The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies organized its first Annual Conference for Social Sciences and Humanities from 24 to 26 March, 2012 in Doha.
At the Opening of the conference, his Highness Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, Crown Prince and Heir Apparent of Qatar, together with ACRPS Director General Dr Azmi Bishara awarded the Arab Prize for commissioned work to the eight selected researchers whose work was selected for recognition at the meeting.
Opening remarks were delivered by the well-known Palestinian physicist Prof Antoine Zahlan, and Tunisian liinguist Abdulsalam Masnadi. Prof Zahlan gave a sweeping address to the audience taking in the history of empiricism within Arab culture and the inability of Arab states to compete with Europe in terms of maritime technology. The theme of the limitations, or otherwise, of the Arabic language was also taken up by Masnadi.
One of the more well-attended discussions was delivered by the prize-winner Omar Razzaz of Jordan, who spoke of the historical development of the concept of rentier states in Arab countries. To a packed audience, Razzaz, a Jordanian economist who works with the World Bank, spoke of the threat which the culture of rentierism posed to the development of a free-standing democratic culture.
Speakers in the afternoon sessions also took in the ideas of colonialism and language. Abdulrahim Sheikh, a lecturer at Palestine's Birzeit University described the imposition of Hebrew placenames onto the geography of Palestine and how it fit into the "Columbus syndrome" of the need for colonialist powers to impose their way of thinking on the natives. Speaking immediately after was Dr Latifa Al Kondouz from Morocco, who described efforts by the French colonial authorities, dating from the 1930s, to both impose French as the main language in the Arab Maghreb and to divide the population of Morocco along linguistic lines, with Arabic and Amazigh speakers ("Berbers") on opposite sides of the divide.
This first conference was organized into two parallel tracks, each focused on a particular topic. The first track, entitled From Hampered Growth to Sustainable Development: Which Socio-economic Policies for Arab Countries?, focused on the establishment of a comprehensive project, one which reflects the links between Arab democratic change, and the economic and social conditions necessary for the success and sustainability of this change. Participants contributions focused on the following themes:
• Theme One: Concepts and policies of development: Transition from a reinter economy to a productive economy, and the role of the state.• Theme Two: Equal opportunities for all in developmental action and reaping the benefits of development: the distribution of income and wealth, fighting poverty and social protection.• Theme Three: Human Development, the Knowledge Society, and quality of life.• Theme Four: Inter-Arab integration and its role in developmental attainment.• Theme Five: Issues regarding quantitative data which measure development.
The second track,
Identity and Language in the Arab Homeland, examined the problematic interaction between Arab Societies and language, languages of instruction in education and higher education, scientific research language, and the interactive relation between the research language, education and cultural identity. Further to this, issues of translation, the role of government-sanctioned “National Academies”, and of social media and other networks in the formation of language were discussed by pedagogues, political scientists philosophers and scholars of language. The following themes were presented for participants' discussions:
• Theme One: Language and identity: Manifestations of interaction• Theme Two: The issue of the Arabic language in Arab history• Theme Three: Language and identity from a political viewpoint• Theme Four: The Language of Education: The Creation and Reproduction of Identity• Theme Five: The Language of Education in the Arab Homeland and the Question of Identity: Experiences and Challenges• Theme Six: The language of education and identity: Current challenges and future expectations
The Social Sciences and Humanities Conference
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