Arab Studies Institute

Washington DC - Beirut

T 703-688-2745


First Annual Conference, "Exploring An Agenda for Active Citizenship"

February 20, 2015


"Exploring an Agenda for Active Citizenship" is the first annual conference co-sponsored by the Arab Studies Institute and Asfari Institute. It will be held in Beirut, Lebanon.


The February 2015 conference commemorates the fourth anniversary of the revolts that began in Tunisia in the final days of 2010 and rapidly spread to nearly half the countries of the Arab region. The revolts provided a stellar example of the power of citizen engagement as millions of people took to the streets and toppled long-time authoritarian regimes or leaders, changing perceptions of the “Arab Street” for good. Four years later, where are those millions? How do we understand and assess their successes or failures in achieving their demands for freedom, dignity and social justice? Do we know enough about the historical roots of civil society activism in the region to ascribe cause-and-effect in regard to these events? What are the medium and long-term prospects for the future of citizenship participation in the public sphere, given the current realities? What are the factors that give rise to hope in some countries or open the pit of despair in others?


The conference does not claim to assess the Arab uprisings as such. Rather, it aims to shed light on the dynamics of civil society and citizen activism in the region, and to promote an understanding of the historical, political, economic and legal factors affecting this activism. It also aims to gather collective wisdom as to the short-and long-term potential for continued citizen engagement, fill knowledge gaps, assist the Asfari Institute to develop its research agenda, and point the way to future programming.



Exploring an Agenda for Active Citizenship




Day 1: Friday, February 20, 2015


8:00-8:45          Conference Registration

                                    Bathish Auditorium, West Hall, American University of Beirut (AUB)


9:00-9:30          Welcome and Opening Session


  • Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB
  • Bassam Haddad, Arab Studies Institute, George Mason University, U.S.
  • Ahmad Dallal, Provost, AUB


9:30-11:00       Panel 1: Civil Society in Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (1)


Chair: Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB


  • Civil society: Theoretically ambitious and practically misused in the Middle East

Lina Suleiman, KTH Royal Institute for Technology, Sweden; and

Michael Schultz, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

  • Towards a Maghribi civil society (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria)

Ammar Djeffal, Universite D’Alger 3, Algeria

  • Redefining the civil society scene in Jordan

Heba Al Nasser, Chatham House, UK; and Mohammad Qasem Al-Hamad, Juman for Civil Society Empowerment, Jordan


11:00-11:30   Break


11:30-1:15       Panel 2:  Civil Society in Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (2)


Chair: Rania Masri, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB


  • Civil Society and Political Movements in Egypt: From Neglect to Stabilization and from Leadership to Stigmatization

Dina El-Khawaga, Arab Reform Initiative

  • The Political Economy of Social Change: from the moral economy of the peasants to the “Arab Spring” in Egypt

Dina Mansour, The Arab Council for the Social Sciences

  • Framing the Discourse and Priorities of the Palestinian Youth Movement in the West Bank

Ayman Yousef, Arab American University, occupied Palestine

  • Sharing Power or Continued Status Quo? The Trials and Tribulations of the Disability Rights Movement in Lebanon

Maha Damaj, AUB


1:15-2:30          Lunch


2:30-4:00          Panel 3: Civil Society in Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (3)


Chair: Bassam Haddad, Arab Studies Institute, George Mason University


  • The Structural Transformation of Palestinian Civil Society

Tariq Da’na, Birzeit University, occupied Palestine

  • Between Neglect and Interference: The Impact of Foreign Policies on the Development of [Arab] Civil Society: the Case of Syria

Leila Hilal, New America Foundation, U.S.

