The second annual Arab Graduate Student Conference, organized by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, launched its work today, Sunday, August 9, 2020. The conference which continues until 20 August is a unique Arab world event that seeks to link scholarship and researchers in the Arab region with young Arab social sciences and humanities students and researchers completing their doctoral studies in Western universities. As envisaged by the center, such linkage is necessary since these young researchers and students usually establish their professional and research paths in the countries in which they study, and publish their research results in Western academic institutions and in the languages of those institutions – contributing to creation of a gap between their scholarship and research activity and the Arab region. This conference aims to strengthen collegial relationships between Arab researchers in Western universities as well as between them and their colleagues in Arab research institutions, in an organized institutional framework.
Following its pioneering launch some three years ago, the second iteration of the conference was scheduled to be held in March 2020 but was postponed due to the global conditions of closure amid the crisis of the Covod-19 pandemic. With the continuation of these conditions, the Center opted, given the importance of this conference, to consolidate a nascent tradition and convene the event remotely, via virtual communication technology and the Internet, while distributing its working sessions over eleven days.
150 portfolios were submitted by Arab students and graduates of doctoral degrees in Western universities as candidates for participation in the conference. After a careful process of adjudication and appraisal, the conference organizing committee selected 37 male and female researchers from universities from the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The conference committee also coordinated with more than 30 professors from within the Arab Center and the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and other institutions around the world who have specialist expertise in the fields of knowledge included in the papers selected for presentation, to ensure provision of critical feedback and comment on the research involved.
The conference’s first day of working sessions opened with two presentations in the field of political theory. Tamara Al-Taher presented a paper entitled “The Search for 'Intellectuals' in the Arab World and Palestine: Forms and Spaces of a Socially Rooted Relationship.” The presenter posed a set of core research questions such as “what is the role and function of the intellectual? How does the definition of an intellectual personality affect and interact with the way societies perceive themselves? How does this interact with societies' definitions of knowledge, culture and power?” The researcher offered tentative answers to such questions, based principally on the Palestinian case, and on the critical interventions of Franz Fanon, Edward Said and Antonio Gramsci.
The second and final intervention on day one of the conference was by Yasmine Daher, who presented a paper entitled “Morality in the Context of the Arab Revolutions.” The researcher tried to elucidate the process of crystallizing the ethical self in the context of the surrounding community and contemporary Arab uprisings. The paper poses a set of research questions related to the study of political and ethical concepts deriving from the shape of mobilizations in the Arab revolutions, which she describes as being one of direct, open-ended, and non-hierarchical revolution.