Comparative Area Studies and Middle East Politics after the Arab Uprisings

André Bank


The Arab uprisings have brought about a new wave of Middle East political science research that seeks to comparatively account for the different political trajectories in the region. In order to situate these diverse post-2011 scholarly studies, this paper introduces Comparative Area Studies (CAS) as an analytical perspective which combines the context sensitivity of area studies with the explicit and systematic use of comparisons. It finds that while intra-regional comparisons are the mainstay of political science studies of the Arab uprisings, there is also an emerging, very promising strand of cross-regional comparisons that draws on insights from, for example, the post-Soviet space or from European history. The paper concludes by evaluating the promises, risks and prospects of following a CAS perspective in the study of Middle East politics.


Comparative Area Studies; Arab Uprisings; Middle East Politics; Cross-regional Comparisons

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Dr. André Bank is a Research Fellow at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of Middle East Studies in Hamburg. He received a doctoral degree in political science from Philipps University Marburg in 2010 and a M.A. in Political Science, Islamic Studies and Sociology from Eberhard-Karls University in Tübingen in 2004. At the GIGA, Dr. Bank is the speaker of the Leibniz Competition-funded international research network on “International Diffusion and Cooperation of Authoritarian Regimes” (IDCAR). His research foci are authoritarian politics, violent conflict and regional order in the Mashriq and beyond.