Program 15.8.

Detailed program of 15.

8. All the sessions will take place at Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40.

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Edit: The NSMES General assembly will begin at 17.00, right after the keynote speech by Sari Hanafi (not at 15.00)

Re-drawing the political borders of the Gulf Cooperation Council: foreign and domestic politics

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Gareth Stansfield


David Roberts, Defence Studies Department, King's College London

Courtney Freer, Middle East Center, London School of Economics

Bianco Cinzia, Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

Matteo Legrenzi, Ca' Foscari U of Venice

The Gulf crises of 2014 and 2017 have arguably brought to the surface long-standing divergences in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), putting into question the founding rationale of the bloc: the existence of shared security perceptions regarding external threats. To a great extent these crises have shifted the focus of local regimes to threats emerging from within the region itself. More proactive, assertive policies both at a domestic and regional level have emerged as a consequence of heightened threat perceptions. Only a detailed, substantial review of these policies, can clarify how the the political imagined boundaries are being re-drawn both within the bloc and in the surrounding region. This roundtable would therefore investigate how the Gulf monarchies are evolving after the watershed year of 2011, analysing their cross-border economic, political and security activities, the manipulation of trans-national communities and identities, and the regionalization of their security agendas.

A Round Table Discussion: Limits of Academic freedom

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Tiina Hyyppä, Finnish Immigration Service

In many of the countries researched in the Middle East and North Africa, the quite authoritarian regimes have imposed severe restrictions on freedom of speech and also academic freedom. In Turkey, for example, the AKP government  has virtually waged “a war on academia” in recent years, but it is not the only country in the region limiting research. In some other countries the restrictions have more to do with deep-seated sensibilities and taboo-like topics, some countries might monitor the use of social media. In this round table session researchers working on and in different countries discuss these limitations. What kind of issues a researcher needs to take into consideration when planning and doing the research?  What about publishing the results or engaging in critical public debates on the topics researched or wider social and political issues in the region? What kind of consequences can a researcher be faced with?


Marc Owen Jones, Hamad bin Khalifa University

Anitta Kynsilehto,  TAPRI

Bilge Yabanci, Stockholm University, Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS)

Ehab Galal, University of Copenhagen

Mezna Qato,  King’s College, Cambridge University


Imagery and inspiration

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Mikko Viitamäki

The Past in the Present — An essay in Component Analysis (based on contemporary fiction)

Stephan Guth, IKOS - University of Oslo

In their attempts to assess the present state of affairs, Arab fiction authors and film directors increasingly assign the past a crucial role in their cultural production. At times, the past comes along as something hidden that must be revealed to overcome a trauma; at others, it continues to haunt the protagonists who are unable to get rid of it; very often, it serves as a contrastive foil, evoking the “good old days” or simply relativizing the present by pointing to repetition and/or continuity; in historical novels, present dilemmas are discussed in disguise, as scenarios of long by-gone times; most often, however, authors/directors turn to the past as the period that produced the present. Based on selected pieces of contemporary fiction (written and cinema) and equipped with the methodological tool of Component Analysis, the paper seeks to identify the role of the past in the authors/directors’ world views.

Imagery in Saʿdi’s advice and injunctions in German translations of Golestān

Nina Zandjani, University of Oslo

When the philosopher Loqman is asked from whom he had learned adab, he answers: from those without adab (Sa’di’s Golestân 1258, 2:20). This paper focuses on how the imagery connected to adab has been rendered in selected German translations of Golestân (Graf 1846, Bellmann 1982/1998 and Göpel 1997). The study compares and analyses various topics connected to adab, such as moderation, humility and generosity, expressed through areas from the natural world, e.g. animals, plants and colours; the human world, e.g. persons and parts of the human body; the social context, e.g. war, clothes and numbers; and the cultural tradition, e.g. Islamic and ancient Persian traditions (based on Schimmel 1984, 1992 and Zipoli 2009). The results show that even though various translation strategies have been applied when rendering the images, a majority of the images have been kept in the German translations.

