Award winners of the Arab Prize 2017 stand with Wajih Kawtharani (1st from left), Taher
Kanaan, Hassan Al-Derham and Azmi Bishara (5, 6 and 7 from left).

Eight Arab researchers were awarded the 2017 Arab Prize for the Social Sciences and Humanities were announced at a special awards ceremony on the evening of Monday, 20 March. This is the sixth in the series of annual Arab Prize ceremonies, with the awards being made to recognize excellence by Arab practitioners of the social sciences and humanities. For a fourth year in a row, the 2017 Arab Prize—which covers submissions made throughout the 2016/2017 academic year accepted works which have not previously been published. Accepted submissions must fall into one of the two broad categories designated as a theme for the Annual Conference for the Social Sciences and Humanities, held over the preceding three days (18-20 March). This year’s themes focused on “Ethics in the Contemporary Arab World” and “Migration and the Future of Arab Youth”. 

Six of the eight awards were granted to researchers for work which remains unpublished, while another two received awards for work which was previously published in Arabic language peer-reviewed periodicals. This year, the Arab Prize Committee moved to withhold the awards intended for research published by Arab scholars in foreign language publications, with publications in French, English and German were eligible for this and previous Prizes. 

In addition to the recognition, the Arab Prize also includes the grant of a financial award. Prizes for unpublished work in Arabic are granted in amounts of US$ 25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, awarded to submissions which fall into each of the two categories. Submissions which are previously published in Arabic are granted in amounts of $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, with similar awards being possible for submissions published by Arab scholars in a language other than Arabic. 

The winners of the 2016/2017 round of the Arab Prize were announced by Dr. Wajih Kawtharani, Chair of the Arab Prize Committee for its sixth session. Kawtharani took pride in the fact that the Prize had, in a short span of time, become “an invaluable channel for the promotion of Arab scholarship in the social sciences and humanities”. Kawtharani also offered some figures for the selection process, which for this year’s Prize began in April, 2016. During the one-month nomination window, a total of 120 submissions were received by the Committee, covering 60 submissions in each of this year’s two main themes. The Committee then narrowed down the selections to a total of 30 papers: 17 covering ethics in Arab-Islamic Civilization and 13 related to the theme of “Migration and the Future of Arab Youth”. Candidates for the Prize for 2016/2017 covered the geographic expanse of the Arab region: 10 candidates from Morocco followed by six from Algeria, five from Tunisia, four from Egypt. Individual candidates for the Prize came from Palestine, Mauritania, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Candidates were invited to submit completed drafts of their submissions by mid-October, 2016, by which time the Committee received 13 works in the ethics theme and eight works in the theme of migration and Arab youth. These submissions were in turn sent to two separate, specialist committees covering each of the two main categories. The refereeing period covered a period of roughly three months. 

Kawtharani continued that the Committee received a further 34 submissions of previously published work by the separate deadline of August, 2016. These included 29 works published in Arabic language publications, three in French and two in English. Only 10 of the Arabic submissions for accepted for competition, with the other texts being disqualified either for not being related to the themes of the 2017 Arab Prize, or for failing to meet other criteria set out for the Arab Prize. 

In the end, the Committee agreed to withhold the First Prize ($25,000) in the theme “Ethics in Contemporary Arab-Islamic Civilization”, choosing to offer the Second Prize ($15,000) to each of Hamdi Thuwayeb (whose paper was titled “The Contentious Place of Morality in the Traditional Islamic Theological Canon”) and Abdelqader Maluk (“Moral Values in Light of the Present-day: towards an Ethical Theory which is both Humane and Moral”), for a work which compared a contemporary Moroccan philosopher with Hilary Putnam and Jorgen Habermas.  The Third Prize in this category was granted to Moulay Ahmad Jaafar, for a work which tackled how the rationalism of Al Farabi applies to contemporary Arabic philosophy. 

The recipients of the various Prizes were presented their awards by Azmi Bishara, General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies together with Taher Kanaan, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Hassan Al-Derham, President of Qatar University. 

Within the theme of migration of Arab youth, the First Prize was awarded to Aisha Al Tayeb for her research work on the migration of young Arab women, while the Second Prize was awarded to Zouhair Sukah for his research work on the image of young Arab refugees in the German media. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali received the Third Prize for his quantitative study on how patterns of economic development impact migration in the Arab region. 

The First Prize for work previously published in Arabic language, peer-reviewed journals was withheld with Second Prize going to Azzam Amine for his work on social acculturation and ethnic identity amongst migrant youth of Arab-Maghrebi origin in France. Amine’s work had previously been published in Omran. The Third Prize went to Benahmad Hoka for his work on social capital and social coexistence in Morocco. His work had previously been published in Idafat: the Arab Journal of Sociology. 

During his address to the ceremony, Dr. Bishara commented on the achievements of the ACRPS was able to accomplish many of the goals it had strived to achieve over the previous six years. In particular, it had been able to establish the Annual Conference on the Social Sciences and Humanities as a leading platform for the promotion of scholarship in Arabic, enabling the cross-fertilization of ideas between Arab researchers working across the region during their meetings in Doha. Through the Annual Conference, added Bishara, the ACRPS was better able to drive forward the creation of an Arab research agenda in the social sciences and humanities which was sensitive to the needs of Arab societies and the problems they face. The Arab Prize, Bishara said, also served to encourage Arab researchers to produce work of the highest quality, striving to meet the standards set by the Arab Prize Committee. 

Bishara also announced changes to the structure of the Annual Conference and the Arab Prize in coming years. Specifically, future rounds of the Arab Prize and the Annual Conference will become bi-annual meetings, with the next round of the Arab Center’s flagship Conference on the Social Sciences and

Humanities, due in 2019. In addition, future iterations of the Conference and the Arab Prize will have a single theme as its focus, with the 2019 Arab Prize focusing on “Research Methods in the Social Sciences and the Humanities”.