The LSE Middle East Centre works to develop research and teaching on the societies, economies, politics, and international relations of the Middle East. The region, which includes the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is arguably the most politically troubled, yet vital in energy resources, in the world today. The troubled political conditions of the region, both in the states inside it and in those with an interest in it, have meant that historically, linguistically and methodologically informed independent academic research remains a rarity. The Middle East Centre will rectify this shortcoming by engaging in methodologically rigorous research and scholarship and will achieve prestige and excellence through the scrupulous preservation of its academic independence.
As one of the world's leading social science institutions with an emphasis on postgraduate studies, LSE comprises departments covering all branches of the social sciences, including law, philosophy, economic history, international relations, and international history. The Centre will work with that structure to promote innovatory interdisciplinary research and training on the region spanning South West Asia and North Africa with sustained work on history and political economy, society and environment, and law and international relations.
The Centre complements strengths present elsewhere in the UK: the study of Islam in Cambridge and Edinburgh, expertise in politics and culture at Oxford, Exeter, Durham and St Andrews, and most importantly, the strengths at our sister institution SOAS which being a centre of area studies offers language training in a manner unparalleled elsewhere. Capitalizing on LSE's exceptionally international body of students and staff and London's proximity to Europe and the Middle East, the Centre will foreground intellectual relations with academic institutions in the region. The LSE Centre will place special emphasis on active and systemic collaboration with Middle Eastern universities, scholars, policy makers, and civil society, and speak to a global audience about the region's strengths and challenges.
In keeping with the tradition of other centres at the LSE, the MEC will build on research excellence and innovation to provide those outside the academic community with solid research on contemporary social, political and economic processes and problems in the region. The LSE Middle East Centre will neither be an ivory tower nor a policy think tank. A world-class research agenda will be driven not by governments, special interests, or funding organizations but by academics and students. No topics or countries in the region will be excluded from scholarly enquiry.
The Centre will aim to develop and fund research and teaching infrastructure: seminar series on the Middle East from different interdisciplinary perspectives; research projects run by 2-3 members of staff across departments; workshops; visiting lectures and visiting academic colleagues from the region; and publications.
In terms of training the next generation of social scientists with the competences required for world-class work on the region, the Centre will ensure that any funding received for staffing posts be used to fill existing intellectual gaps at the School. It will bring in such specialists from the different departments in two ways: first, in contributing to the new 2-year MSc programme in 'The Middle East in Comparative Perspective' and, second, in pooling their expertise in the supervision of doctoral students (and guidance of post-doctoral fellows). It will also coordinate with SOAS so that students in the MSc are given an intensive course in a language of the region. The second year of the programme will comprise a full year of intensive language study in a country of the region.
The governance of the Centre is assured by its director assisted by a management committee of four other specialists from the LSE, a wider research group of LSE staff, and beyond that the Advisory Board of the Centre. This tiered structure ensures the autonomy of academic decision-making with regard to funders and UK and international political concerns.
The MEC Director is responsible for the Centre's overall research strategy, together with all aspects of Centre management and co-ordination of its activities, and the Centre reports to the Research Committee. Individual grant-holders (senior research staff and LSE faculty associates) are responsible for specific research projects housed within the Centre, under the overall supervision of the MEC Director. The MEC's inaugural Director is Professor Fawaz A. Gerges.
The MEC Management Committee is chaired by the MEC Director and serviced by the MEC Manager. It comprises other faculty members from cognate disciplines appointed at the invitation of the MEC Director and is responsible for the oversight and development of the Centre's research agenda under the direction of the MEC Director. The Management Committee meets termly to discuss research strategy, general management and resource issues arising across the Centre, and progress on individual research themes and funded projects.
The MEC Research Group is appointed and chaired by the MEC Director and serviced by the MEC Manager. Membership is drawn from LSE and external faculty members with relevant research interests. The Research Group meets twice a year and has an advisory role in respect of the MEC's research themes, priorities and its general intellectual direction.
The Advisory Board provides independent, external and income-orientated advice to the Middle East Centre. The Board’s role is purely advisory.