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Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship

 March 11-13, 2016                         

Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship / Arab Studies Institute

Second Annual Conference

American University of Beirut, Lebanon, March 11-13, 2016

Academia and Social Justice

Faculty and students at institutions of higher learning have often played an important, galvanizing, and sometimes even game-changing role in their societiesdemands for equity, equality, and social and political justice. They have done so both in their academic and research production, and in their direct social and political activism within the community, sometimes paying a heavy price for this activism. This conference aims to query aspects of this relationship between academia and social justice in the Arab region and internationally. What are the debates and paradigms that define this engagement given the trends towards market-place economics, corporatization, and political orthodoxy?
Researchers and academics from the Arab region and beyond are invited to send one-page abstracts for papers that fall within the following themes.
Historical Narratives of particularly poignant and instructive examples of faculty and student efforts to promote social and political justice, their successes, failures and the challenges they faced. How have university administrations managed the requirements of open debate and institutional self-preservation? What can be concluded from those historical examples?
Academia Today: The role of universities today, and the current challenges and directions of social justice activism in the Arab region and internationally within each context. What issues resonate throughout university campuses, and what topics tend to be silenced and in what contexts? What is the impact of particular environments and political situations, such as war, occupation and political repression, on active involvement of academia?
Academia and the Marketplace: How the regional and globalized neoliberal economy has influenced academia. What have been the impacts of the corporate funding of faculties and the rise of private and franchised universities on social justice activism, knowledge production, and academic freedom? What modes of countering those influences have been employed?
Pedagogy for Social Justice: Discussion of programs and pedagogical tools that can deepen a culture of public engagement. Have the current scholarly production of knowledge and pedagogical practices encouraged or discouraged active engagements in the pursuit of social justice? To what degree are students empowered within academia, both by administrators and by faculty?
A Knowledge-building agenda: Based on the discussions of the above, what are the current gaps in knowledge and theory on the role of faculty and students within and beyond the academic environment? What do we propose as an agenda for future knowledge building and activism on the issue?

Please send to

Agenda in English




مركز الأصفري للمجتمع المدني والمواطنة ومؤسسة الدراسات العربية

المؤتمر السنوي الثاني

11 الى 13 آذار 2016

الجامعة الأميركية في بيروت

الأكاديميا والعدالة الاجتماعية

لطالما لعب الاساتذة والطلاب في مؤسسات التعليم العالي دوراً بارزاً في التأثير ودفع مجتمعاتهم للمطالبة بالانصاف والعدالة الاجتماعية والسياسية، إن من خلال إنتاجهم الاكاديمي والبحثي أو من خلال نشاطهم السياسي والاجتماعي، دافعين أثماناً باهظة في أحيان عدة. يهدف هذا المؤتمر الى البحث في جوانب من هذه العلاقة بين الاكاديميا والعدالة الاجتماعية في المنطقة العربية والعالم، وطرح إشكاليات حول فهم هذه العلاقة، في ظل اقتصاد السوق وهيمنة الشركات والسياسات المحافظة.

الأكاديميون والباحثون داخل وخارج المنطقة العربية، مدعوون الى إرسال ملخصات من صفحة واحدة لأوراق بحثية تعالج أي من المواضيع التالية:

السرد التاريخي: عروض لمحاولات ولتجارب نضالية لأساتذة وطلاب، ناجحة أم غير ناجحة، في مجال تعزيز العدالة الاجتماعية، والتحديات التي واجهتها. كيف تم تنظيم هذه الجهود داخل وخارج حُرُم الجامعات؟ وكيف وازنت إدارات الجامعات ما بين متطلبات الحوار الحرّ والمفتوح وحماية المؤسسات؟ ما يمكن ان نستنتج من هذه التجارب؟

الاكاديميا اليوم: دور الجامعات اليوم، والتوجهات والتحديات الحالية للنضال من أجل العدالة الاجتماعية. ما هي القضايا التي تلقى صدىً في الجامعات، وما هي تلك التي يتم اسكاتها؟ ما هو أثر أوضاع سياسية معينة (كالحرب والاحتلال) على الانخراط الاكاديمي الفعّال؟

