On Monday, 28 March 2022, the third Arab Graduate Students Conference at the Arab Center in Doha, came to a close. This year, 46 researchers who are completing or have recently completed their doctoral studies in social sciences and humanities at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Europe were selected from more than 150 applications to participate in the conference.
Researchers presented their papers based on their doctoral theses, and the participants received comments from academics specialized in various fields of their research, in addition to the comments of participating students and attendees. The interventions, which were held in parallel, were divided into the topics: Politics and International Relations, Migration and Refugee Studies, Conflict and Security Studies, Environmental Studies/Management, Literature/Media, Gender Studies, Conflict and Security Studies and Urban Studies.
The second day began with Mustafa Salama in the Politics and International Relations session. His paper, “International Counter Revolution: The Case of Egypt,” used Egypt's 2011 revolution attempt as a case study to test the hypothesis on international counter revolutionary intervention and categorize the ways in which such interventions manifest. Omar Safadi followed with his paper, “Bigger Than You and Me: Geopolitics, Proxy Empire, and Collective Action in Contemporary Lebanon,” in which he argued that Lebanon's proxy status is one that is lived and imagined in the everyday, constraining possibilities for political action in the country. Aseel Azab presented the next paper, “'Do What You Can to Keep the Recitation of the Good Word Alive': Formation of Salafi Selves and Political Subjectivity Post-2013 Egypt,” providing a rereading of Salafi personhood, arguing that Salafism in general is a trans-historical orientation, and modern Salafis are engaged in an intricate project of self-formation. Razan Shawamreh presented the final paper in this field on “The Great Powers' Strategy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: A Case-Study of China,” who discussed the evolution of Chinese foreign policy towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after the advent of Xi Jinping to power in 2013.
On the subject of Migration and Refugee Studies, Lilian Estefanous began with her study, “Religious Minorities in Diaspora: A Study of the Political Mobilization of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Community in Canada and the United States,” seeking to better understand the Coptic community's mobilization in Canada and the US and the patterns of its action as it represents collective group interest. Hamid Ait El-Caid presented his paper next “Assessment of Migrant Integration Policy Towards Maghrebi Immigrants in France and Sweden,” which represented comparative assessment of the latest integration policy towards Maghrebi immigrants in France and Sweden. Speaking last on the topic, Shaddin Almasri presented “Selective Securitization Between Afghans and Syrians in Turkey in Protection and Aid Responses,” arguing that refugee policies in Turkey following the most recent influx of Syrians have shifted to be differentiated depending on the nationality of the refugee.
In the Conflict and Security Studies sessions, Krekar Mustafa began with his paper “A Century of Failure: The Kurdish Response to State-Building in Iraq and Syria,” which explored the determinants of state-fragility in Iraq and Syria, examining the Kurdish response to state-building. Ahmed Elsayed followed with his paper “Politics of International Legitimacy of Armed Groups,” in which he offered novel insights for the study of non-state actors' politics of international legitimacy, conducting an analysis of the Democratic Union Party and its armed wing (PYD/YPG) in northern Syria. Amena ElAshkar next presented her paper “Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: The Case of Israel in South Lebanon and Palestine,” examining the determinants of people choosing to join the side of counterinsurgents by studying the cases of South Lebanon Army militia (SLA) and Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Forces (PSF). Finally on this topic, Tarek Hamoud’s paper, “The Designation of Hamas as a Terrorist Organization by Western States: A Theoretical Approach,” argued that the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization is still motivated by politics rather than academic theories.
