At a special dinner convened for the attendees of the First Annual Conference on the Social Sciences and Humanities, Arab Center for Research and Polciy Studies General Director Dr Azmi Bishara took the opportunity to address participants of the importance of the task ahead. "All social sciences research throughout the world adopt their own agenda and set of priorities. We at the ACRPS need to be very clear that we, too, have an agenda. We want to create an Arab research culture."
According to the ACRPS Director, "it might seem that the Arab intellectual landscape is a bit of a desert; in fact, there are scrupulous, professional and high-calibre thinkers spread across Arab universities, and we need to empower them."
The event, arranged in the evening following the second day of the three-day summit of Arab researchers and intellectuals, also provided Dr Bishara with an opportunity to announce the topics for which the 2013 Arab Prize would be awarded. The 2012 session was devoted to two parallel streams: one focused on developmental policies which would lead to a growth in employment opportunities; and a second given over to questions of the Arabic language and its relationship to national identity. During the coming year, the themes for which the Prize would be awarded will both deepen impact and make the discussions at the meetings more universal.
The first theme for which a Prize would be awarded is "The Role of the State in the Construction of National Identity"; with the pressing needs now facing those Arab countries which have witnessed revolutions, there is no better time to ask this question, yet it also remained a question with relevance to wide swathes of, in particular, the post-colonial world.
The second theme on which research would be focused, and one which both springs from the discussions on employment and developmental policies held during the 2012 Annual Conference, and remains linked to an intellectual tradition going back centuries, was for researchers to try to address the question "What is Justice?". Justice, pointed out Dr Bishara in his comments, was closely linked to concepts found in Islamic jurisprudence, but was also commonly linked in the minds of the public with the simpler idea of "fairness". The challenge for those aiming to be selected for the 2013 Prize was to better elucidate and formalise thinking around the idea of justice.
Before closing off for the 2013 session, however, Dr Bishara recognised the efforts of one of the 2012 Prize winners; "Abdulaziz Johar got lost somewhere on the way from Egypt to Qatar" he said. "We wanted to make sure that he could collect his Prize"; Johar, a doctoral student whose lauded work concentrated on the geographical localisation of economic trends within Egypt, went on to collect his award to applause.