CENTRE FOR MIDDLE EASTERN
Our main focuses of research:
Middle Eastern studies in Bergen has traditionally been divided geographically in a 'southern tier', Islam in Africa; and in particular the Sudan; and a 'northern tier'; Turkey and the region Iran-Central Asia.
In later years, they have been strengthened through the provision of scholarships in Bergen for young Sudanese researchers; thus six Sudanese have finished their doctorates in Bergen, in the fields of Archaeology, Geography, History and Social Anthropology, and more are being prepared. In the early 1990s, the then director of the National Records Office at Khartoum had a secondary position as Professor in History at Bergen University. At any given time, there will be a number of Sudanese scholars at work in Bergen, at the CDS, the Middle East Centre, or at the various departments involved.
The particular nature of our relationship with the Sudan is thus not only that it has been broad in number or researchers and departments and research milieus involved; but also that it has been truly reciprocal. While the University has been able to channel scholarly resources to the Sudan, it has even more drawn from and been influenced by the research being done in the Sudan by Sudanese scholars. This influence can be seen in several of the research areas developed in Bergen over the years.
In spite of the political developments in the Sudan which has limited
institutional links with the University of Khartoum, it is hard to envisage
Bergen without a Sudan interest. Efforts were spent on maintaining and
developing existing personal and direct relations with Sudanese scholars,
even when reducing institutional and official links. The level of Sudan
research carried out in Bergen can be seen in the list of projects.
After the success of the peace negotiations in the Sudan, new projects
of cooperation between Bergen and Sudan are under preparation. Bergen
will also host the 2006 international Sudan Studies conference.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, the political situation in the Sudan necessarily reduced the research activity, allowing, interests to diversify within Islamic Africa, and the Indian Ocean region has developed into a second regional focus.
Turkey and Central Asia
The Interaction of Islam with Society
The projects grouped together within this research agenda instead take a dynamic approach to the relationship between the development of Islam as religion and ideas, and the evolution of society. Neither Islamic thought nor social forces are fixed entities, developments in one link to changes in the other. This is true as well of the mystical and political movements of Africa and the Middle East in the past as it is in the ideas of Muslim immigrants to Europe today.
These projects look at this relationship from various angles, historical
and contemporary, in widely different geographical areas, from the margins
of the Islamic world in the south to the Muslim minorities in the north,
and from a number of different methodological approaches, from Islamology
to Anthropology. By combining the study of ideas with the study of society,
it is easier to see the Muslim world through the eyes of its actors.
Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies