On August 20, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies concluded the work of the second session of the Arab Doctoral Students in Western Universities Conference which was held through the "Zoom" application during the period 9-20 August 2020. Through this unique-of-its kind conference the Arab Center endeavors to establish a link between the Arab world’s research universe and young Arab students completing their doctoral studies in Western universities in the diverse fields of social sciences and humanities. As envisaged by the center, such linkage is necessary since young researchers and graduate students typically establish professional and research careers in the countries in which they study, and publish their research results in Western academic institutions in the languages of those institutions – contributing to creation of a gap between their scholarship and research activity and the Arab region. The conference is thus also an attempt to strengthen collegial relationships between Arab researchers in Western universities as well as between them and their colleagues in Arab research institutions, in an organized institutional framework.
During the final three days of the conference (18-20 August), ten researchers presented research papers derived from their doctoral research in the thematic specializations of the conference: sectarianism, comparative literature, psychology, conflict and post-conflict studies, and immigrants and migration studies.
In the Sectarianism track, on August 18, Aisha Al-Rashidi presented a paper entitled “The Bahraini 2011 Uprising and the Regime’s Securitization of Sectarianism,” to demonstrate how the Bahraini regime had survived the 2011 uprising. Observing that this uprising had not been a sectarian struggle for power, as the Bahraini regime had sought to characterize it, Al-Rashidi emphasized that sectarianism was an important element in the suppression of the uprising and maintenance of the political status quo.
In the same conference track, Mohammad Mahmoud presented a paper entitled “Political Theory and Communitarian-Cultural Conflicts: Normative and Descriptive Approaches to Syria,” investigating the status of sectarian conflict in Syria and its weight as a model in contemporary political theory. The paper sought to define the appropriate approach to formulating a standard-based, sustainable democratic political model, in the Syrian case. After clarifying the intellectual approaches proposed by political philosophy, the paper attempted to construct a new paradigm suited to the Syrian case.
The Comparative Literature track’s interventions on August 18th were from Hadeel Hassan and Amal Mazuz: Hadeel Hassan's “The Aesthetic Awareness of the Ugly in Contemporary Arabic Literature: Syrian Women Writers in the 1990s” used philosophical definitions of “the ugly” to present an analysis of the social and cultural landscape of Syrian novels and ask if ugliness from female and male perspectives involved the same factors; Amal Mazuz, for her part, presented “Reinscribing Orientalism or Rewriting the Archetypes – Contemporary Western Female Travel Writing and the Representation of Muslim Women," wherein she highlighted stereotypes of Muslim women in contemporary travelogues by Western women writers (such as Reina Lewis and Jean Sasson), departing from a premise that these travelogues are ideological instruments of empire.
Elias Ghazal’s “Religious Leaders, Sectarianism and Protest in Lebanon,” in the August 19th Sectarianism track, addressed the problematic of assuming the ability of religious leaders to participate in the process of dismantling sectarianism, with reference to Lebanese model, and sought to clarify sectarianism’s mechanisms of and methods as deployed by the religious establishment to expand its influence and power; from this he drew conclusions about the future of sectarian identity and the sectarian regime in Lebanon.
A conference track on Psychology was devoted, on 19 August, to two interventions in this specialization. Sofian Azouaghe’s “A Psychological Approach to the Impact of Educational Practice and Working Conditions on the Mental Health of Teachers in Morocco” presented the different forms of violence to which teachers are exposed in Morocco, which in his view, have become rampant in recent years. This violence is a part of difficult circumstances surrounding the teaching profession in Morocco, which prompted him to study the impact of teaching demands on mental health, taking primary and secondary education teachers in the country as an example. In the second intervention, Donia Remili discussed “Types of Violence and Suffering in the Health Sector: Case Study of Nurses in Tunis Governorate,” examining the violent conditions faced by health workers in Tunisia in the current climate of complete political instability. The researcher reviewed the various types of violence and the underlying factors and their consequences for the health of Tunisian nurses, adopting a combined research methodology utilizing questionnaires as well as individual interviews and psychological testing.
Mohamad Mehdi Berjaoui and Nour Allah Munawar contributed to sessions in the Conflict and Post-Conflict Studies track, 20th August. In his paper, “From National Resistance to Regional Player: Hizbollah’s Foreign Policy Making,” Berjaoui focused on the circumstances of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria and Iraq to shed light on the foreign policy of Hezbollah, explaining its motives and focusing mainly on the underlying ideological and doctrinal principles, especially that of “vilayet al-faqih” or “the guardianship of the jurist”. He concluded that Hizbollah’s interest in stability and security generates pragmatic decisions that do not necessarily contradict its ideological beliefs. Nour Allah Munawar’s paper “A Competing Heritage: Curating the Future Heritage of Post-Conflict Syria” hypothesizes that “heritage” continuously undergoes a process of transformation and change – so much so that destruction and loss of heritage sites in Syria since 2011 may still be instrumental in the creation of Syria's post-war heritage, and not simply expose the heritage to danger.
The conference concluded, on August 20, with a session in the Immigrants and Migration track with a paper by Ghofran Hilal entitled “International Protection of Refugee Women and Girls: Jordan Case Study," in which the researcher introduced the concept of refugee protection, and examined the effectiveness of the international system in establishing the concept and confronting the new challenges relating to refugee women and girls, giving an overview of the protection measures accessible by refugee women and girls in Jordan, and spotlighting the concept of “vulnerability” as an effective basis upon which to construct added elements of protection for women and girl refugees.