The attitudes towards poetic inspiration in Arab culture and its influence on the Islamic doctrine on poets and poetry

Maxim Yosefi, University of Göttingen

The paper focuses on the notions of inspiration in Arab culture as a factor that has greatly influenced Islamic teaching. Its premise is that popular pre-Islamic beliefs in inspiration through jinn had not been rejected, but rather approved, reinforced and reinterpreted by the new religion. The major hypothesis is that, maintained in the Arabic literary tradition and scholarly writings, pre-Islamic conceptions of preternatural inspiration have moulded important aspects of the central theological doctrines of Islam (such as inimitability, absolute truthfulness and divine eloquence of the Quran) and had a decisive impact on the centuries-long Islamic discussion of poets and poetry. To argue this, the paper applies discourse analysis and contextualises references to jinn in poetry and anecdotes about early Arab poets.

Depicting Amman in contemporary Jordanian literature

Ismael Abder-rahman Gil, Ca' Foscari University of Venice

This work aims at studying the image and imaginary of Amman across the Jordanian literature. With this, we try to join two disciplines the literary and Arabic studies and, the social and cultural anthropology. Therefore, we aim to analyze Amman as a sociocultural independent system describing the social and political dynamics that led to creating ‘'Ammani' as new identity paradigm and how this has been materialized in Jordanian literature, transforming from being a peaceful, picturesque or boring small city, to being a metropolis, a scenario of dystopian novels where class struggle, ethnic or religious internal wars and the crude violence of patriarchy are present. With this work, we want to see how the growth of the city and its identity(ies) have manifested, described and represented from the Jordanian writers and the reception it has among readers. For the selected texts, we have to do a deep reading and make a description and analysis of the different eras and how is Amman depicted politically, culturally and with the gender identities of its citizens according to the authors and/or the characters. For a better understanding of the context of each work, we also need to know the promotion and censorship policies present in the country, as well as the publishing market.

Breaking and creating social boundaries

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Henri Onodera

The end of Berber's marginalization? The building of new Moroccan plural identity after the Arab Spring

Katarzyna Brataniec, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University

The paper aims to present the Berber minority in the context of the Morocco's history and formation of the modern Moroccan nation, with special focus on Berber women's position in the society. The struggle for empowerment of Berber women is linked to a broader process of recovery of the Berber identity within the sphere of culture and language and to the activity of the Moroccan women's organizations advocating for gender equality in the Kingdom. In the Berber community woman, who stay in the countryside have no similar opportunities for learning Arabic, while most men are bilingual. The economic opportunities and life chances are strongly connected with gender. But woman have been crucial to the reproduction of language and identity. Due to the nature of the undertaken research problem, I used the historical-comparative method.

The issues of using the neo-shu‘ubiyya concept in the twenty first century

Šarunas Rinkevicius, Vilnius University

The neo-shu‘ubiyya concept names the modern attempts of construction of non-Arab nationalisms and identities in the Middle East. Since the 1960s scholars have revived the term shu‘ubiyya in neo form as it was started to be observed that pan-arabism began its decline simultaneously being replaced by the quest for local identities based on non-Arab historical traditions and narratives and is no longer a universal goal shared by the whole region. The paper analyzes the use of the concept to name the undergoing processes in the Middle East considering the geographical and cultural boundaries for this concept in the light of current social and cultural practises observed in the recent years as well as the issues that scholars may face while adapting the neo-shu‘ubiyya concept.

The Ibadi nahda and the integration into Sunni Algeria

Knut Vikør, University of Bergen

The Ibadi minority in the Mzab had for centuries lived in isolation in the Sahara. When French forces entered the oasis in the late nineteenth century, they forced an integration of the oasis and its religious group into an Algeria that was dominantly Sunni. This paper will examine how the political development influenced the revived legal discussion among the Ibadis, the so-called Ibadi nahda, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Exploring Social Boundaries in the Ottoman Context: Concepts, Semantics and Practices, 16th to Early 19th Centuries

Barbara Henning, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

The paper explores how Ottoman actors made sense of processes of social differentiation over time: How were boundaries between different groups in society being drawn, negotiated and – at times – transgressed, and how did the concepts of social boundaries, along with the semantics and imageries used to describe them, change over time? Adopting the perspective of conceptual history, the paper suggests some starting points for deliberations about Ottoman epistemologies of boundary making. It brings together two types of source material: Passages from political advice literature discussing social hierarchy and boundaries from a normative perspective, and examples from court registers describing individual cases in which boundaries were being challenged. Read in conjunction, the material suggests that while the concept of hadd (Ottoman-Turkish for ‘boundary’) plays an important role, other aspects like the notion of an involuntary mixing (ihtilat) also need to be taken into account when inquiring about Ottoman ways of conceptualizing social difference.

