Johan Franzen

Johan Franzen


  • 4.15 Arts

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Personal profile

Academic Background

  • 2004-2009 PhD Middle East History,  School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),University of London              
  • 2003-2004 MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies (Distinction), SOAS
  • 2002-2003 Filosofie Magisterexamen (? MA),  Lund University, Sweden
  • 1996-2002 Filosofie Kandidatexamen (? BA),  Lund University
  • 2009-2012 Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice,  University of East Anglia

Administrative Posts


Dr Johan Franzén is a historian of the modern Middle East. He joined UEA in 2009 after finishing a PhD in modern Middle Eastern history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he also completed an MA (Distinction) in Middle Eastern Studies. Before coming to England, he read Middle Eastern history and Arabic at Lund University in his native Sweden whence he holds Filosofie Magisterexamen (Fil. Mag.) and Filosofie Kandidatexamen (Fil. Kand.) degrees.

Dr Franzén is the author of Red Star Over Iraq: Iraqi Communism Before Saddam (Hurst/Oxford University Press, 2011), which in 2012 was shortlisted for the Book Prize of the British Association of Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES). The Book Prize judges commented that the book was “a solidly researched and insightful single-volume history of the Iraqi Communist Party from its inception to its annihilation by Saddam” and “a highly readable and instructive history of secular political ideologies in Iraq”.


Dr Franzén specialises in the political history of the Arab East (al-Mashreq) – i.e. Egypt, the Levant (Bilād al-Shām), Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula.  He has particular expertise in the modern history of Iraq – a topic he has been researching for the past decade, but also political movements such as Arab Communist Parties – especially the Iraqi Communist Party (al-Ḥizb al-Shuyūᶜī al-ᶜIrāqī) and the British mandate-era Palestine Communist Party (Palestinishe Komunistishe Partei)  – and also Arab Socialism (e.g. Baᶜthism, Nasserism). He has further researched issues like national identity in the Arab world, pan-Arabism and regional types of nationalism (waṭaniyyah) – in particular in the case of Iraq. In addition, Dr Franzén is an expert on British imperial history in Iraq and the wider Middle East.

Key Research Interests and Expertise

Dr Franzén's main research interest is the political history of the modern Middle East, with a special emphasis on the Arab East (the Mashreq). His research focuses on how Britain and other Western powers exercised power in the region and the local responses this outside interference gave rise to. As such, his research is eclectic and multifarious. It looks at very different topics, ranging from Ottoman statecraft in the 19th century, through the British imperial project in the first half of the 20th century and American influence and policy thereafter, to local Arab resistance, revolutions and coups, and corresponding political ideologies from the mid-20th century onwards. Key themes in this broad approach to the history of the region are: national and political identities and ideologies, patterns of domination and resistance, and intellectual history.       

Professional Activities

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (F.R.Hist.Soc.)
  • Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (F.R.A.S.)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (F.H.E.A)
  • Academic peer reviewer for British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies; National Identities; Hurst Publishers; Palgrave McMillan; Manchester University Press


Middle East politics; Middle East history; Iraq; Syria; Egypt; Lebanon; Israel/Palestine; protest and revolutions in the Middle East; nationalism (Arab, Kurdish, Turkish); identity politics in the Middle East.

Teaching Interests

Dr Franzén’s teaching interests spans the whole Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab East (the Mashreq). The main focus of his teaching is on the political history of the region, nation-building, national identity, political ideology, Islamism, etc. from the late Ottoman Empire (roughly from the mid-nineteenth century) until the present time.

Areas Of Expertise