Gaps and Omissions in Arab Social Sciences: A Talk by ACSS Director-General
In June 2017, the Director-General of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS), Seteney Shami, gave a talk titled "The Social Sciences in the Arab Region: Gaps, Elisions and Glosses" at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest.
The talk was part of the CEU Center for Religious Studies' research seminars titled "Striking from the Margins: Religion, State and Disintegration in the Middle East" research seminars. It came within the framework of a larger collaboration between CEU and the ACSS on the "Striking from the Margins" research project.
The presentation builds on the experience of the ACSS over the past five years in promoting and supporting social science research in the Arab Region. The ACSS has found that the interests of researchers in the region show a great deal of diversity and local specificity in different countries and sub-regions. However there are certain glaring absences regarding both topics and approaches, especially in the light of the current events and violence pervading the region. The presentation focuses on some of these gaps in the literature, arguing that they cannot be explained only by state authoritarianism and clampdown on the freedom of speech, but also by intellectual genealogies and legacies of nationalism, as well as the power of various hegemonic social forces. The presentation also addresses the role of theorizing on the region by western scholarship in creating or augmenting certain elisions, especially concerning the study of religion and religious groups.
The “Striking from the Margins" project seeks a nuanced and dynamic understanding of the transformations of religion in relation to those of state and social structures, most specifically in Syria and Iraq over the past three decades. It aims to work towards developing conceptual and analytical vocabularies that are adequate to the situation, eschewing facile recourse to culturalist and post-colonialist explanations and lending keen attention to social dynamics, political economy, conjunctural developments and the global setting of comparable developments elsewhere. To learn more about the project, click here.