Dis-Order in MENA: The Power of Narratives, Narratives of Power

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Wolfgang Mühlberger

The proposed panel refers to a transdisciplinary book project entitled ‘Political Narratives in the Middle East and North Africa - Perceptions of Instability and Conceptions of Order’. The conceptual framework is based on narrative as a lens for analysing the discursive communication of political entrepreneurs with in interest or a stake in the Middle East. It also refers to the levels of instability experienced in the region, in particular since the 2011 uprisings. Informed by this approach, it will be of particular interest to examine the functional interplay between narratives as sense-making tools and conceptions of order. To this end, we investigate political narratives on three levels: non-state actors, regional players and global powers. As contributors to the volume, the four panelists cover the entire range of actors, looking at the narrative dimension of a political movement (Tunisia’s Al-Nahda), in bilateral conflicts (Israel-Palestine), as well as in Turkey’s foreign policy or in the relationship between strategic partners (US and Egypt). The main editor will introduce to the topic with a concise conceptual outline on political narratives.

The European Union’s epic conceptualisations of the Southern Neighbourhood: a narratological take on the Mediterranean story

Mühlberger Wolfgang, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

The European Union makes uses of its foundational meta-narrative to propose an ideal type of political order – based on intergovernmentalism and the devolution of sovereignty – to the outside world. In the regional context of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), facing a mixed reception of this grand récit, its external action is molded on the rhetorical level into geopolitical concepts such ‘neighbourhood’, ‘partnership’ and the ‘Mediterranean’. These terms simultaneously address issues such as proximity, vicinity and periphery, frame the quality of an asymmetric relationship and, in general, express a metaphorical understanding of the region. Yet these three paradigms and their respective discourses remain disjointed, lacking the elaborate plot-character of a coherent foreign policy narrative. Therefore, the epic grand narrative of the Union’s inception, expansion and integration remains the sole distinct story for external projection in the EU’s dealings with the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEM).

Chasing the Wind: Clashes of Israeli and Palestinian Narratives

Olli Ruohomäki, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

There are two clashing and seemingly irreconcilable master narratives present in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that revolve around what happened in 1948 with the formation of the state of Israel. The Palestinian narrative illustrates a people unjustly deprived of its land by invaders. The Israeli narrative on the other hand illustrates a justified return of the historically dispossessed diaspora to the land of their forefathers. Even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are able to officially acknowledge each other’s master narratives, put the past behind and move forward. It is with this predicament in mind that the article examines how the Israelis and the Palestinians have constructed their narratives and how they inform the policies and practices of respective governments.

Turkey as the Order-Producing Country: Narrating the ‘New Turkey’ in the Middle East

Toni Alaranta, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

This chapter analyses the political narrative rationalising and justifying Turkey’s foreign policy in the post-2011 Middle East. It first detects the long-term traditions of strategic thinking in Turkey in order to demonstrate how these previous formulations have enabled or restricted the AKP’s ability to produce intellectually and emotionally convincing narratives of Turkey’s foreign policy. These narratives are contextualised by analysing them in tandem with other important actors’ aspirations, also including assessments regarding the applicability of Turkey’s foreign policy narrative.

American Narratives of Order-building in the Middle East: Dashed Visions on the Nile

Ville Sinkkonen, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

The present chapter takes stock of one manifestation of US foreign policy agency, namely, the narratives of order building that US administrations have employed vis-à-vis the MENA region in the post-9/11 era. It seeks to uncover how the narratives employed by the successive presidential administrations have evolved over the past seventeen years and to what extent these narratives are predicated upon different ways in which administrations fathom America’s global role and US leadership or ‘hegemony’ in an evolving and complexifying 21st-century the world. In short, the order-building narratives bear contextualisation in terms of both, the broader global and regional structural developments and the domestic political context of the United States, which, especially in the current climate of political polarisation, plays a prominent role in predicating the content of US foreign policy discourse.

