Why study the Middle East and Central Asia?
The Middle East and Central Asia continues to profoundly shape global dynamics. Geographically situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the region has a rich history reflected in its immense cultural and societal diversity. Frequently but inaccurately portrayed as a homogenous part of the world riddled by sectarian violence, underpinned by hydrocarbon wealth and a socio-political culture resistant to democracy, students undertaking Middle Eastern and Central Asian studies at ANU will immediately advance their knowledge beyond these stereotypes.
From this informed understanding, students studying at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies will be better placed to competently analyse relevant foreign policy announcements, media coverage of the region and global events.
From the recent historic women-led protests in Iran to coverage of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, Australia’s policy position regarding our embassy in Israel and Turkey’s role in NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The global significance of the Middle East bears out everyday in the information we read, view and digest.
What is the significance of the region to Australia?
As a country deeply connected to the globalised world through trade, defence and migration, Australia has a multitude of interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. From military campaigns with allies such as the United State, to Free Trade Agreements, tourism and its involvement in humanitarian programs; the Middle East and Central Asia as a region is of considerable political and economic significance to Australia.
For much of the past 100 years, Australia has maintained some form of military presence in the Middle East. It has also been directly involved in more military and peacekeeping operations in the Middle East than in any other part of the world since World War I.
Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper anticipated that turbulence in the Middle East would continue to be a feature of the strategic environment from today up to 2035 with direct significance for Australia.
Australia has outstanding free trade and comprehensive economic partnership agreements with the Gulf Corporation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman) and also directly with the United Arab Emirates. Two-way trade between Australia and the Middle East exceeded $11.1 billion in 2021. The GCC is an established market for a range of Australian exports including agriculture, automotive and resources products. It is also a growing market for services and investment, with strong opportunities in infrastructure, education and professional services.
Australia is also home to a thriving and culturally diverse Middle Eastern and Central Asian community of an estimated 500,000 people and as a Christian-majority nation, the Middle East holds cultural significant for Australia in being the birthplace of the Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.