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Understanding the Middle East: Political Change and Continuity

30th June – 4th July 2014

1st edition

The Middle East is a region that plays a key role for the comprehension of the current international interests, global changes and tendencies that since 2001 have been shaping international politics. At the same time it is also a strongly controversial area, whose interpretations have been distorted and biased by an often inaccurate media coverage and information spreading.

The outbreak of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ has brought again the Middle East to the attention of the international arena without, however, that the extent of the ongoing transformations was properly analyzed and disseminated. That is why a deep analysis and understanding of the core issues of this complex region is fundamental today.


Understanding the Middle East: The Transformation of Contentious Politics

29th June – 3rd July 2015

2nd edition

The profound changes that have occurred across the Middle East over the past four years have challenged the geographical and also political notion of borders and boundaries. The geographical borders became more porous to ideologies and transnational groups and the political boundaries between state and society faced major changes thanks to the new raise of “street-politics”.

Both challenges to traditional borders and boundaries have led to the emergence of new actors employing discourses and practices that are destabilising. This destabilisation can have positive effects – the introduction of the language of rights for instance in political discourse – or negative ones- the rise of sectarian violence. In any case both challenges need further examination and the second edition of the summer school “Understanding the Middle East” focused precisely on them.


Understanding the Middle East. The Political Economy of the Middle East: Resources, Strategies and Politics

27th June – 1st July 2016

3rd edition

The control over and the access to the resources of the Middle East have always played a strategic role in the global balance of power. During the 1970s and 1980s the relevance of the Middle East was not only due to its hydrocarbons and strategic location in the Cold war. In fact, regional actors began to employ oil and gas revenues as key elements of geo-political games, while at the same time experiencing a gradual transformation of their own economies through processes of privatization and liberalization.

The connection between the reinforcement of authoritarian regimes and rentierism on the one hand and the control over political and economic systems on the other hand have clearly highlighted the interplay between the State, the political economy and the management and exploitation of strategic resources.

The political consequences of the growth of inequalities, the emergence of new actors interested in the control and exploitation of strategic resources, the increasing interconnection with the global economy, the economic alternatives that new actors suggest and the rise of insecurity in the region are just some of the issues that need further examination. The third edition of the summer school “Understanding the Middle East” focuses precisely on them.


Understanding the Middle East. De-constructing Narratives, Imaginaries and Representations

3rd – 7th July 2017 

4th edition

Within the context of the TOMidEast initiatives, the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society of the University of Turin, is pleased to announce the fourth edition of the Summer School “Understanding the Middle East” dedicated this year to the issue of De-constructing narratives, imaginaries and representations.

Narratives, imaginaries and mythical representations affect the study and the comprehension of the Middle East. Those narratives are, nowadays as in the past, at the heart of a stereotyped and often racialised, essentialist and culturalist reading of such a crucial area of the world.

This fourth edition of the summer school “Understanding the Middle East” critically reflects on those narratives that, over the years, have fuelled a simplistic and inaccurate reading of the Middle East in academia, policy circles and media. Starting with the most difficult narrative to challenge – Orientalism – the summer school deconstructs some of the representations that have shaped the Middle East, contributing to foster its presumed exceptionalism: democratization, sectarianism, political Islam, clash of civilizations, and permanent conflict. To do this, alternative stories, processes, and debates are employed to interpret the transformations of the region. In particular the focus will be, among others, on the role of social classes, the discourse of Arab intellectuals, trade unionism, and contentious politics.

A specific focus will be on the role of old and new media with the participation of communication’s experts coming from the MENA region.

The final objective is to offer useful theoretical tools and empirical evidence to understand the complexity of the current transformations and, at the same time, to re-open a discussion free from constraints and simplifications.

Understanding the Middle East. “The Struggle for Regional Hegemony: Natural Resources and Human Flows”

June 25th to 29th 2018

5th edition

The Summer School “The Struggle for Regional Hegemony: Natural Resources and Human Flows” is part of the international graduate initiatives of the Department of Culture, Politics and Society of the University of Turin. Its goal is to expand and strengthen the inter-institutional cooperation with the Middle East region. The one-week summer school is the first of its kind in Italy and Europe. The lessons are held in English. The School’s faculty and scientific committee are composed by worldly renowned professors coming from European and Middle Eastern universities. The main aim of the school is to provide the tools to understand the Middle East and its current transformations. The summer school favours a political science approach and offers perspectives that are fundamental to better comprehend critical points at the regional level, while paying attention to the current dynamics in some of the countries where the so-called “Arab Spring” has developed. Each year the school focuses on a different topic. This fifth edition reflects on the role of natural resources and human flows in shaping the politics of the Middle East: the management of natural resources (hydrocarbons, gas, water, nuclear power) and human flows (war refugees, environmental refugees, displaced people, etc.) play a central role. Competition over resources, indeed, is something affecting borders, identities, nationhood and, of course, ecology.

Understanding the Middle East. Identity in the Middle East and North Africa: actors, strategies and dynamics

June 17th to the 21 st 2019

6th edition

The success of the previous editions in terms of participation of students and professionals from all over the world pushed the Department CPS to renew its commitment with a new edition entitled Identity in the Middle East and North Africa: actors, strategies and dynamics. The aim of this new edition is to critically reflect on identities and their politicization exploring the role they have played through time and space to read and represent political events in the region. Identity will be therefore used to frame relevant themes such as class issues, minority status, formation of the state, sectarianism, language and gender issues, among others.

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