About us

Prof. Jordi Tejel

Tejel_Gorgas_Jordi.jpgWithin 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.

Dr. Ramazan Hakki Öztan

Oztan_Hakki_Ramazan.jpgIn 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

Viktorya Abrahamyan

Abrahamyan_Victoria_2019.jpg (EODS 2013)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.

César Jaquier

Cesar_Jaquier.jpgSince September 2018, I am a PhD student at the Institute of History, under the supervision of Prof. Jordi Tejel. I am part of the ERD project titledTowards a Decentred History of the Middle East: Transborder Spaces, Circulations, ‘Frontier Effects’ and State Formation, 1920-1946.”

My PhD project examines how motorized transport emerged in the interwar Middle East by making a social, economic, and political history of the so-calledtrans-desert routes’ that opened up between Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq in the 1920s. As a matter of fact, the development of motorized transport in the region was concurrent with the emergence of new states under French and British mandates. In this context, I am examining how the increasing movement of people and goods influenced or challenged the process of state formation; conversely, how the introduction of new borders affected mobility on the trans-desert routes. In addition, this project seeks to explore what travel practices, forms of economic enterprise, and regional interactions emerged with motorized transport. By focusing on these trans-desert routes and the different experiences of automobility that straddled across the borders, the project moves away from the methodological nationalism that has long characterized the historiography of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. In this project, in short, the automobile is both a subject of research and a lens through which the dissertation’s chapters will address historical questions pertaining to mobility, globalization, and state formation in the interwar Middle East.

Since September 2019, I am also a PhD student at the University of Lyon 2, affiliated with the LARHRA, under the supervision of Prof. Sylvia Chiffoleau.

Laura Stocker

Stocker_Laura_2019.jpgSince 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.

Within this framework my project focuses on the Bedouin tribes of the desert borderlands between Iraq, Syria and Transjordan from the late 1920s to the post-WWII period. Looking at the influence of droughts, my research seeks to (re-)examine the interactions between modern practices of territorial governance, environmental crises, and the pastoral economy of the Bedouin tribes in the Middle East. In doing so, the project explores the entanglements between the environment, new-state borders and imperial policing of the human and non-human inhabitants of the desert borderlands as well as their spaces of agency.

I received my BA in Islamic Studies and Modern History at the University of Basel in 2013, and then attended the University of Bern, where I completed an MA thesis on modern colonial history of Middle East and North Africa in 2018. In Bern, I also worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. Throughout those years, I have spent several months in the Middle East, mainly in Iran and Lebanon where I studied (Colloquial) Arabic and Farsi.

Since June 2019 I am also an associated doctoral student at the 'Institut français du Proche-Orient' (ifpo). www.ifporient.org/laura-stocker/


Université de Neuchâtel
Institut d'histoire
Espace Tilo-Frey 1
2000 Neuchâtel

Prof. Jordi Tejel
Tél. +41 32 718 16 03