The International Context of Political Action in the MENA region

Thursday, 15.8. 9.00 – 10.30, Sessions IV

Chair: Rola El-Husseini, Lund University

This panel brings together papers by three students who explore various kinds of political action as they investigate the transformations of cultural resistance to Israeli Occupation in contemporary Palestinian theatre; the reconstruction of the traumatic events of the genocide by Ezidi poets as a means of understanding the past; and the migration policy of the Algerian government vis-à-vis refugees from Syria and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. These projects are based on fieldwork and archival research conducted while working on their master’s theses at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University.

A Tale of International Producers, not Victims: An Ethnography of a Palestinian Theatre in a Refugee Camp

Irem Aydemir, Lund University

This ethnographic study of the Freedom Theatre (TFT) in the West Bank Jenin Refugee Camp explores the experiences of the artists and the audiences of TFT, and how they perceive the concept of anti-victimization as a form of cultural resistance, based on semi-structured interviews and notes from five-months of ethnographic fieldwork. This study examines the ways in which certain techniques are utilized in both local and global Palestinian circles of Palestine, challenging and going beyond the prominent, and most times sole idea of occupation in the Palestinian mind, which is the conventional understanding of resistance until today. By examining how this specific theatre practice within the scope of culture of resistance challenges the constructs of victimhood, oppression, and subaltern, the TFT offers a new understanding of resilience and performativity, which accentuates a way out of victimhood, as a contemporary form of cultural resistance in the Middle Eastern context.

At the crossroads: Algerian migration policy towards sub-Saharans and the roles of key players in the Mediterranean region

Linda El-Naggar, Lund University

Despite establishment of an Algerian migration profile in 2015, Algeria remains hesitant to establish a migration policy towards the increased flows of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees into the country. Researchers are divided about the political direction of Algerian migration policy, and have also neglected the roles of key players in the Mediterranean region in relation to sub-Saharan migration in Algeria. This study will use key-informant interviews with representatives of the EU, international organizations and civil society to explore the multifaceted layers of Algerian migration policy towards sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, and the relations between Algeria and other actors on migration policy. Knowledge of these factors is essential for a deeper understanding of Algeria’s migration profile. Questions raised in the interviews touch upon Algerian migration policy towards sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, and the relations between Algeria and the EU, international organizations and civil society on sub-Saharan migration.

Representing a History of Violence through Êzîdî Poetry

Mairéad Smith, Lund University

The ethno-religious Êzîdî minority has just commemorated the fifth anniversary of the their genocide. While justice has so far been delayed and the international community slow to respond, Şingal Êzîdîs feel abandoned, living displaced from their ancestral home of Şingal in camps scattered across the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In the absence of formal mechanisms of documentation this research looks to a group of Şingal poets involved in documenting the events through Arabic prose poetry, and their reconstruction of memories of the past as a means for understanding the events that have occurred. A narrative analysis has been used on a selection of poems written and interviews conducted with five poets. Through reconstructing the past in the present, the poets narrate counter-histories which give access to untold experiences which are comprised of stories of the everyday in which violence is embedded. In doing so, the poets serve to document and historicise their suffering while rebuilding the foundations of the collective.

Islam and societies

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Chair: Ilkka Lindstedt

Muslim Responses to the Security Threats Caused by Environmental Changes

Laura Wickström, Åbo Akademi University

In response to the current ecological crisis, various representatives for Islam attempt, as do most religious traditions, to restore environmental and ecological values in their religious tradition. However, most of the Muslim intellectuals are engaged in other questions such as local and regional politics, equality questions, and the place of religion in the society. In spite of this there are an increasing number of Muslim scholars who occupy themselves with environmental issues. The understanding of climate and environmental changes as possible security threats in the Middle East has contributed to an increased comprehension of the environmental situation. Questions such as water distribution are of immediate interest and one challenge is how ecological questions could be emphasized in contemporary Muslim societies. The purpose of this paper is to present some Islamic ecological perspectives and how they are manifested today and look into the question of environmental changes and possible security threats.

Erosion of city corporatism in secondary cities: Mosul in Iraq and Tripoli in Lebanon

Tine Gade, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

So far, scholars working on urban issues in the Middle East have mainly focus on capital cities or urban peripheries, neglecting secondary cities. In this paper, I argue that the most radical transformations in the Middle East in recent years have taken place in secondary cities that come in the shadow of the capitals from which the regimes rule. Mosul in Iraq, Tripoli in Lebanon and Aleppo in Syria represent such cities in which swathes of Sunni populations perceive themselves as dethroned in the affairs of the state. I argue that these secondary cities should be central to much of the crisis in the Middle East.

