The regional international organisations of the Middle East clearly work to different traditions than Western International Organisations (IOs) and are comprised of states which are known for their secrecy and hostility to critique. This is methodological challenge enough without taking into account the influences of temporal and spatial practices upon the functioning of these organisations. Using anthropological approaches to time and space an argument is advanced that putting temporal and spatial considerations at the heart of the study of these bodies impacts upon our conceptual, theoretical and methodological outlooks – generating richer, more nuanced insights. Thus, not only do time and space form an important research agenda in their own right but they also better inform existing theoretical understandings of IOs, particularly the historical and sociological institutionalist traditions. Drawing from direct experience with some of the key difficulties researchers face when engaging with these organisations, the article demonstrates the need for a reflexive and adaptive methodological engagement which can engage with the impacts of place and perceptions of time, examining these bodies less in comparison with the expectations scholars carry for IOs such as the UN and EU and more on their own terms, in their own situational and temporal contexts.
- Scholars and policymakers should judge success and failure differently to better take into account differing cultural conceptions of timescales.
- Understanding how policy is made in the secretariats of the IOs of the Middle East needs to take into account more variables than simply the directly political. Understanding how ideas of time and the impacts of place shape this, is an important new dimension of study.
- For academics, understanding how local dimensions of time and space might reshape existing theoretical approaches which are so firmly based on the study of Western IOs can draw attention to different understandings of time horizons and critical junctures.
- That for Western diplomats, NGOs and academics engaging with the IOs of the Middle East understanding how time is conceived and how spaces can influence processes enables more effective research, engagement and influence – making for more empathetic and constructive dialogue.