On the topic of Environmental Studies/Management, Taraf Abu Hamdan began with her paper, “’A Good Harvest in September is Survival in Winter’: Coping with a Changing Climate: States, Tribes, and Rural Communities,” in which she asked how rural and tribal communities cope with environmental and natural resource stresses and livelihood struggles. Maiss Razem followed with her paper, “Sociotechnical Analysis of Cooling Energy Demand Creation in Middle-Class Housing in Jordan,” contributing to new findings that can inform more nuanced and localized interventions in both building and energy policies. Musaed M. Aklan’s paper “Indigenous Water Harvesting Systems: Current Status and Present Applicability,” then turned to how indigenous rainwater harvesting systems can continue to play an important role and alleviate the increased water scarcity problems and sustain livelihoods of people in many dry and developing areas, using Yemen as a case study. Abdulla Alajami rounded off these discussions by presenting “Why Stressors Shouldn't Hold Back Innovation in Business: The Impact of the Leader Member Exchange Leadership Strategy,” a quantitative survey-based investigation to shed light on the association between innovative work behaviour and organizational stressors.
For the Literature/Media sessions, Raad Khair Allah began by presenting “The Politics of Sexuality in Ghada Alsamman's Beirut '75,” which explored Ghada Alsamman's literary representations and her role in revolutionizing prevailing notions of gender and sexuality in a patriarchal society. Ghassan Aburqayeq followed with “Arabic Terror Fiction in Iraq and Egypt: Trauma, Taboos and Dystopia,” discussing several Iraqi and Egyptian works of terror fiction treatments of famous taboos in the Arab World. Hayat Douhan then presented “2.0 Mosques in Times of Pandemic: Digital Media Uses among Moroccan Mosques in Germany,” exploring the use of digital and social media by mosques for religious purposes. Mohamed Taha provided the final paper, “Media in Crisis: Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic – the BBC as a Case Study,” providing a panoramic view of how the BBC dealt with the pandemic.
The third and final day began with Sumaiya Salim Said Al-Wahaibi presenting for the Gender Studies session. In her paper, “The New 'State-Society Relations' in Oman and the Dynamics of Gendered Politics,” she discussed the state feminism strategies in Oman and offered credible alternatives to the dominant narrative of Arab women's political participation in the Arab world. Eylaf Bader Eddin then presented “The Singing and Remembering of the Female Survivors in the Branch 215 Slaughterhouse in Syria,” examining singing as a strategy surviving the horror of imprisonment in Syria under the Assad regime.
For the final Media session, Hajer Rashid Mohammed Al-Sulaiti began with her paper “Qatar's World Cup 2022 Preparations from a Digital Media Lens in Latin America,” exploring Spanish press coverage of the Qatar 2022 preparations.
On the topic of Conflict and Security Studies, Amer Katbeh presented “Contemporary Protracted Social Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa Region,” providing a comprehensive explanation of the causal factors, process dynamics and outcomes of PSCs in the MENA region. Mona Khneisser presented her paper “Unsettling Crisis: Rethinking Crisis Narratives & Epistemes in Theorizing Revolution & the Everyday in Lebanon,” challenging the veneer of objectivity surrounding classical economic accounts of 'crisis,' and advancing a more substantive understanding of 'crises,' as 'subjective historical processes'.
Under Urban Studies, Yacine Mansouri presented his “Study of the Influence of Urban and Landscape Characteristics on the Walkability of Cities” employing the concept of walkability with relation to representative field samples, selected mainly from Bejaia (Algeria) and with reference also to Liège (Belgium). Imen Helali finished with her paper “The Boundary and the Construction of the Frame of the Architectural Utterance: Semiotic Analysis of Daily Practices in the Medina of Kairouan.”
The closing session saw the Executive Director of the Arab Center, Dr Mohammad AlMasri, accompanied by the Conference Organizing Committee, open a discussion with the participants. He praised the outcomes of the conference and indicated that it had succeeded in achieving its endeavour to bridge the gap between Arab researchers in Western universities and Arab researchers in the Arab region to serve the transmission of ideas and experiences and prelude the formation of joint research networks.
AlMasri also stressed that the end of the conference does not mean an end to the relationship between researchers, but rather serves as the beginning of the establishment of a research and professional relationship between institutions and researchers in the Arab region. The session was concluded with a dialogue about recommendations to further develop the conference in the future.