About the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies

About the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies

The Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies is located at the Australian National University in Canberra on the lands of the Ngunnawal people. The Centre acknowledges and respects the continuing culture of the Ngunnawal people as the region’s first inhabitants. The Centre’s staff are committed to supporting meaningful reconciliation with Australia’s traditional owners.

During its’ nearly 30-year history, CAIS has established itself not only as the largest centre of its kind in Australia but as a globally regarded centre for language-oriented area studies focusing on the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and their associated diasporas. CAIS is the leading centre nationally for the teaching of Arabic at a tertiary level and through the centre, ANU is the only university in Australia to offer Persian and Turkish languages.

The Centre is the only academic unit nationally focusing on the study of both the Middle East and Central Asia – with no other Australian university offering the specific study of Central Asia.

The Centre’s multi-disciplinary teaching and research team have established enduring relationships and associations with leading counterpart centres across the Middle East, North America and Europe. The Centre has an impressive record of graduating higher-degree research students with 55 graduating PhD students since 2000.

The current director, Professor Karima Laachir leads a cohesive team undertaking innovative and high-impact research in six strategic core areas to help enhance a better understanding of a region often only simplistically understood. Research produced by CAIS staff and students advances nuanced thought regarding complex issues within a region that continues to profoundly shape global dynamics.

CAIS Strategic Research Areas:

  1. Authoritarianism in the Middle East and Central Asia
  2. Security and international relations in the Middle East and Central Asia
  3. Social cohesion, ethnonationalism and sectarianism in the Middle East and Central Asia
  4. Multiculturalism in Australia among the Muslim diaspora and wider community
  5. Languages, Literature, Cultures and ideologies of the Middle East and Central Asia
  6. The Economics and Political Economy of the Middle East

Students studying at the centre are also afforded the opportunity to learn the region’s most relevant languages from native language speakers. Comprehensive programs are offered in Arabic, Persian and Turkish at a range of proficiency levels.

The Centre’s activities are guided by a 12-member Advisory Board featuring prominent scholars in Middle Eastern and Central Asian studies.

The Centre was founded by ANU in 1994, led by Distinguished Professor Amin Saikal AM, a specialist in the politics, history, political economy and international relations of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The founding director, Distinguished Professor Saikal initially established the Centre for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies to educate the public and policymakers about the complexities of the politics and societies of the Muslim Middle East and Central Asia. Distinguished Professor Saikal oversaw the change to the current name, the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) in 2000.

Since its establishment, CAIS has become the largest centre of its kind in Australia, with a strong academic record of teaching, research, outreach and public advice at the national and international levels.


Updated:  10 February 2023/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications