The ACRPS political science journal, Siyasat Arabiya, opened held a 2-day symposium on 18-19 October 2021 looking at “The State of Political Science and International Relations in Arab Countries.” The symposium was held remotely using Zoom and livestreamed across the Arab Center social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), with the public invited to take part through pre-registration.
The symposium examined the development of political science as a discipline in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and Iraq since the establishment of political science faculties in Arab universities, with a focus on teaching experience, scientific research and curricula, and publishing in Arab journals. Given the importance of the emergence and development of the political science discipline in Arab universities, the symposium also focuses on the challenge of crossing disciplines, and its relationship to gender studies. The symposium also looked into the international relations discipline and the challenges it faces in Arab countries, discussing the reasons for the failure of Arab scholarship to formulate international relations theories.
In his opening speech, Haidar Saeed, head of the research department at the Arab Center and editor-in-chief of Siyasat Arabiya, stated that this symposium is the nucleus of a special issue on the same subject, to be published in summer 2022, as a result of a proposal submitted by Abdelwahab El-Affendi, who edited the issue. He added that this symposium addresses a set of questions, most notably the circumstances that controlled the emergence and development of political science and international relations in Arab culture and academies, and the obstacles for the development of the field. This necessitates the study of the products or the discipline as well as its relationship to the state and society. Saeed emphasised a number of impediments to the theoretical development of the field in the Arab world, focusing on a clear knowledge gap, the origin and development of the field, the lack of attention of those working in it to the epistemological and methodological aspects, the dominance of authoritarian regimes over it throughout the development of the national state, its overlap with other disciplines, and the influence of Western references.
Abdelwahab El-Affendi presented his inaugural paper “The State of Political Science in the Arab World: Important Excavations for a Knowledge Renaissance.” He noted that political science research in the Arab world has been deepened by research project in which he participates titled "Political Science from a New Perspective", which aims to critically address the specialization, based on some of its shortcomings in dealing with issues in the Arab region, including the failure to foresee many issues and events. He added that the noticeable decline in the conditions of some Arab universities, either due to political and economic deterioration, unrest, or both, has stimulated the idea of knowledge excavation to understand the state of the field. He stressed that there are many questions about the impact of teaching, learning and research in the specialization on the political fluctuations in the region, and the extent of the impact of political interventions on the academic process related to it. Finally, El-Affendi brought up complex problems, such as the lack of educational materials, the emigration of teachers, the absence or weakness of official support for students, and so on. He concluded by saying that providing accurate and updated information about the status of political science teaching and research in the Arab contributes to the development of the specialization, its knowledge and its modernization.
The first session focused on the Rise and Development of Political Science in the Arab World: Examples from Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, moderated by ACRPS researcher Hemchi M. Fekry M presented her paper “The Historical Development of the Political Science Discipline in Egypt: The Experience of the Political Science Department at Cairo University,” while Abdelali A, Qassem Hajjaj and Lubna Jassas spoke of “The Crisis of Political Science at the Algerian University: the Paradox of Six Decades of National Independence.” Chaker Houki rounded off the discussion with his work “The State of Political Science in Tunisia: An Attempt to Monitor, Evaluate, and Understand the Experience.”
Following a break, the second session, moderated by Head of the ACRPC Political Studies Unit, Marwan Kabalan, explored the International Relations Discipline in the Arab world- Ahmed Qasem Hussein discussed his paper “An Investigation of the International Relations Discipline in Arab Countries: Reality and Challenges,” followed by Sidahmed Goudjili and his work on “International Relations in the Arab Region: Half a Century of Transformation.” Makiya Najjar concluded the day with an intervention titled “Why Is There No Arab International Relations Theory?”
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