Press Release

Imagining Futures – Dealing with Disparity

Merian Centre for Advanced Studies in the Maghreb (MECAM) to be established at the Université de Tunis

Picture of the Merian Centre
Picture of the Merian Centre

Hamburg 30. March 2020 – In Tunis, the Merian Centre for Advanced Studies in the Maghreb (MECAM) will be established this year. The centre is a joint endeavour of seven German and Tunisian Universities and research institutions: the University of Marburg, the Université de Tunis, Leipzig University, the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg and the Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien, the Institut Tunisien des Études Stratégiques (ITES) and the University of Sfax.

“The developments in Tunisia and other countries of the Maghreb pose important questions that are our questions, too: What is the future of democracy and the rule of law, of mobility and migration? How can public goods and resources be made accessible to the benefit of all people? How are religious and ethnic conflicts, and social disparities negotiated in view of the idea and practice of citizenship,” says Rachid Ouaissa, Professor of Politics of the Middle East at the University of Marburg and director of MECAM. “Tunisia is the only country in the region with a successful transition to democracy,” declares Habib Sidhom, President of the Université de Tunis, “Academic freedom, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, as well as an engaged civil society create a fertile ground for critical research.” With its excellent institutions of higher education, and its central location in the Maghreb – the West of the Arab world, the North of Africa and the South of Europe – Tunis is an “ideal place and a laboratory to work together with colleagues from different countries and disciplines on questions of common concern,” adds Ouaissa.

The overall topic “Imagining Futures: Dealing with Disparity” is guiding MECAM’s research on the (re)negotiation of complex social and political processes after the “Arab Spring.” MECAM aims at analysing these processes against the backdrop of disparities and inequalities that divide and connect the Maghreb and the neighbouring regions historically and in our times. Therefore, five thematic research clusters will be established: Inequality & Mobility, Memory & Justice, Aesthetics & Cultural Practice, Resources & Sustainability, and Identities & Beliefs.

With the Merian Centre for Advanced Studies in the Maghreb (MECAM), an international centre for interdisciplinary research and academic exchange will be established. It will be located at Tunis University with branches and cooperation partners in Casablanca/Morocco and Beirut/Lebanon. MECAM is coordinated by the University of Marburg. It is supported by a consortium of renowned Tunisian and German research institutions: the University of Marburg, Université de Tunis, Leipzig University, the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, the Institut Tunisien des Études Stratégiques (ITES) in Tunis and the University of Sfax. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany sponsors the establishment of the international centre for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences with 1.7 million Euro in the first three years. The Tunisian partners offer complementary resources.

MECAM will establish a fellowship programme in Tunis which brings together scholars from the Maghreb, Europe, the Middle East and beyond in Tunis to work free from their usual obligations and constraints, on their self-chosen research projects within the above mentioned thematic research clusters. The fellows will be offered excellent working conditions for research and debate. MECAM will arrange seminars and workshops as well as academies in different places in and outside of the region. The fellowship programme will be supplemented by mobility grants for research stays of scholars from Tunisia, the Maghreb, and other Arab countries in Germany. The “Rencontres Ibn Khaldun” are conceived as a series of special events that highlight the work of MECAM. Science communication through open-access publications and other forms of knowledge transfer and translation among the academic community and to other publics will be of particular concern. For its work, MECAM can rely on the expertise, the existing formats and networks of the partner institutions in Tunis, Marburg, Sfax, Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig.

The Maria Sibylla Merian Centres for Advanced Studies are international research centres promoting the internationalization of the humanities, cultural and social sciences and sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany. The Merian Centres are located at scientific institutions of the host country and are set up and operated by German research institutions in partnership with the respective host institution. Research centres of this kind have already been set up in India, Mexico, Brazil and Ghana. The centres are named after the naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717).

Contact presse : Philipps-Universität Marburg Dr. Gabriele Neumann Stabsstelle Hochschulkommunikation Tel.: +49 (0)6421 28-26118 E-Mail:

UT Université de Tunis Président Habib Sidhom Tél : (+216) 71 568392 - 71 572 579- 71 261272 – 71 567322 E-Mail :

Universität Leipzig Medienredaktion Stabsstelle Universitätskommunikation Tel.: +49 (0)341 97-35020 E-Mail:

German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Hamburg Verena Schweiger Leiterin der Fachabteilung Kommunikation Tel.: +49 (0)40 42825-770 E-Mail:

Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin Dr. Moritz Buchner Referent für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und Publikationen Tel.: +49 (0)30 89001-422 E-Mail:–


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