Secondary cities in Levant and Iraq had provincial capital status during the Ottoman Empire, but lost power at the creation of modern states under European colonial rule in 1920-1921. Thus, they emerged as hubs of resistance to the modern order. Secondary cities developed an exceptional ‘city patriotism’, anchored in a cross-class corporatist alliance against outsiders. Considered as capitals of Sunnism of their respective states, they were also more conservative than the cosmopolitan state capitals.

However, successive and competing mobilizations since 1960s gradually eroded and fragmented the sense of unity and loyalty to the city. In this context, Salafism offered a refuge for urban poor who had become alienated with state institutions.

The paper based on more than 300 interviews with politicians and Islamist leaders in Tripoli and Mosul, as well as secondary literature and primary sources in Arabic.

Boundaries of innovation: Turkish religious politics between pedagogic inventiveness and theological transgression

Torsten Janson, Lund University

This paper discusses the Turkish state sponsored celebration of ‘Holy Birth Week’ (HBW), commemorating the birth of Prophet Muhammed. Successfully transformed from 2010 into a massive, national celebration, it was initially considered a success for the Islamically oriented AKP government. It however not only infuriated the secularist opposition: it spurred theological critique, alleging HBW to represent an unacceptable religious innovation (bida), leading to its discursive re-formulation and significant downsizing from 2017. Based on visual and textual analysis, this paper explores the HBW controversy as indicative of the current blurring of the sacred/secular, traditional/modern, public/private binaries in Turkish religio-politics in particular, and within moderate Islamist movements in general. Re-medialized and innovative celebrations sacralizes secular institutions and public spheres, while simultaneously secularizing religious practices and imaginations. Religo-pedagogical inventiveness thus requires delicate boundary-drawings, between aspirations to mobilization and sacred authority, and the dangers of transgressing institutional mandates, theological sensitivities and notions of authenticity.

Youth and religion in a landscape of change: the role of Ibadi-Islam in the contemporary Omani society

Corina Lozovan, Lund University

This study focuses on understanding the role of Ibadi-Islam in the contemporary Omani society, by looking at how Ibadi traditions are present in the daily lives of young Omanis. They are considered the most educated generation since Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970. The discovery of oil stimulated a profound development that had an impact on religion and mass religious education, which has brought new interpretations and challenges for the religious authorities. The fieldwork for this study provided data for analysis on how the Ibadi youth conceptualizes and practices Ibadi-Islam, considering the historical and religious changes in the Omani society. The various Ibadi traditions that are daily selected, reinterpreted and reproduced by them, the political and the religious elite can provide insight on how new formations of Ibadi traditions have established themselves and the influence they have on constructing the Omani identity.

Analyzing contemporary Arab Authors

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Chair: Mikko Viitamäki

Homosexuality as a Poetics of Transgression in Rabih Alameddine’s Koolaids: The Art of War

Khaled Ghazel, University of St Andrews

In his book Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (2007), Steven Slaita addresses Rabih Alameddine’s debut novel, Koolaids: The Art of War (1998) and contends that the gay Lebanese-American author ‘utilizes a fragmented narrative to subvert a host of truisms’; a stance previously advocated by Wail Hassan, who also argues in his article ‘Of Lions and Storytelling’ (2004) that the novelist ‘subverts dominant discourses, ideologies, and sanctioned narratives,’ particularly those pertinent to ‘individualistic becoming and self-realization.’ With these poetics of subversion in mind, I draw on the theme of homosexuality in Koolaids: The Art of War to explore how Rabih Alameddine transgresses ‘conventional’ sexual/gender boundaries not only as a ‘liberating’ medium through which new queer identities can be constructed in Lebanon/the Middle East, but also as a disruption of the dominant masculinist/heterosexual metanarratives being antithetical to homoerotic desire. In addition, I seek to point out how in Koolaids: The Art of War the queer characters’ sexuality is shaped as a position of dissidence and rebellion against the normative structures and boundaries of Lebanese/Middle Eastern sexual practices.

