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About us

Prof. Jordi Tejel

Within the framework of this research project, I am planning to re-examine the relationship between violence, border-making and state-formation in the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by using ‘borderlands’ as an analytical device that affords a new, decentred perspective. Likewise, the project expects to generate new knowledge in the areas of “border studies” (border-making, frontier effects and circulations across borders) and the history of the Middle East by using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

I define myself as a historian of contemporary Middle East with an interdisciplinary profile. I am particularly interested in topics such as nationalism, state-building, minority conflicts, social mobilisation and cross-border dynamics, including networks of violence, refugees and smuggling. I am also interested in historiographical debates as well as the search for new epistemological and methodological avenues to better grasp the complexities of historical events and dynamics.

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Dr. Ramazan Hakki Öztan

In this research project, I'm planning to examine three interrelated topics. First, I am interested in exploring how the influx of refugees in the early years of the Turkish Republic helped consolidate Turkish identity, expand state authority, and demarcate spatial borders. Second, how did the actors located in the Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi borderlands respond to the consolidation of state authority in the late 1920s and early 1930s? Finally, I hope to examine the ways in which the establishment of borders lead to the creation of illicit markets and the attempts of the state to contain them.

I define myself as a historian of the modern Middle East, late Ottoman Balkans, and modern Turkey. I am particularly interested in how the fin de siècle nationalism and revolutionary politics contributed to the making of the modern Middle East and South-eastern Europe. I explore these issues by studying smuggling, contraband, and human crossings in borderlands, examining how such global processes manifested themselves locally. I try to uncover them by studying illicit markets and reconstructing the biographies of little-known actors. In doing so, my goal is to re-read the formation of modern states by capturing bureaucratic anxieties vis-à-vis a world that

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Viktorya Abrahamyan

Since September 2017, I am a PhD student in the Department of History under the supervision of Prof. Jordi Tejel. The research, titled “Towards a Decentred History of the Middle East: Transborder Spaces, Circulations, Frontier Effects and State Formation, 1920-1946” (BORDER), is funded by the European Research Council. The focus of my research is to explore to what extent and how the Armenian refugees played at once a direct and indirect role in shaping the state building processes in Syria, in terms of defining national identity, expanding state authority and consolidating state’s borders during the French mandate (1920-1946).

In 2004-2005, I spent a year in Damascus, Syria, studying classical Arabic language. In 2008 – 2010, I worked with the Arabic, Armenian and Russian-speaking refugees at the Belgian Red Cross in the framework of an advocacy project funded by the European Commission. In 2011 – 2017, I worked in the field of international development, managing projects of democratisation and elections, good governance and human rights first at the European Commission and then at the German Development Agency.

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César Jaquier

I hold a master in Arabic studies from the University of Geneva, with a specialization in the history of the Middle East. In 2015-2016, I spent a year in Beirut (Lebanon) to study history and classical Arabic at Saint Joseph University. After completing studies, I took part in several archiving and research projects. In 2017, I was an intern in the department of audiovisual archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In 2018, I worked with Umam Documentation and Research in Beirut.

Since September 2018, I am a PhD student at the Institute of History, under the supervision of Prof. Jordi Tejel. I am part of a project titled “Towards a Decentred History of the Middle East: Transborder Spaces, Circulations, ‘Frontier Effects’ and State Formation, 1920-1946”, funded by the European Research Council. Within this framework, I am planning to explore how the development of trans-desert routes between Syria and Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s led to the emergence of official as well as unofficial circulations between both countries. I mainly focus on tourism, pilgrimage, migration, and smuggling.

Laura Stocker

After my Bachelor in Islamic Studies and History at the University of Basel in 2013, I spent some months in the Middle East – mainly Iran and Lebanon – to study Colloquial Arabic and Farsi. In 2014, I started my Master at the University of Bern, where I graduated in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on Modern History in August 2018.

Since September 2018, I am a PhD student in the research project “Towards a Decentred History of the Middle East: Transborder Space, Circulations, Frontier Effects and State Formation, 1920-1946“ (BORDER), funded by the European Research Council, under the supervision of Professor Jordi Tejel at the History Department of the University of Neuchâtel. The focus of my research is on the history of Iraq, where I want to examine the position, role and agency of tribal women in bordering processes and state formation in the interwar period.

Prof. Jordi Tejel

Ramazan Hakki Öztan

Viktorya Abrahamyan

César Jaquier

Laura Stocker