AHKR, University of Bergen

Research on the Levant

Over the last few years, the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Jordan) has become an increasingly important area of research at Bergen. A number of major projects has focused on the area, such as the Lower Jordan River Basin program and the Global Moments in the Levant project, both of which ended in 2008.

A new project that has recently been approved and will start up in 2009, is the (Gender, Birzeit) project. Further information from this will appear here as it becomes available.

The Middle East Research Group and the Centre also organizes a series of seminars and guest lectures on various aspects of studies on this region.

Damascus mosque

Events Spring 2009


  • The Levant seminars meets regularly on Thursdays. Contact the Centre's office for details.
  • 5.2.09: Seminar: Kjersti G. Berg, "International, Regional or Palestinian? United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) and its Stakeholders"
    Seminar Room, SMI, 12.15-14.

Palmyra project

  • A research group at the AHKR department has from 2009 received funding for a three-year project on the position of the oasis-town of Palmyra in east-west relations in Antiquity. The project will include archeological explorations.

    Ongoing Ph.D. projects on the Levant

    • Kjersti G. Berg, "A Bed for the Night. United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), Refugee Camps, and the Re-Housing of Palestine Refugees 1949-2008"
      History/AHKR, 2004-2010

    • Janne Bøe, "When providers can't provide"
      Anthropology, 2006-2010

    • Bård Kårtveit, "Christian Palestinians on the West Bank: Identity, Migration and Transnational Networks"
      Chr. Michelsens Institute / Anthropology, 2006-2010

    • Lars Gunnar Lundblad, "The Islamic principle of zakat, almsgiving processes of institutionalization and politicization in the Palestinian society"
      Sociology, 2005-2008.

    • Kristoffer Momrak, "Concepts of power and the origins of democracy - a comparative analysis of polities in Archaic Greece and the Ancient Near East"
      History/AHKR, 2006-2009

    Recent events

    Workshops, lectures and seminars

    • May 2008: The final series of workshops in the Global Moments project, Bergen/Lofthus, with i.a. Øystein LaBianca, Kamal Abdelfattah, Tom Levi, Bert de Vries, Bethany Walker and Bergen scholars.
    • 4.9.2008: Thomas Pierret (Louvain / Paris), "Ulema-led social movements in contemporary Syria: defending Islam, tradition, and the merchant middle-class's religious role"
    • 10.9.2007: "Palestinian refugees - A round-table discussion". With Julie Peteet (Luisville, USA), Rosemary Sayigh (Beirut), Randa Farah (Western Ontario)
    • 26-29.3.2007: Annual workshop of the Global Moments project, Bergen/Voss, with i.a. Øystein LaBianca, Kamal Abdelfattah, Tom Levi, Rania Maktabi, Bert de Vries, Bethany Walker and Bergen scholars.
    • 15.11.2006: Bethany Walker (Michigan), "Financial Collapse and the Medieval Islamic State: Challenges of Sources and Methods"
    • 10.5.2006: Workshop on the Armenian minority in late Ottoman/early postwar history. With Hilmar Kaiser: "World War, Germany and the Armenian Genocide", Matthias Bjørnlund: "When the canon talks, the diplomats must be silent: A Danish Diplomat during the Armenian Genocide", and Inger Marie Okkenhaug: "Armenia has become my second home country: A Norwegian missionary and the Armenian people 1905-1934"
    • 2-5.5.2006: Annual workshop of the Global Moments project, Bergen, with i.a. Øystein LaBianca, Kamal Abdelfattah, Tom Levi, Bert de Vries, Bethany Walker and Bergen scholars.

    New publications on the Levant from Bergen

    Nefissa Naguib, Women, Water and Memory: Recasting Lives in Palestine. Leiden: Brill 2009.

    Against the backdrop of the end of the Ottoman Empire, old Palestinian women recount life before and after piped water. While talking about fetching and managing household water women talked about being women. "Women, Water and Memory" speaks of many different lives. We hear stories like the one where women talk about their own strength and beauty, or about the woman who married a man whose ugly face made her sick. While one woman married the man "she cared for", another one was relieved that her husband died when she was too old to be forced to remarry. We learn about the joy they feel each time they dance at a wedding; the sheer satisfaction of lighting a cigarette; of the loyalty and shared despair towards families with members in prison, of the tears of sorrow with each death and the delight with each birth.

