The second round of the ACRPS Winter School, which ran from 4-11 January 2021 on Zoom and was streamed on social media, has concluded for this year. Arab and international academics and experts participated in the series of public lectures addressing topic of “The State in Flux” from different academic perspectives and theoretical approaches. Participating students presented their research and received feedback and comments from Winter School participants as well as researchers, specialists and professors from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and the Arab Center. The Winter School thus enabled the exchange of knowledge among participants, collectively advancing study of the state.
El-Affendi Lectures on the Influence of Authority in the State
The closing day of the Winter School included a public lecture by Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Professor of Political Science and President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. The lecture, “(Re)-Locating Power: Reflections on Statehood, Stateness, and Statelessness in a Machiavellian Era,” presented the marked global retreat of the liberal model, with a focus on the Middle East as the main origin of the decline of the liberal model of the state. He reflected on the state and its transformations as well as the evolution of his intellectual relationship with this concept. His analysis began from the relationship between European and Arab thought, exemplified by Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli, and its role in constructing a “science of politics" that deconstructs the various forces that govern politics through analysis of the actions of political actors. El-Affendi also examined the dilemma of the state regarding its relationship to God and the role of European political thought in producing an intervention compensating the state’s authority with a metaphysical authority, and the impact of this on effective governance. Touching on the marked decline of the liberal model internationally, as exemplified in the Middle East, he attributed this retreat to the emergence of a Neo-Machiavellian system wherein the rationality of the state becomes the method and basis of governance, rather than ethics – as in other, earlier models. El-Affendi argued that countries that follow this system often invoke the urgent need to face emergency situations, such as terrorism or epidemics. But the global trend towards the decline of the liberal model of governance threatens the state as an entity governed by law.
Exiting from Hegemony in the International System
The final four days of the Winter School (8-11 January) saw presentation of three research papers and four public lectures. Daniel Nexon and and Alexander Cooley presented their lecture “Exiting from Hegemony” on 8 January, the school’s sixth day. Their lecture drew from their eponymous book addressing the problem of the international system and the role of the United States during the Trump presidency, additionally exploring the likely changes to US foreign policy under Joe Biden and the end of US hegemony. Nexon and Cooley suggest that the United States must adapt to a new world order founded basically on competition.
During the second session, Samuel Mace presented “The Limitations of Sovereignty through the State of Exception in Syria and Bahrain". Analyzing the concept of the “state of exception” comparatively in these two countries, Mace’s paper posed the following questions: How does the “state of exception” claim to provide sovereignty? How does the state of exception undermine sovereignty?
Gender and the Sectarian State
Rola Al-Husseini opened the school’s seventh day on 9 January 2021 with her lecture “Theorizing Gender and the Sectarian State: Evidence from Iraq and Lebanon". Her research on legislation in support of women and women’s active presence in legislative, executive and judicial functions in Iraq and Lebanon led her to conclude that “state feminism” is less successful in sectarian Arab countries. The researcher attributes this to intersecting lines of gender, patriarchy, and sect within sectarian states.
María González-Úbeda Alférez then presented her paper “Naturalized Palestinians in Lebanon: Integration and Identity,” asking: How do we explain the difficulties faced by naturalized Palestinians in seeking full political and social integration within the local community in Lebanon? The researcher attributed maintenance of the marginal status of naturalized Palestinians to the role of sectarian conflict in the country. The state’s official explanation for the segregation and exclusion of Palestinian refugees is essentially that their integration will negatively impact the domestic balance of power.
An Institutional Analysis of the Resilience of Iran's Political System
On 10 January 2021 Mahran Kamrava, researcher and Director of the ACRPS Iranian Studies Unit, launched the schools eighth day with a lecture titled “State Resilience in Iran: An Institutional Analysis,” addressing the Iranian regime’s predicament of diminishing domestic legitimacy and explaining how the Iranian regime remains in power despite external pressures and its declining popularity at home.
Finally, Bushra Nur Özgüler Aktel presented “Can Pandemics Increase Institutionalization in Post-Conflict Countries?” where she suggested that the threat posed by epidemics has the capacity to accelerate institutionalization in aid-dependent precarious and post-conflict countries if it is accompanied by the investment of elites in institutionalizing distribution of aid necessary to meet basic needs instead of enriching their clients. Accordingly, epidemics may play a part in shoring up the relative stability and effectiveness of elites in fragile and divided countries.
The inaugural round of the Winter School was held in January 2020 at the Arab Center headquarters in Doha, where it was met with noteworthy success. Keen to continue with a new academic tradition in the Arab world despite covid-19 restrictions, the Arab Center opted to run the second round of the school via social media.