Brynjar Lia

Professor - Middle East Studies
Image of Brynjar Lia
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47 22857191
Visiting address Niels Henrik Abels vei 36 P. A. Munchs hus 0371 OSLO
Postal address Postboks 1010 Blindern 0315 OSLO

Academic Interests

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 StenersenPinar 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: 

I have supervised six PhD-dissertations until their successful defense, and currently I supervise two doctoral candidates (Gråtrud and Skretting).

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. 


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



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Tags: Middle East, Islamism, Jihadism, armed conflict, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, CIMS
Published Jan. 8, 2014 2:28 PM - Last modified Oct. 21, 2021 3:44 PM