Imagining the Middle East: The state, nationalism and regional international society

Ayla Göl

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2 Citations (SciVal)


The Middle East is commonly perceived as a zone of cultural and political differences within the global international society. Imagining the Middle East as a ‘unique’ region is not a new idea, but relocating this conception within the English School (ES) of International Relations (IR) is. This article challenges the perceived ‘exceptionalism’ of the Middle East, which claims that the European concepts of state, sovereignty and nationalism are alien to Islam, therefore preventing the emergence of a regional international society. The first part highlights the correlation between Eurocentrism in IR and the lack of interest in regional – area – studies through the critique of Orientalism and the ES. The second part moves to demonstrate why the ES is more explanatory than other IR theories in the context of the Ottoman–European relations. The third part explores the ‘institutional distinctiveness’ of the Middle East, disproving the notion of regional ‘exceptionalism’ and IR’s foundational Eurocentric assumptions. This article concludes by arguing that there is a strong case for calling the Middle East a ‘regional interstate society’, which remains to be a litmus test of whether or not a truly global international society is possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-394
JournalGlobal Discourse
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2015


  • The English School of International Relations
  • Islam
  • the Islamic State
  • the Middle East
  • nationalism
  • the Ottoman Empire
  • pan-Arabism
  • pan-Islamism
  • regional international society


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