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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Comparative Area Studies and the Study of Middle East Politics After the Arab Uprisings

Comparative Politics
 
Conflict
 
Democratisation
 
Elites
 
Third World Politics
 
Comparative Perspective
 
Political Regime
 
Presenter
André Bank
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Authors
André Bank
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Abstract
The Arab uprisings not only brought about the fall of the heads of state in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen and the survival of all eight monarchies in the Middle East. In the academic field of Middle East Studies, the political processes during and since 2011 have also contributed to a basic questioning of the mainstream theoretical assumptions and methodological approaches of the 1990s and the 2000s. This has led to a more self-critical and self-aware research program that moves beyond earlier paradigms. Middle East Studies increasingly accounts for the different political trajectories in the region, insisting they be grounded in both intra- and cross-regional comparison. To locate these diverse post-2011 studies, this paper uses Comparative Area Studies (CAS) as an analytical perspective which combines the context sensitivity of area studies with the systematic use of comparisons. It finds that intra-regional comparisons are still the mainstay in studies of the Arab uprisings, that cross-regional comparisons drawing on insights from e.g. the post-Soviet or from European history are emerging, but that Inter-regional comparisons remain rare. The paper concludes by evaluating promises, risks and prospects of CAS in the study of Middle East and beyond.
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