The editors of Tabayyun, an academic journal published by the ACRPS in Doha and Beirut, are calling for submissions for the third edition of the quarterly, which is to be printed in Winter 2013. Submissions will be accepted until October 15, 2012. The theme for this edition of Tabayyun is "The Constitution in Modern Arab Thought".
The historic events presently underway in Arab countries cast a number of previous debates, which were a matter for Arab discourse during the Arab Nahda, the period stretching from the late-eighteenth to the early-twentieth centuries, as matters of pressing concern. With the passage of time and developments in academic practices, our view of those previous debates framed around questions of governance and the right to rule have also changed.
There is no real difference of opinion over the fact that the popular revolutions that rippled through the Arab countries beginning in late-2010, and live on today as the "Arab Spring," are a truly historic occurrence that present scholars with entirely novel questions. They also bring to mind a number of other persistent questions that have remained unresolved (presumably as they have not yet received their due attention). As Arab societies make the transformation from despotic rule to government by institutions nested in a modern nation-state, few of these questions are as relevant as the form of a constitution.
By devoting the third issue of Tabayyun, a comprehensive journal taking in all manner of questions of concern to intellectuals interested in the social and human sciences, to the development of the idea of constitutions is to help shed light on how the idea itself has grown alongside other motifs associated with modernity in Arab thought. By re-addressing them today, we have the benefit not only of the legacy of what Arab intellectuals and jurisprudents wrote over the last 200 years, but also of assessing the debate through the prism of the seismic shifts unraveling before our very eyes. This is indeed an unparalleled opportunity to re-write the intellectual history of the idea of a "constitution" in modern Arab thought, and to fulfill the wider aim of Tabayyun as a whole, which is to re-invigorate critical approaches to knowledge in contemporary Arab social and human sciences.
A few more detailed questions that invite particular examination include:
a) Perhaps the broadest of our concerns for this issue is the general question of the revolutions of the Arab Spring and all attendant matters. These revolutions, with all their breadth of scope have raised some very specific matters of very immediate concern: how to agree on the formation of a constitution? Which body or bodies will be invested with the power to draft such a constitution? What relationship would presumptive constitutional bodies, including constitutional courts, have to the other arms of government in a post-revolutionary Arab society? Will there be a role or protected status for Islamic religious law (or Sharia) in Arab constitutions? Authors are invited to frame these present-day questions in light of the historical legacy of modern Arab intellectual thought.
b) A more specific focus lies within the foundations for constitutional law: the legal and intellectual foundations, and the ways in which these might reflect the temporal, immediate concerns brought about by the Arab Spring revolutions. These revolutions will present a new debate not just between the Arab peoples and the despotic regimes against which they are rebelling, but also between the variety of political blocs and trends in the Arab countries, be they nationalist, liberal, leftist, secular, or Islamist. The maturity of the approach to questions of a prospective constitutional arrangement, and preparedness for it, vary from one political faction to another, as well as within each of these factions.
c) Our concern in historical matters is a commitment to understanding the intellectual pedigree of the present-day's debates, the extent to which they build on the discourse of the Nahda, and the approaches they take to the debate on constitutions. This history begins with the Tanzimat in the Ottoman Empire, and the Mashrouta period (literally "limited" or for "limited government") in the wider region, including Iran. It was a series of reforms that inspired some of the earliest proponents of the Nahda: Abdulrahman al-Kawakibi, Rifaa al-Tahtawy, Medhat Pasha, and Kheireddine al-Tunisi. Later on, these thinkers' writings would form the backbone of the first constitutional texts of modern Arab states in the 1920s, with the Egyptian constitution being of particular interest. What role did discussions on the drafting of a constitution play in the wider discussion on reform, independence from colonialism, and the establishment of a modern nation-state free of despotism? How is it these first intellectual beginnings of a constitutional movement never materialized into constitutional practices?
d) We also invite a re-examination of how the debate on constitutional thinking relates to the period of the mid-twentieth century: with the formal independence of the Arab states, the creation of the Israeli state and the many military coups that followed. This was a period that also witnessed state-sponsored development programs founded on state capitalism and networks of clientelist politics and rentier economics. These moves were carried out in the name of a populist democracy, one that could do with a constitutional model. There can be no doubt this carried with it an impact on the debate around constitutional movements in Arab countries. Clear examples of this are found in the exceptional "emergency" laws enacted by despotic Arab regimes, an environment which in some cases led to the effective annulment of the rule of law. In these environments, the constitutions within Arab states came to be worth less than the paper they were printed on.
e) It is also impossible to look onto the Arab nation, which stretches from the Gulf States to Morocco, taking in the Levant and the Nile Valley, without actually taking into account the geographic and human diversity of the Arab people. This presents the opportunity for comparative studies on, for example: different attitudes to monarchy, including constitutional monarchy; variations in the role of religion within the state; the civic nature - or otherwise - of the state; the varying roles for the military; "consensus-based" democratic systems (such as the case in Lebanon); and sectarianism. There are also some cases in which there is no constitution to speak of.
f) We also invite examination of a more theoretical nature, including the foreign inspiration for Arab constitutional movements, whence many of these ideas came from, including Belgium, France and the United States. We welcome examinations of how these varying, foreign conceptualizations of a revolution related to the various social and political structures found in Arab countries.
Detailed submission guidelines can be found below.
For authors wishing to submit in languages other than Arabic: Please allow additional time for your work to be translated. This may mean submitting your text before the deadline.
The ACRPS journals will consider publishing original, previously unpublished materials, and adopt all generally agreed upon standards for academic publishing.
Length: General research papers should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length, inclusive of a bibliography, footnotes, and tables. Only in exceptional cases will longer pieces be accepted.
Book reviews: These reviews should cover books that have been published within the last three years. Generally, the review should run between 2,000 and 3,000 words although there is some scope for longer review pieces to be considered as critical studies to be published in the journals.
Peer review: All submitted papers will be submitted to a peer review process by qualified scholars. The author concerned may be asked to revise and re-submit the submitted paper in light of any comments and suggestions made by the reviewers prior to publication.
Curriculum Vitae, indexing, and abstract: The author shall submit a list of keywords, a complete abstract no longer than 250 words, and a brief biographical entry about him/herself.
Diagrams, graphs, line drawings, maps and photographs: Figures (i.e. diagrams, graphs, line drawings, maps, and photographs) should be sent in their original format (such as Excel, Word, or Power Point). Images alone are not acceptable.