The slow subversion of gender roles in the work of the Syrian writer Anisa Abboud

Lovisa Berg, Dalarna University

Through subtle descriptions and a mixture of realism, history and fables the Syrian writer Anisa Abboud deconstructs the idea of specific gender roles in her novels. Through a close reading of her three latest novels the paper demonstrates how the concepts of masculinity and femininity, and in particular the destabilization of these set gender roles, function as a trope in Abboud’s authorship through which she critiques the social order and the patriarchal society depicted in her novels. By using mythical figures and archetypal characters in new settings and circumstances she creates a gap in the mind of the reader between the expected behavior and the actual behavior of the character and through these gaps she elegantly pushes the boundaries of what the concepts of masculinity and femininity really comprises.


The Appeal of the Gothic in Hassan Blasim’s Fiction – Ikram Masmoudi

Ikram Masmoudi, University of Delaware

Acclaimed Iraqi writers are using gothic aesthetics and motifs to narrate a historical moment marred by ubiquitous violence, cultural crisis and disintegration. Hassan Blasim’s stories are filled with unspeakable and ‘unreal’ violence. More than representing the irrational violence raging outside the texts in a realistic rendering, Blasim’s fiction produces in the readers its own brand of violence by staging the horror that lies within, with paralyzing and terrifying effects. Drawing on some of Blasim’s most powerful gothic stories – The Corpse Exhibition, The Iraqi Christ and The Green Zone Rabbit among others, I will show how in recycling an old western genre (Gothic) to narrate a barbaric present, Iraqi literary production may effect cultural critique and change.

A Pseudo-Prophet unmasked: Rereading Season of Migration to the North as critique of post-colonial elites

Martin Riexinger, Aarhus Universitet

Although widely considered as the most important Arab novel al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ’s Mawsim al-hijra ilā l-shimāl (Season of Migration to North) from 1966 has only in the last two decades become an object of academic interest. Most of the secondary literature is however, influenced by post-colonialist approaches. As a consequence the protagonist Muṣṭafā Saʿīd is usually interpreted as idea-conveyor speaking out truths about the identity dilemma the Arab World faces after colonization. Such interpretations neglect the literary devices with which the author distances himself from the self-stylization of the protagonist as a Prophet. Furthermore the bombastic phraseology the protagonist used as an anti-colonial intellectual and the violent attitude to women during his London years is contrasted with the modest and pragmatic service for the local community to which he dedicated himself after settling in a small town on the Nile.

The past and the future within the present: Narratives of people, state and glory in the contemporary Middle East

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Chairs: Carl Rommel, University of Helsinki & Liina Mustonen, independent researcher

In many places in the world, narratives of the past are mediated by nostalgia. These narratives often construct a home or a place that no longer exist or perhaps never existed. In the same vein, projects led by states, civil society or marketing agencies (to name a few) build on dreams and ideas of a better future. Also in the Middle East people narrate stories about the past and dream about the future; and like elsewhere in the world the states in the greater Middle East region try to buy legitimacy by convincing their citizens that the past was glorious and that the future will be better. In this panel we look into interlinkages between such narratives and analyse their effects within the contemporary political and socio-economic settings in which they are expressed. Focusing specifically on cases in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and Yemen, the papers in this panel explore the ways in which dominant narratives are constructed against the contemporary realities in the greater region. We aim to shed light to the greater purpose of these narratives and ask: how are they connected to time and space on the one hand, and citizens’ worries about their contemporary circumstances on the other? And what are the political projects that motivate these narratives? How do they benefit the state or the people in power? All in all, the panel explores what dominant narratives of particular spaces in the greater Middle East tell us about the present. Hence, we ask how do narratives of the past and future shape people’s realities and, what are the ways in which they help to construct concrete state policies.

The Garbage State: Narrating the (non)governance of Beirut littoral

Samuli Lähteenaho, University of Helsinki

Politics of waste and state have been at the fore in Lebanon since a Summer 2015 waste crisis and the state’s incapability of solving it. Social movements quickly took up slogans that played on themes of refuse and government as a rescaled critique of the Lebanese state. Four years later, issues of waste governance persist, and the motif of a "trash state" is still frequent. Focusing on littoral public spaces in Beirut through understandings of publicness and state responsibility as related to waste, this paper looks at how presence and absence of state are narrated. Tracing a popular ambivalence in relating to the state, the paper examines ways people encounter the state on the city's coastline. The paper suggests that understandings of public, and where one may face the state, are as fluid as the untreated sewage flowing down to the sea, in a process ever recalibrating relations between state and society.

