Wandel oder Status Quo? (Disputation: 22.07.2020)

Manuel Sakmani: Interkommunitäre Kooperation in ethnisch-pluralen Gesellschaften: Schiitisch-maronitische Beziehungen und die Allianz zwischen Freier Patriotischer Bewegung und Hizbullah im Libanon (Disputation: 02.10.2020)

Karolin Sengebusch: Die libanesische anti-konfessionelle Protestwelle 2010-2012: Formen, Strategien, Politikkonzepte. (completed 11/2017)

Ali Sonay: Being Young and Political in Egypt: The Case oft the April 6 Movement. (completed 1/2016)