الاكاديميا والسوق: تأثيرات سياسات النيوليبرالية العالمية والاقليمية على الاكاديميا. ما كان أثر سياسة تمويل الشركات الخاصة للجامعات كما وبروز ظاهرة الجامعات الخاصة، على الإنتاج المعرفي والحريات الاكاديمية، في إطار النضال من أجل العدالة الإجتماعية؟ وما هي الإمكانات المتوفرة لمواجهة هذه التأثيرات؟

بيداغوجيا العدالة الاجتماعية: برامج وأدوات تعليمية من شأنها تعميق ثقافة المشاركة العامة وتعزيز ثقافة التفاعل مع المجتمع. هل استطاع الانتاج المعرفي الاكاديمي الحالي، والممارسات البيداغوجية بشكل عام، تشجيع هكذا نوع من المشاركة الفعّالة في إطار السعي للعدالة الاجتماعية؟ الى أية درجة تعزز الاكاديميا انخراط ونشاط الطلاب في مجتمعاتهم، وما هو دور الإدارة والاساتذة في هذا المجال؟

أجندة البناء المعرفي: تهدف النقاشات اعلاه الى ملء الفراغات في المعرفة وفي النظرية حول دور الاساتذة والطلاب داخل البيئة الاكاديمية وخارجها، والى وضع أجندة مستقبلية للبناء المعرفي والعمل حول العدالة الإجتماعية.




March 11-13, 2016                     The Asfari Institute Second Annual Conference
                                                        Academia and Social Justice

Preparations began in earnest during the first semester for the Institute’s Second Annual Conference that was held in March 11-13, 2016, again organized together with the Arab Studies Institute. The conference drew together academics, students and practitioners from across the region and internationally to discuss the role of academic institutions and actors in the debates on and promotion of social justice. Around 33 papers were presented in 10 panels across three days on topics such as academia and the marketplace, pedagogy for social justice, student activism, knowledge building for social engagement and others. The papers presented and ensuring discussions covered specific studies and analyses on a range of issues with case studies and examples from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Mauritania, India, the US and the UK. Privatization and the effects of neoliberal economies was a consistent theme throughout. The attacks on academic freedoms and campus organizing in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians in Western Universities were raised. Several papers advocated for more feminist and gendered perspectives, and for a ‘decolonized feminist research’ in the region.’ The Conference ended with some forward-looking thoughts on the opportunities for publicly-engaged scholarship in a rapidly changing and deeply challenging political, economic and educational landscape. A summary of the proceedings is under preparation and will soon be available for the public.

February 20-22, 2015                The Asfari Institute First Annual Conference
                                                        Exploring an Agenda for Active Citizenship

The February 2015 conference commemorated 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 did 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 did not claim to assess the Arab uprisings as such. Rather, it aimed 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



       February 9-10, 2015                   Symposium: Citizenship from a Gender Perspective
                                                               In collaboration with the Syrian League for Citizenship and the Euro-Mediterranean 
                                                               Feminist Initiative

This symposium will provide space for women’s rights, human rights activists, and researchers to discuss concepts and practices, share perspectives, broaden the concept of citizenship, and develop recommendations for future work on enhancing women’s full and equal citizenship in different contexts.


October 10-11, 2014                   Symposium on NGOs Post-uprisings
                                                         In Collaboration with the Arab Studies Institute and Legal Agenda

This research-based symposium sought to explore the role of NGOs in the Arab world in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. , Several country-based research papers were commissioned as case studies to examine the status of new civil society organizations established since 2011, their size, number, origins, funding sources and methods of work. Researchers from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Palestine were brought together with scholars and activists for an initial review and discussion of findings. A comprehensive report of the findings, discussion and a literature review of existing work on these topics is in preparation for use in future research.


May 23-24, 2013                         Inaugural Conference 
          New Spaces of Civil Society Activism in the Arab World

Our inaugural two-day conference in partnership was organized with the Arab Studies Consortium (Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, Arab Studies Institute at George Mason University) and Legal Agenda Beirut. This inaugural conference aimed to discuss the impact of civil society on the changing region, and to trace the most promising prospects for rights-based advocacy. The conference included presentations and panel sessions by more than 25 invited regional and international practitioners, academics and activists.



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