Venue: CMI, Board room, Fantoftvegen 38
Time: Friday: 13:30-14:30
Keynote lecture with Professor Kais M. Firro:
Minorities in the Middle East: Experience of Power and Powerlessness in Politics.

Time: Saturday 9:30-10:30
Public lecture with Professor Elizabeth Picard:
Reassessing the nation-state model and promoting universal human rights: Their effects on state-minority relations in the Middle East.


The two public lectures which are open to the public are part of a work shop: Power and Powerlessness: Religious Minorities in the Middle East. The workshop is open by invitation only. If you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact Anh Nga Longva.

A great deal of the ongoing academic research on minority, minority rights and relations between the majority population and minority communities focuses on the situation in Europe and the United States. As far as Europe is concerned, this is to a large extent a result of the migration wave which started in the 1960s, with its consequences for contemporary society. In contrast to the new minorities in the Western world, many of the religious minorities in the Middle East are firmly embedded in their local societies, and they share a common cultural heritage with the majority population.

The social and legal structures of Middle Eastern societies have contributed over the years to a clear-cut compartmentalization of religious and, to a certain extent, ethnic communities in the Middle East.

Today, states in the Middle East have differing approaches to their religious and ethnic minorities. Christian political participation in Syria and Jordan, for instance, is based on individual involvement, whereas minorities in Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Sudan participate through a quota system based on affiliation to a religious or ethnic community.

Religious and ethnic minority activities and the minorities' identity politics are manifested in various ways according to the local dynamics between majority and minority present and past. In recent years, political turbulence, economic stagnation, and the growth of Islamism have led to a massive emigration of Christians from the region.

The war in Iraq has triggered a vast change in the power structure of this society. With the 2003 American-led invasion followed by the fall of the Baath regime in Baghdad, the Shi'a and the Kurds, previously powerless and persecuted minorities, have obtained increased political representation and thus political power. All over the Middle East, we can observe both change and continuity in the minorities' situations.

This workshop will look into minority politics, minority community dynamics, and relations between members of majority and minority religious communities in the Middle East from a historical as well as contemporary perspective. While these themes have been addressed before, we believe there is still much room for further exploration.

In choosing "Power and Powerlessness" as the title of the workshop we wish to emphasize the need for a more nuanced, empirically based and analytically refined approach to a subject matter which has elicited much emotion but yielded relatively limited theoretical insights.



Workshop Programme

For more information: contact Anne Sofie Roald