  • The Past and Future of Syrian Civil Society

Salam Kawakibi, Arab Reform Initiative


4:00-4:30          Break


4:30-5:30          Open Discussion


Facilitator: Rania Masri, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB

  • Open discussion; sharing of reactions and ideas



Day 2: Saturday, February 21, 2015


9:00-10:30       Panel 4: Citizenship in the Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (1)




  • Egyptian Citizenship and Arab Solidarities: Changing Dynamics After January 25th

Omneya Ragab, researcher and writer; and Asmaa Naguib, Zyara Egypt

  • Religion, Democracy and Women in Egyptian textbooks before and after 2011

Patrycja Sasnal, Polish Institute of International Affairs and Jagiellonian University

  • A Tale of Two Trade Unions: How contrasting historical legacies have dictated the roles and actions of trade union federations in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt

Leila Kabalan and Mark Bracher, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB


10:30-11:00   Break


11:00-12:30   Panel 5: Citizenship in the Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (2)


Chair: Hind Ghandour, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia


  • Framing and Claiming Citizenship in the GCC

Ala’a Shehabi, University of Lund, Sweden

  • Saudi Arabia and the Concept of Citizenship

Florence Borot, IRIS Sup – L'école des Relations Internationales de l'IRIS, France

  • South Asian Labour unrest and Non-Citizenry Aspects of Politics in the Gulf

Ilias Hussain, Millia Islamia University, India


12:30-2:00       Lunch


2:00-3:30          Panel 6: Citizenship in the Arab region: Concepts and Case Studies (3)


Chair: Omar Dewachi, AUB (to be confirmed)


  • Mechanisms for Activating Citizenship in Iraq

Ali Al-Masoodi, Baghdad University, Iraq

  • Organic Citizenship: the Case of Iraq

Abdul Hussein Shaaban, author and human rights activist

  • Empowering Women in Public and Political Life in the MENA region: Reflections on the potential (and limits) of action research as ethos, methodology and practice

Suzanne Hammad, International NGO Training and Research Center, U.K.; and

Tamara Alkhas, British Council, Jordan


3:30-4:00          Break


4:00-5:30          Panel 7: Digital, Visual and Spatial Protest


Chair: Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development (to be confirmed)


  • The Domino Effect: the Spread of Information as an Act of Agitation

Hossam El-Hamalawy, Journalist, Blogger, and Photographer

  • The Arab Graphic Arts in the context of the current revolutions: a journey in the margins

Marwan Al-Allan, University of Philadelphia, Jordan

  • Yemen and the Re-Appropriation of Public Spaces 

Atiaf Z. Alwazir, Researcher and Writer


7:00      Dinner and Cultural Evening, Metro el Madina, Hamra Street


  • 7:00 – 8.30                             Dinner and music
  • 8:30 – 10:00                         Poetry, theatre and musical performances
  • 10:00 – midnight              Dance party with DJ Bassam


DAY 3: Sunday, 22 February, 2015


9:00-10:30       Panel 8: The rulers and the ruled


Chair: Sbeih Sbeih, Birzeit University


  • Post-Revolution: Civil society and the democratic transformation in Egypt

Mohamed Elagati, Arab Forum for Alternatives, Egypt

  • Explaining the Constraints on Civic Activism in Libya: Appraising the 2011-2013 Case of Constitutional Development

Carmen Geha, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, AUB

  • Beyond ‘Business as Usual’: Regime-Society relations in Jordan four years after 2011

Ziad Abu Rish, Ohio University, U.S.


10:30-11:00   Break


11:00-12:30   Panel 9: The rulers and the ruled (2)


Chair: Hassan Abbas, Syrian League for Citizenship


  • Focus on the Relationship between the Rulers and the Ruled in the Era of the Arab Uprisings

Massoud Daher, Lebanese University

  • Beyond the ‘Moroccan Exception’: Historicizing state and civil society relations in Morocco

Samia Errazzouki, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, U.S.

  • The Role of Syrian Civil Society in Mediation and Peacemaking in Syria

Rim Turkmani, London School of Economics and Political Science, U.K.


12:30-2:00       Lunch


2:00-3:30          Panel 10: Elements for A Future Agenda


Chair: Sami Ofeish, University of Balamand, Lebanon


  • The Arab Spring and the Economic Alternatives: Society organizing itself

Wael Gamal, Journalist and Researcher

  • The Presence of Social Sciences in Arab Civil Society Organizations

Rima Majed, AUB


3:30-5:30          Closing Discussion


Facilitators: Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB; and Bassam Haddad, Arab Studies Institute, George Mason University

  • Open discussion of reactions to different discussions
  • Recommendations for future action, research, collaboration
  • Closing remarks


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