On Sunday, 21 March 2021, the eighth Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) Social Sciences and Humanities Conference opened to examine “The Contemporary Arab State: Perception, Emergence, and Crisis”.
The conference began with a public lecture given by Center Director General of Dr. Azmi Bishara titled “State, Nation, and Governance: Interconnection and Differentiation”. This was followed by the first conference session in which Acting President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies Dr. Abdelwahab El-Affendi presented a paper titled “Beyond the Fable of the Deep State: Repositioning Authority in the New Machiavellian Era,” critically interrogating the concept of modern state from the standpoint of the so-called “deep state” – a concept that right-wing populisms lifted (from what were initially Middle Eastern narratives) to revive manifestations of Machiavellianism in modern political thought – such as in the deep state claim of the “right” to monopolize violence in the political arena and dispense with ideals of legitimacy, justice, and consensus.
Adham Saouli and Raymond Hinnebusch, who teach International Relations and Middle East Politics at the University of St Andrews, then came forward with presentation of a paper on the Arab State, employing comparative historical methodology and offering a theoretical framework for understanding the formation, development, and disintegration of the state in the Arab world, citing empirical cases. The second session began with a lecture by Ali Al-Saleh Mawla, a professor of higher education and modern Arab thought from the University of Sfax, examining dilemmas reflected in the gap between ideal and reality that obstruct the contemporary Arab state’s full access to the modern era.
Professor of Arab Studies at the University of Michigan Rifaat Rustum al-Diqa then presented his theoretical-historical revisit of key terms of the Khaldunian heritage of political thought such as asabiyyah, king, and caliphate, along with concepts of modern Western philosophical and political thought such as Thomas Hobbes’ sovereignty: and occasion to reflect on our historical moment post Arab Spring and the intersection of globalized “imperial” Western sovereignty with forms of resistance in the Arab political arena.
The third session featured Professor of Public Law and Political Science at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes Abdel Latif el-Mutadayyin presenting a review of the challenges that sub-identities pose for national identity and state stability, highlighting the right of individuals to their local identities in legal, political and social dimensions and the inability of the state to resolve conflict over linguistic and cultural identity – with all this implies for political and social stability – particularly in the context of ideological mobilization undergirding and elevating Amazigh identity in the countries of the Maghreb. Khalid Ouassou, a professor researching immigration and social movements, expanded on the same topic in his examination of the threats to the coexistence of Moroccans posed by internal and external conditions considering critical legal and constitutional mechanisms, public policies, ideological institutions and protection treaties – in an effort to delineate boundaries between cultures that can enable the reconfiguration of collective affiliation.
The eighth annual Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities is set to continue until Thursday 25 March 2021, with 34 researchers presenting their research.