Seamless threads and broken timelines: mending carpets as material critique at the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

Patricia Scalco, University of Helsinki

Founded in the 15th century, the Istanbul Grand Bazaar has retained across centuries its main characteristics as a place of trade. As old as the Bazaar, the commerce of kilims and carpets, remains one of the Bazaar’s most iconic trades. Grounded in ethnographic research, this paper explores the notion of temporal endurance through an analysis of the role of the ‘repairman’ (tamirci) in the context of the carpet trade.  This highly skilled weaver is responsible for mending rugs with various types of damage, restoring the piece, as much as possible to their original status. Yet, in the light of the market’s preference for vintage and antique carpets, the repairman can also be employed by carpet sellers to mend ‘temporal gaps’, skilfully building the passage of time into otherwise contemporary rugs. The paper focuses on this practice to reflect on the material and temporal inconsistencies and (dis)connections this form of mending attempts to account for.

Inviting Destinations, No Visa: Dreams of Cosmopolitan Belonging on the Southern Shore of the Mediterranean

Senni Jyrkiäinen, University of Helsinki

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt’s second biggest city Alexandria, this paper addresses young people’s dreams of cosmopolitan belonging and ideas of their city as part of the wider world. It focuses on debates about belonging on digital platforms among technologically adept, middle class people, linking the theme of connecting with the ‘outside’ with nostalgic narratives of Alexandria’s ‘cosmopolitan’ past. The paper suggests that connecting with people around the world through new technologies has enabled young Alexandrians to extend their social worlds and relationships to faraway places and people but has also resulted in disappointing encounters where some people felt that matters of citizenship and ethnicity heavily restrained their dreams of cosmopolitan belonging. This papercombines ethnographic research with the examination of online debates on Alexandria’s location within the Egyptian state and the Mediterranean region. The paper shows some ways of navigation in relation to multiple restrictions, including visa policies.

The state as a project: stories of futures, values and mega projects in contemporary Egypt

Carl Rommel, University of Helsinki

In contemporary Egypt, everyone talks about and dreams of projects, large and small. On the one hand, men from all social backgrounds are on the hunt for a small business – a ‘project’ (mashru‘) that could provide additional income to strained family budgets. On the other, the military-dominated state is investing heavily in mega projects: a new Suez Canal, a new capital, fish farms and industrial zones. Based on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo, this paper delineates how projects are narrated, by state actors, in the media, and in everyday conversations. It illustrates how Egyptians assign immense hope to the ability of circumscribed projects of investment and action to generate more prosperous futures, but also how such aspirations have long been thwarted by defunct infrastructures and poor maintenance. As such, I conclude, to what extent can the predicament of the Egyptian state be narrated as a promising but ultimately dysfunctional project?

‘“Go forward to the glorious past”: Narratives of Egypt’s past in 2012

Liina Mustonen, Independent researcher

This paper discusses the politics of the oldest and most famous sporting club in Egypt during the politically tense period that followed the Egyptian uprising in 201. Dissatisfied with the physical infrastructure of the sporting club and its changing membership, some of the members of the club found refuge in the narrations of the Club’s “glorious past”. They advocated for a “return to the past” as in their accounts it would provide them a better future.  But what was better in the club in the past? And what are the ways in which the dissatisfaction with the sporting club reflect the then prevailing political tension in the country. By combining an analysis of literary narrations of the sporting Club’s “glorious past” and my ethnographic fieldwork in the very same club in late 2012 and in 2013, the paper illustrate how the narrative of the club’s glorious past was shaped by the politics of the period. In specific, the paper sheds light to the boundaries that these narratives drew between different groups of people.

Assyrian identity in a changing world

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Chair: Dan-Erik Andersson, Lund University

The situation for the Assyrian people has changed dramatically during the last decades. The number of Assyrians still living in their historical homeland, i.e., in parts of today’s Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, has substantially decreased. A growing number of Assyrians and an increasing part of the total Assyrian population is now living in Western diaspora, in countries like Sweden, Germany, the USA and Australia. In this new environment they face new challenges. Physical survival is not at stake, but cultural survival is. The threat is not genocide, but assimilation.

In this panel we will look at these challenges. What is left of the original visions of the Assyrian national movement? What place do religion have for modern Assyrians? How do young Assyrians in diaspora form their identity?

