In addition to a collection of rich individual interviews and regular programs, Status/الوضع also publishes panels, lectures, and selected presentations from conferences with every issue of the audio journal. For Issue 2.2, we highlight a conference which seeks to interrogate normative understandings of civil society in the Arab region, moving beyond tired tropes and methodological approaches that have largely emanated from mainstream knowledge production.
On 20-22 February 2015, the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut and the Arab Studies Institute co-sponsored the first annual "Exploring an Agenda for Active Citizenship" conference in Beirut, Lebanon. The conference commemorated the fourth anniversary of the revolts that began in Tunisia in the final days of 2010 and rapidly spread to nearly half the countries of the Arab region. The revolts provided a stellar example of the power of citizen engagement as millions of people took to the streets and toppled long-time authoritarian regimes or leaders, changing perceptions of the “Arab Street” for good. Four years later, where are those millions? How do we understand and assess their successes or failures in achieving their demands for freedom, dignity, and social justice? Do we know enough about the historical roots of civil society activism in the region to ascribe cause-and-effect in regard to these events? What are the medium and long-term prospects for the future of citizenship participation in the public sphere, given the current realities? What are the factors that give rise to hope in some countries or open the pit of despair in others?
The conference did not claim to assess the Arab uprisings as such. Rather, its purpose was to shed light on the dynamics of civil society and citizen activism in the region, and to promote an understanding of the historical, political, economic, and legal factors affecting this activism. It also aimed to gather collective wisdom as to the short and long-term potential for continued citizen engagement, fill knowledge gaps, assist the Asfari Institute to develop its research agenda, and point the way toward future programming.
For a full report detailing the proceedings that took place throughout the three-day conference, click here: storify.com/jadaliyya/report-on-the-arab-studies-institute-and-asfari-in
The player below includes presentations by nine individuals, covering a wide array of topics and countries.
Ammar Djeffal, Université d`Alger
Dina El Khawaga, Arab Reform Initiative
Ala`a Shehabi, University of Lund
Carmen Geha, American University of Beirut
Ziad Abu Rish, Ohio University
Wael Gamal, Journalist and Researcher
Rima Majed, American University of Beirut
Samia Errazzouki, Georgetown University
Rim Turkmani, London School of Economics and Political Science