As governments of the Middle East and North Africa rise and fall, as systems are demolished and re-built, a central issue has become the place of the individual within their community : the place of difference of existence and opinion, dissent and claims for recognition, and the prospects for all manner of communities to contribute to the wider process of change from within the private and public spheres. 

 Minority groups have been a constant in the region, as have debates about their role, place and function in Middle Eastern studies. The role of religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities such as Coptic Christians in Egypt, Berbers in North Africa and Kurds in Turkey and the relation with their majorities are just of few of the often-discussed groups. More recent minority grapplings have seen Lebanon’s minorities built into the distribution of power, while Palestinians have faced different minority states, not least as ‘Arab’ Israelis within a discriminatory system. The situation of  minorities has become a litmus test for discourses on human rights, as well as a point of engagement with state entities by the international media and development community.      

 This theme's complexity and its wide-ranging reach forces us to rethink our understandings about minorities and majorities in the Middle East, in light of changes which have occurred on the ground and academia. To unpack, contextualize and probe this topic, 30 graduates and young researchers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere will come together to share their ongoing research and debate these fundamental but often marginalized groups across the region. 

Between 8th and 9th of May, our participants will ask, and seek to answer the following : 

  • What does it mean be a minority in the Middle East ?
  • How have minority groups reacted to impediments against their participation, and threats to their cultural identity
  • What can we learn about individual and group motivations ?
  • In which way have minority groups taken part in overall reform ?
  • What are some of the alternative mechanisms for minority participation in the region, and how have they shaped majority politics? 

The Graduate Section of BRISMES and its co-hosts, the Oxford Middle East Centre and Ertegun House, are glad to welcome our participants and attendees to this event in Oxford, on the 8th and 9th of May 2013. Please complete the registration form on the Conference website  which will include all additional information relating to this event. For any query, please email graduate.section.brismes@gmail.com