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On the Importance of Ideas, Identities and Values in the MENA Region


This paper evaluates the importance of ideas, norms and identities in the MENA region. The basic assumption is that ideas, norms and identities matter in world politics in general, and in the MENA region in particular. After presenting an overview of the debate on these concepts in the field of international relations, and their relevance in the non-West, the paper proceeds, based on literature essentially developed in the region and by local scholars, to the discussion of three specific norms in the MENA region: ‘Asabiya as a pre-existing norm that is key to understanding political developments in the region; Umma as a norm that has been revisited and redefined in order to be useful in the region; and nationalism as a norm adopted from the West which has had to be adapted to the needs and developments in the region.

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