Department of Comparative Politics

Ph.D. researcher tackles transitional justice in the Middle East

“My research can help policy-makers maximize chances of reconciliation”

New Ph.D. Espen Stokke
After having written both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Department of Comparative Politics, Espen Stokke worked as a research assistant at the Chr. Michelsen Institute. He is now back at the department as a Ph.D. candidate.
Thor Brødreskift / UiB

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What role do Middle East diasporas play in pressing for transitional justice in their homeland? How can Western leaders engage with those diasporas to help justice happen?

Those are the questions being asked by a new researcher at the Department of Comparative Politics.

Espen Stokke started his Ph.D. at the department in August. He says his project addresses an issue overlooked by existing scholarship.  

Stokke says it is generally known that diasporas can be players in transitional justice. Further, Middle East diasporas are clearly influential in the politics of their homeland. Yet little is known about how Middle East diasporas impact transitional justice in the region.  

Stokke will look specifically at the role diasporas from Tunisia, Egypt and Syria have played in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings and the Syrian civil war.

He hopes his findings will be useful to Western policy-makers seeking to promote peace and democracy. “Fundamentally,” he says, “the diasporas have knowledge and expertise that remains untapped and ignored.” 

Stokke also hopes to benefit the Department of Comparative Politics, where he says the Middle East deserves more attention.

His work will be supervised by professor Kristin Strømsnes and former post-doc Teije Hidde Donker. Stokke’s project is an “open” Ph.D., not tied to any in-house project. Thus, he says, “I am both the principal investigator and the administrative grunt worker.”

Stokke knows the Middle East well. For his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, also earned at the department, he examined Syrian uprisings and the mobilization of Syrian diasporas.

After that, he became a research assistant at Bergen’s Chr. Michelsen Institute, where he studied everything from Islam and abortion to Sudanese human trafficking.

Stokke says that, given the network he has developed with researchers in Bergen, pursuing his Ph.D. at UiB was a natural choice.  

A born-and-raised “Bergenser,” Stokke spends his free time playing football and drumming. And, he says, “I don’t mind spending some time playing computer games.”