The Nahrein Network



The Nahrein Network fosters the sustainable development of antiquity, heritage and the humanities in the post-conflict Middle East. We have five clearly defined aims:

1. To better understand the current situation

We aim to develop a fuller historical understanding of the current exclusion of local experts and audiences from the production and consumption of knowledge about Middle Eastern antiquity. To do this we will:

  • conduct focus groups to scope current interests and expertise, obstacles and opportunities for work on history, culture and heritage in Middle Eastern universities, museums and archives, NGOs and community groups;
  • carry out and fund historical research on the current deracination of ancient Middle Eastern history and archaeology, through archival research and oral histories of the politics of the region's past. We will cover Ottoman times, through the Mandate era, independence, Baathism, to the present, and focus especially on the exclusions of women and minority social groups.

2. To raise the profile of local expertise

We aim to facilitate Middle Eastern humanities academics in re-engaging with regional and global academic communities, as producers of research for international consumption. To do this we will:

  • develop training programmes, bespoke visiting scholarships, and peer-mentoring groups on relevant research methodology, grant writing and academic leadership. We will offer particular support for participation and leadership from women, minorities, and Early Career Researchers.
  • offer funding opportunities for the current generation of Middle Eastern humanities academics to undertake collaborative, transregional research projects, with support to disseminate their methods, findings and outputs;
  • trial new university-level pedagogies of Mesopotamian history in Arabic and other local languages, in order to produce the next generation of local researchers on local Middle Eastern antiquity. In this way we will widen access to the core research skills of post-excavation identification, decipherment and analysis of archaeological finds, through ancient languages and scripts, images, and objects.

3. To improve the job prospects of the region's youth

We aim to improve employability and leadership potential for humanities graduates from Middle Eastern universities, by:

  • initiating dialogue between teachers, students, ministries and employers to identify the most needed and valued humanities-based skills and attributes in the region's modernising economy;
  • funding research projects to develop locally effective university-level teaching of transferable humanities skills;
  • contributing to UNESCO Iraq's advisory work on humanities curriculum reform in schools for the Iraqi Ministry of Education, helping to better prepare school leavers for university.

4. To help heritage organisations better serve local needs

We aim to enable Middle Eastern museums, archives, cultural heritage sites to contribute to local tourism and knowledge economies. To do this we will:

  • bring together ancient historians, educators, cultural heritage professionals, local NGOs and community groups to better understand needs and interests, obstacles and opportunities;
  • carrying out and funding research to develop re-usable, adaptable case studies in public education, whether in museums, on UNESCO World Heritage sites, or other cultural centres, whether for use on location and/or in print, broadcast, and online media;
  • working with UNESCO Iraq to advocate for the social and economic importance of cultural institutions in local and regional development.

5. To help post-conflict healing and reconciliation

We aim to promote ancient Middle Eastern history as a 'safe' space for public debate around sensitive social, and political matters of current concern. To do this we will:

  • fund research projects on themes of common interest to antiquity and modernity, such as: exile, diaspora and return; cultural memory and forgetting; local, national, and regional identities and interactions; living in the landscape; legal systems and personal rights;
  • use these findings to help the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), local NGOs and community groups use antiquity as a channel for public discussion of issues around post-conflict reconciliation and change.

Over-arching goals

These aims are carefully directed at improving the economic prospects and social welfare of the five social groups who are most vulnerable to being 'left behind' in the region. In relation to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the Network will offer:

  • improved employability for young humanities graduates (SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 6: Decent Work and Economic Growth);
  • improved inclusion and representation of women and minorities in education, society and the economy (SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities);
  • increased local tourism and knowledge economies around rural cultural heritage sites (SDG 14: Life Below Water; SDG 15: Life on Land);
  • better social cohesion in war-damaged communities (SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).

The Network consistently strives to maintain compliance with the Official Development Assistance guidelines.