Call for abstracts: The Fourth Annual International Conference on MENA Studies - March 28-29, 2020 Morocco


Submissions are due January 30, 2020

Takamul Centre for Studies and Research is pleased to invite you to participate in the Fourth Annual International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Studies to be held on March 28 and 29, 2020 in Rabat, Morocco. The “Joining the Dots: Re-Thinking Social Movements in MENA” conference will examine different paradigms and approaches of social movements and activism in order to contribute to the scholarly knowledge about the processes of social and political transformations.

There has been an exponential rise of social movements and collective actions in the MENA region during the last two decades. The ‘Arab Spring’ started a culture of resistance that has resulted in on-going protests such as the strikes in Iran caused by economic distress, Turkey’s Gezi Park occupation by protesters demanding freedom of speech, Algerians’ weekly demonstrations in opposition to the ousted president’s fifth term, the mass protests and demonstrations in Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon being largely triggered by dire socio-economic and political disenfranchisement with outright calls for regime change, and Hirak Rif, the grassroot movement in Morocco against ill governance and “hoghra” (humiliation). Communities who are affected by a certain type of oppression or injustice are in the limelight of protests and national discussions. Workers’ unions, teachers, students, women, retirees, trade unions, journalists, and many other activists, from different socio-cultural backgrounds and calling for different causes, are making Herculean efforts to bring about change in their life and the life of others. The young generation, which was unheard, muted, and not represented has acquired opportunities to articulate its demands and aspirations.

Youth activists have taken the lead in establishing social movements in specific national contexts across the MENA region. A shared theoretical horizon can be usefully gained through employing social movement theories and the emphasis on collective action wedded to claimmaking and the opportunities afforded to citizens to organize themselves. Political performances by social actors are intelligible with reference to the alliances constructed by social movements and the public demands made in particular societies. Although external factors may affect whether a social movement can be founded and what constraints should be imposed on its activities, due attention on the internal structure and ideological goals of these organizations are significant areas of enquiry. Activists in the MENA region have formed social movements of various social, economic and ethnic compositions. While labor movements have not been prominent, perhaps with the exception of Tunisia and Morocco, youth, Islamist and secular organizations have articulated discontent around issues of justice and the identity of the state respectively.

Unsurprisingly, the problematic of repression is closely associated to social movements. Usage of chemical gas against protestors, arrestations, excessive police force, state control of the media and the internet all seek to crush the demonstrations and mute the crowds. Moreover, in the last few years, because of the rise of extreme right-wing populist currents, the international landscape doesn’t seem to be supportive of these social movements through lobbying governments to respect human rights and allow social movements to demand the rule of law, a meaningful framework of checks and balances and sound governance. However, many scholars have investigated the counter-effect of repression on mobilization. In fact, many instances show that instead of quashing an uprising, the masses become more adamant and challenge the status quo sometimes coercively, a scenario that neither autocratic states in the region nor those being governed by these states wish to bring about.

Be it formal or informal, social movements have taken many traditional but also unconventional forms. The common ways, such as staging protests in the streets, hunger strikes, sit-ins, civil disobedience, boycott and others have become insufficient and/ or do not represent other communities. The youth have been employing creative strategies of protest, proving that the culture of fear is falling apart. From the song by the artist Soolking “La Liberté”, to hanging large banners with slogans “They all should go” mimicking the culture of Tifo, young Algerians are using their own ways of expression. Thus, performance protest using art forms, online activism, storytelling, and many other alternative protest practices attempt to promote the inclusion of multiple excluded groups in the periphery and to eventually reach out to a wider public allowing the social movement to grow and social and political change to be potentially activated. However, to what extent can we say that all these forms of activism do contribute in pushing forward a democratic culture? Is there a possibility for change to happen? And, if it does, how effective are the measures taken in achieving the people’s demands? Do the measures taken by governments tend to calm down initial turmoil or are they meant to consolidate the rule of law, democracy and a good governance of human and natural resources?

Women across the MENA region, along with their undeniably active involvement within a variety of social movements that demand the rule of law, democracy and good governance, have also marched against unequal inheritance rights. The demand of an equal inheritance right was approved by the late Tunisian president Essebsi’s Cabinet but is still being debatable and mostly being opposed in Morocco and Egypt. The LGBTQ groups in Morocco are resorting to the virtual space denouncing Article 489 of the Penal Code as well as the verbal and physical discriminatory attacks they face in the public sphere. Their online activism has, at least, brought to the fore a tense public debate regarding a taboo subject in a “conservative” society. The pressing question of religious minorities and their rights in the MENA region has been embraced by the United Arab Emirates and Moroccan governments through the Declaration of Marrakech and the Pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi in February 2019 followed by a historic visit to Rabat in March 2019. Such examples, among others, show a willingness to act for the promotion of interfaith dialogue and spiritual security. Yet, when the status quo persists or deteriorates, interminable Hrig movement (illegal immigration) and brain-drain are sometimes the only getaway.

The conference’s theme is intended to highlight cross-disciplinary issues, themes and research methods. Thus, one key aim is to blend methods and epistemologies hailing from history, sociology, politics, economics, social psychology, religious studies and cultural studies. Participants are encouraged to explore their themes and problems through a cross-disciplinary prism. Possible contributions include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

•Democracy, authoritarianism and social movements

•Effects of repression on movements, civil society, organizations, and activism

•Street Activism and Online Activism

•History of social movements and the lessons to be learned

•Mobilization of individuals and citizens for social movements

• Importing and exporting activism

•Art, Youth and Innovative Activism •Testimonies of Resistance

•Ethnic, racial, class, gender, linguistic and religious inclusion / exclusion

Submission Guidelines Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for individual papers. Submissions are due January 30, 2020. Paper abstracts must be no more than 300 words and submitted as a Microsoft Word or PDF file. The submission must include the title, the presenter’s name, affiliation, email address, as well as a short biography. Please submit your abstracts to takamul.menaproject@gmail.com. Review results will be communicated via E-Mail by February 10, 2020. All abstracts and all paper presentations must be in English. Please, do not hesitate to submit your inquiries to tayebi@takamulcentre.com and aichabouchara@gmail.com

Notes: - Thanks to the support of Hanns Seidel Foundation, Takamul Centre will provide the participants with accommodation and cover the program-related meals. - Due to the big number of submissions we received last year, onlythe accepted applicants will be contacted this time. - The accepted applicants must submit their papers by March 15, 2020. The papers will be reviewed by Hanns Seidel Foundation’s Scientific Committee and appear in the conference proceedings by November 2020. Failure to submit papers will make the short-listed applicant ineligible to take part in the conference.

For more information: https://filebin.net/999s8jtza48sslst/Conference_Call_for_Submissions_2020.pdf?t=ulo27cgj

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