An ACRPS conference of Arab graduate students based in Western universities continued for a second day on Sunday, 25 March. A plenary session on this second day introduced the participants, who traveled to Qatar to attend, to the ACRPS’ research agenda.
Mohammad Almasri, ACRPS Executive Director who chaired that plenary panel, also offered a round-up of the first day of the proceedings before going on to explain the role of the ACRPS as an academic research institute. Almasri also gave an overview of the various administrative units and research functions of the Center. Jamal Barout, Director of the Research Division, described his unit’s work as being “at the heart of the Center’s work” and introduced the participants to the publishing output which was the backbone of the Center’s output.
Barout further added that all research included in the Center’s output, whether published in the scholarly journals or included in the proceedings of academic conferences, was subject to a rigorous peer review process. In realizing this, Barout said, the ACRPS was able to rely on its vast institutional network, which took in a large number of scholars based in universities in the Arab region and further afield. Finally, Barout announced the Center’s plans to publish a new, online English language peer-reviewed journal known as Al-Muntaqaa. The new title, he explained, would serve to widen awareness of the cutting edge of Arabic academia as carried in the Center’s existing journals, Siyasat Arabiya; Ostour; Omran; Tabayyun; and Istishraf, a yearbook of futurology.
Barout was followed by Marwan Kabalan, Head of the Center’s Policy Analysis Unit which he described as the Center’s “Think Tank”. The Unit’s work, explained Kabalan, was to follow and analyze current affairs throughout the region and beyond. The vehicles for the Policy Analysis Unit’s work, said Kabalan, came in two shapes: analyses published as part of series online; and seminars, conferences and symposia tackling current affairs. Kabalan also explained his Unit’s role in organizing a series of annual events dedicated to understanding the relationship between the Arab region and various other civilizations. Finally, Kabalan explained how his Unit shaped the yearly Gulf Studies Forum, which has quickly become the leading academic venue in the region for the study of Gulf states and societies.
Kabalan was followed by Dana El-Kurd, an ACRPS Researcher who oversees the Arab Opinion Index, the largest—by number of respondents—and broadest—by geographical region covered and topics surveyed—regular poll of public opinion in the Arab region. El-Kurd explained to the audience of participants at the Arab Graduate Students Conference how the Index has been able, since 2011, to measure and collate Arab public opinion on a range of issues of pressing concern, in the political, social and economic realms. In addition, the Arab Opinion Index carried respondents’ attitudes to the foreign policies of major nations towards the Arab region. El-Kurd closed her presentation with some of the findings from the 2016 Index, and told the audience about plans to launch a website devoted to publishing the findings of the Arab Opinion Index as both written reports and graphical information.
Following El-Kurd, Mohammed Al Ubaidi, Deputy Director of the Doha Historical Dictionary, gave an overview of the massive lexicographical undertaking of the Arab Center in creating a useable, long-term historical dictionary of the Arabic language. Al Ubaidi also described how part of the Dictionary’s efforts included the amassing of the largest known bibliography of Arabic language texts throughout history. Al Ubaidi also explained that the online portal for the use of the Dictionary would be launched in a matter of months.
The final presenter was Ahmed Qassem Hussein, Head of Online and Social Media Publications at the ACRPS. Hussein introduced participants to the massive adjustment to the Center’s website which would it make easier for readers to browse through the past seven years of the ACRPS’ work. Hussein also explained how the Center had worked to produce dedicated websites for its various peer reviewed publications, and an online bookstore through which it marketed its publications in both book and journal form.
Doctoral Students Take Part in a Second Day of Academic Workshops
On the second day, a total of 18 workshops allowed student participants to focus on their disciplines of interest, including political science; comparative literature; history; economics; and sociology. A total of 36 papers were presented in the sessions, which covered both morning and evening schedules.
Panelists covering comparative literature explored questions of history and the collective imagination which also took in questions of history and narrative. The same discussions also covered questions of the relationship between identity and migration and the definition of “Otherness”.
Economics panelists explored the complex question of corruption and its impact on social structures and institutionalism as well as on societal development and economic growth. Speakers also focused on labor laws in the Arab region. Speakers in various sessions also took in questions of the relationship between Islam, tolerance and democracy. In doing so, the participants were able to make use of the vast body of data available through the Arab Opinion Index.