Individual Research Projects

Learning Intelligence: The Exchange of Secret Service Knowledge between Germany and the Arab Middle East 1960–2010

Research project of Sophia Hoffmann

This project investigates whether the international relations between Arab and German secret services resulted in an exchange of knowledge, and whether this exchange resulted in similarities and/or differences in the shape, conduct and politics of German and Arab secret services. Knowledge is here conceptualised as modus operandi; as the ideas and practices about how to develop, justify and run a secret service. Secret services are an extremely widespread institution of modern states, yet social sciences’ empirical and theoretical understanding of their functioning remains very shallow, and strongly focused on the Anglo-Saxon world. Coming from a political science perspective, with interdisciplinary cross-over into history, sociology and Middle East studies, this project proposes archival, literature and interview research to develop innovative answers about the nature, impact and role of secret services across different types of states and regimes.


Intelligence Fields: The Relations of the East German Stasi and Syrian Mukhabarat, 1960–1990

PhD Project of Noura Chalati

Drawing on archival material, political memoirs, and interviews, this PhD project sets out to study the East German and Syrian intelligence work between 1960 and 1990 to uncover similarities and differences, and to investigate their transnational intelligence relations.

This project employs a Bourdieu-inspired field and practice theoretical approach and develops the concept of intelligence fields which are in constant interaction with each other. While intelligence agencies, such as the numerous Syrian (Mukhabarat) and the East German (MfS – Ministry for State Security) intelligence agencies, are the key players in intelligence fields, there are several other intelligence actors that this framework seeks to incorporate.

Special emphasis will be put on the role that bureaucracy, surveillance and violence play for both intelligence agencies - services in countries with histories as distinct as those of East Germany and Syria. Besides being enormous bureaucratic institutions with a lot of paperwork that influences everyday life, the Mukhabarat and the MfS used omnipresent surveillance and violence which strongly affected the Syrian and East German societies. Furthermore, this project will examine if and how ideology shapes the work and cooperation of these institutions which, to varying degrees, embraced Socialist ideologies under the Soviet sphere of influence.

The raison d'être of intelligence agencies. West Germany’s (BND) and Iraq’s (JMA) foreign intelligence agencies during the Cold War (1969–1990)

PhD Project of Ali Dogan

In my dissertation I compare the German foreign intelligence service - Bundesnachrichtendienst - and the Iraqi intelligence service - Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma - and analyse their cooperation. This dissertation provides a new theory based on the intellectual history of raison d'état as an explanation for the raison d'être of intelligence services. The author argues that for intelligence services in particular, there is an "realm of exceptional action" that allows intelligence services to operate outside the legal framework.