My educational background is interdisciplinary, comprising languages (Arabic and Russian), Middle East studies and modern history. In my early career (mid-1990s onwards) the three main areas of my research were (i) Islamist movements in pre-revolutionary Egypt, (ii) Palestinian state building (especially its post-Oslo police and security forces), and (iii) patterns of (non-state) political violence and terrorism. Since the early 2000s, my main research focus has been jihadism and militant Islamist movements, a subject I still follow closely. The impact or relevance of my research was highlighted by the UiO and UiB rectors in March 2017.
Over the past few years I have been studying the evolution of jihadi proto-states, which is also the topic of my ongoing book project. In late 2016 we (Dag Tuastad, Anne Stenersen, Pinar Tank and myself) received funding from the Norwegian Research Council for a four-year research project on rebel governance in the Middle East. Recently, I have also developed an interest in renewable energy issues in the Middle East, and I am involved in a research initiative on energy transition in the Middle East (GreenMENA).
I have been a contributing member of several research networks at the Department, including The New Middle East Project (NewME), a research group which was subsequently assessed by the Norwegian Research Council report "Evaluation of the Humanities in Norway" as one of seven "especially high-performing and world-leading groups" (p.35). I am also an adjunct research professor at the Norwegian Defense Research Est (FFI) where I collaborate with FFI's research group on jihadism.
Teaching and tutoring
In spring 2022 I will teach MES4520, a MA-level course with the title: "Making Sense of ISIS: Jihadist insurgencies and proto-states in the contemporary MENA region", a course I also gave in 2020 and 2019. I will also teach seminars at GreenMENA, an MA course dealing with climate change and environmental challenges in the Middle East.
I have previously taught various graduate and undergraduate courses in Middle East studies, including:
- MES4000 - Theory, Methodology and Project Description in Middle East Studies
- MØNA1505 - Midtøstens moderne historie
- MØNA1000 - Hvordan forstå Midtøsten
Higher education and employment history
I joined the Department as an associate professor in Middle East studies in January 2014 and was promoted to full professor in early 2015.
I have a Cand.Philol.-degree in history and a Dr.Philos.(PhD) from the University of Oslo with a dissertation on the Palestinian Authority, subsequently published as two books. My Cand.Philol.-dissertation dealt with the early history of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, based on field work and extensive archival research in Cairo and supported by a two-year scholarship from the Research Council of Norway. The thesis was subsequently published as a book and in recent years, translated versions have appeared in Turkish and Persian.
Between 1996 and 2013 I was a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Est. (FFI) where I established and developed an academic research programme on jihadism studies. Since 2014, I have been an adjunct research professor (professor II) at the FFI.
In 2001-2 I was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University. In 1999-2000 (and again in 2012-13) I worked as part time university lecturer in Middle East studies at the University of Oslo.
- Director of Centre for Islamic and Middle East Studies in 2014-2016.
- Editorial board member for Babylon: Nordic Journal of Middle East Studies (2017 - )
- Appointed board member of Nordic Society of Middle East Studies (2018-2019).
- Appointed Deputy Member for Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)'s Board (2020-22).
Awards and Scholarships
- FFI Publication Awards in 2005, 2011 and 2015.
- Fulbright Visiting Scholar Fellowship, 2001-2002.
- Research Council of Norway summer and study scholarships for 1991, 1992, 1993-95.
- Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship for 1993-95