    Liv Ingeborg Lied, The Other Lands of Israel: Imaginations of the Land in 2 Baruch. Leiden: Brill 2008.

    According to the current scholarly consensus, the apocalypse of 2 Baruch, written after the Fall of Jerusalem, either rejected the concept of the Land of Israel as a place of salvation or regarded it as of minor importance. Inspired by the perspective of Critical Spatial Theory, this book discusses the presuppositions behind this consensus with regard to the spatial epistemology it assumes, and explores the conception of the Land as a broad redemptive category. The result is a fresh portrait of the vitality of the Land-theme in the first centuries of the common era and a new perspective on the spatial imagination of 2 Baruch.

    Nefissa Naguib and Inger Marie Okkenhaug, Interpreting Welfare and relief in the Middle East, Leiden: Brill 2007.

    Based on different problematic and methodological perspectives and new sources, this book's contributions lie in the close study of welfare beyond the religious divides, codifications and indoctrinations. The time span - from 1850 to the present day - represents moments of colonisations, occupations, wars and conflicts which resulted in un-met needs and broken down institutions. What are the stories behind health care, schools, orphanages and vocational schools, maternity homes and hostels? The collection of chapters examine different involvements in welfare activities not only as contextualised in stable communities and nations, but also as they emerge in vulnerable states and disintegrating societies. Furthermore, this volume brings forth the historical and contemporary voices of those who provide relief and the beneficiaries of such efforts. At the core of this book are themes concerned with humanitarianism in relation to people's unique experiences, state and non-governmental organisations, gender and modernity.
    (This volume grew out of the Global Moments project)

    Recent doctoral theses on the Levant

    • Liv Ingeborg Lied: 'The other lands of Israel: a study of the land theme in 2 Baruch' (History of Religions, 2007. Cf. New publications, above.)
    • Nils Anfinset: "Secondary products, pastoral nomads and the introduction of metal: The 5th and 4th millennia BC in the Southern Levant and Northeast Africa" (Archaeology, 2005)

    Recent master theses

    • Monica Voll, 'The relations between the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and the monarchy' (2008, History) *
    • Kristin Finne, 'An Islamist notion of development: a history of Lebanese Shi'i development policies between 1969 and 1992' (2007, History)
    • Hilde Kjøstvedt: '"Her voice, Palestinian": a study of women's rights conceptions among ordinary Palestinian women on the occupied West Bank' (2007, Anthropology).
    • Daniel Kvamme, 'The za'ama system in Lebanon 1943-1975: a historiographical analysys' (2007, History) *
    • Maria Aano Reme: 'The frozen case: civil rights of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon: perceptions and realities' (2007, History).
    • Astrid Rundereim, '"We are Christians with the Muslims, with the Lebanese we are Palestinian, we are different anywhere we go": Identity management among Christian Palestinians in Lebanon' (2007, Anthropology) *
    • Henrik Bjørge Pedersen: 'From Province to Neighbouring Country: Jordan's role on the West Bank 1967-1994' (2006, History). *
    • Sonya Jenssen: 'Traditional rainwater harvesting in Jordan: A qualitative study of Project Rainkeep' (1994-1995) (2006, Water studies)
    • Ingvild Stabrun: 'Traditional spirituality in a modern context: An analysis of the Islam of shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro in "The Way of Truth"' (2006, History of Religions)
    * = in Norwegian



    See also the general surveys of research in Bergen, concerning the Levant:

  • Research Staff in Bergen
  • Publications by Bergen scholars
  • Library holdings

    (page under construction)



    Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (SMI)
    Phone + 47 55 58 26 47, fax + 47 55 58 98 91, e-mail:
    Postal address: SMI, University of Bergen. PO Box 7800 Bergen, Norway
    Visiting address: SMI, 5th floor , Stein Rokkans Hus, Nygårdsgaten 5, 5015 Bergen