The American University of Beirut’s Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
In collaboration with the Arab Studies Institute and George Mason University
First Annual Conference: Exploring an Agenda for Active Citizenship
20-22 February 2015
Call for Papers
The February 2015 conference commemorates 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 does not claim to assess the Arab uprisings as such. Rather, it aims 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 aims 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 to future programmingThe Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship invites academics and civil society activists to offer their insights and viewpoints through research papers and panel presentations around any of the following six areas of intervention. Both regional perspectives and country-specific case studies are welcome. Five hundred word abstracts will be reviewed by a committee, and selected contributions will be published. The conference is particularly interested in geographic and topical diversity, and such diversity will be taken into consideration in choosing abstracts. Contributions and presentations will be accepted in either English or Arabic. Simultaneous translation will be available during the conference.
1. Civil society in the Arab region today
Historical development and current assessments of civil societies in the region; means methods, objectives and salient features; “civil” vs. “communitarian” or Ahli society; charity, community service and advocacy organizations and their varied impacts; effects of the various globalizations on societies in the region (economic, political, global civil society, cyber/digital civil society); assessing achieved and potential impacts on public policy.
2. The morning after revolt: civil society vs. civil society?
The ‘revolutions’ four years later: who is still engaged, and how; counter-revolution by governmental bodies and also by forces within civil societies; organizing associational networks and understanding citizenship in the context of increasing violence, internal armed conflict, and sectarianism.
3. The exercise of citizenship and collective responsibility
The conflation of concepts of nationality, citizenship, identity and loyalty; effects on citizen engagement in the public sphere; perceptions of individual and collective responsibilities; identity and citizenship within – and beyond borders; Arab expatriate engagements, citizenship ‘in exile’ and returnees.
4. The rulers and the ruled: cultural and legal paradigms
Kings, emirs, and presidents vs. subjects and citizens; ownership of the State; securitization of associational life and public spaces; laws of association and freedom of assembly and expression; role and effect of the human rights movement and advocacy organizations.
5. Collaboration and networking
National and regional civil society networking and mutual support; global civil society networking, its effects and implications; Arab participation in international civil society; ‘digital civil society’ and/or ‘cyber civil society’; assessing equal and unequal relationships.
6. A future agenda
Identifying gaps in knowledge and understanding towards a future research and knowledge building agenda; future directions for collaboration and activities; an agenda for empowering civil society actors; existing and potential empowering; models for hope.
• 500-word abstracts due: October 24, 2014
Please email abstracts as attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Accepted abstracts to be notified by November 7, 2014
• Papers due December 29, 2014
What is the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship?
The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at AUB was established to support the development of an informed and engaged citizenry and to promote increased openness, transparency, and accountability at all levels of associational life in the Arab region. It interprets civil society and citizenship broadly and inclusively and aims to foster fruitful dialogue that builds knowledge on traditional and innovative forms of associational life and encourages an active and engaged citizenry across the region on the basis of freedom of expression and association.
The Asfari Institute was launched with the Inaugural Conference New Spaces of Civil Society Activism in the Arab World on May 23rd 2013. This second conference is the first in a planned series of annual conferences on topics of citizenship and civil society and is an integral element of the Asfari Institute’s interdependent program of evidence-based and policy-oriented research, education, and collaboration with like-minded partners in Arab and international civil society and academia.