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17 June 2024

Major research project aims to broaden debate

A conference co-organised by a King’s College London academic together with a colleague from Aarhus University highlighted the findings and insights of a major research project.

The conference took place at Aarhus University. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The project, Bringing in the Other Islamists – Comparing Arab Shia and Sunni Islamism(s) in a sectarianized Middle East, was launched in 2019 and ran over a five-year period, with input from a team of nine scholars working across multiple academic disciplines.

The aim of the project was to broaden debate by increasing knowledge of Arab Shia Islamist movements and comparing and contrasting groups with their Sunni counterparts.

Funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, the £600k project was jointly-directed by Professor Jeroen Gunning (Department of Political Economy) and Professor Morten Valbjørn (Department of Political Science, Aarhus University).

On 11 June, the project team held a conference at Aarhus University with invited guests to showcase the research and findings of the project. The conference featured three panels exploring different areas of the project work, with presentations from the scholars. The event finished with a ‘reversed’ Q&A session that returned to the central questions of the project and invited conference guests to contribute to the debate and look at areas for future research.

Project leads presented their research findings to attendees. Picture: CONTRIBUTED
Project leads presented their research findings to attendees. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Profs Gunning and Valbjørn said: “The project’s aim was to bring Arab Shia Islamists into the broader Islamism debate. We were interested in gaining more knowledge about Shia Islamists but also to compare whether, how, when, where and why they differ from or resemble their Sunni counterparts, what role religion plays in this versus contextual factors, and to what extent their ‘Shia/Sunni-ness’ varies across time and space.

“Our aim was also to examine whether and how studies of Shia Islamists can contribute to broader Islamism scholarship. In addition to offering new case material to test classic hypotheses about Islamism, we believe a broadening of the case universe and greater dialogue between the research communities can also generate novel research puzzles or spark reflections on the study of Islamism.”

In addition to Gunning and Valbjørn the project team were; Raphaël Lefèvre (Bristol University), Courtney Freer (Emory University), Ben Robin d’Cruz (Aarhus University), Toby Matthiesen (Bristol University), Younes Saramifar (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Fanar Haddad (Copenhagen University) and Dima Smaira (independent researcher, Lebanon).

You can find out more about the project, including research outputs and publications, here: TOI: Bringing in the Other Islamists.


More details about the conference are available here.

In this story

Jeroen Gunning

Professor of Middle Eastern Politics and Conflict Studies