What is left of the ideology of the Assyrian national movement

Nicholas al-Jeloo, Kadir Has University

The Assyrian national movement has its origins in the native intellectual circles that resulted from the burgeoning educational systems of Qajar Iran and the late Ottoman Empire, developing into a secular nationalist ideology by the end of the nineteenth century. Its development was stunted by the Assyrian Genocide (1914-1925) and Simmel Massacre (1933), which led to a stigmatization of the movement, particularly by certain Assyrian Christian denominations, which began to disassociate from it and encourage their own sectarian-based “national” identities. Despite these setbacks, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed the establishment of Assyrian political parties and the entrenchment of the Assyrian national movement among communities worldwide. With the tragic circumstances in Iraq and Syria, depopulation and emigration has meant that their numbers in the Middle East have dwindled drastically. This paper will explore the consequences of this on the Assyrian national movement, and prospects for an uncertain future in the region as an ultra-minority.

Religion and Assyrian identity

Svante Lundgren, Lund University

The Assyrians are, per definition, a Christian people from the Middle East. The church has always been of importance, not only for spiritual reasons, but also as a pillar for the Assyrian culture and language. Today, however, more and more Assyrians live in countries, not the least Sweden, which are among the most secular in the world. In his groundbreaking dissertation from 1999, the Swedish-Assyrian sociologist Fuat Deniz noted that in the diaspora religious belonging had become more irrelevant and Assyrians more and more opted for an ethno-nationalistic identification. Today, twenty years later, the fact is, however, that the Assyrian churches in Sweden attract substantially more people than the Assyrian secular organizations. This paper will discuss the reasons for this. 

Exploring Identity and Religion among a Group of Assyrian/Syrian Pupils in Sweden

Victor Dudas, Uppsala University

The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to explore the identity and religion among a group of Assyrian/Syrian (a Swedish term for Assyrians, Syriacs, Arameans and other groups) pupils in Sweden (age 9-15 years; n=74). The group has a history as a minority in the Middle East. The existence as a minority continues today in Sweden where religion is present in the ethnic identification. Through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews the following results were generated. Religion was an important part of the identity of the pupils. Religion as well as language seemed to be intertwined with the ethnic identification as Assyrians/Syrians. Some of the pupils stated that they felt a responsibility to maintain and transfer their religion and language to coming generations. Expressing doubt regarding specific religious beliefs could be met by criticism from their parents and efforts to change doubt to faith.

Permeability and Salience: Symbolic and Social Boundaries in Turkey under Authoritarian Pressure

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Chair: Paul T. Levin, Stockholm University, Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS)

In recent years, Turkey’s tumultuous socio-political landscape under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has received tremendous scholarly attention. However, the ‘authoritarian turn’ of Turkey has been mostly associated with formal institutional erosion, such as the capture and control of formal democratic institutions by the executive. The institutionalist approach falls short of explaining how authoritarianism affects dynamic social relations, such as social group formation, contentious politics and everyday life. This panel aims to study the diffusion and contestation of ethnic, class, gender, national and communal boundaries in Turkey within the context of its ‘authoritarian turn’ with multidisciplinary insights from political science, sociology, and anthropology. It demonstrates that while authoritarian regimes seek to reify homogenous collective identities out of the heterogeneity of individual and group boundaries through disciplinary and institutional structures, the topdown homogenization attempts are challenged by various societal actors through new social, cultural and political practices by creating permeable boundaries. Using original fieldwork data, panelists integrate insights from social movements, urban studies, collective violence, and nationalism literatures to examine how boundaries are reconstituted, challenged and crossed under authoritarian regime dynamics.

Rethinking the boundaries in everyday life: A spatial approach to Kurdish Question of Turkey

Seren Selvin Korkmaz, Stockholm University

As Henri Lefebvre discusses the social space is made up by the networks and channels which are the integral part of the everyday life. Thus, everyday life is an area where the ethnic, spatial and class-based boundaries in society are created, blurred and recreated. My research examines the social exclusion of Kurdish population of Turkey. I argue that Turkey’s Kurds have witnessed different exclusion processes in different geographies of Turkey and Kurdish identity is defined and recreated in the interrelations between space, identity and class in the everyday life. Thus, to analyze Kurdish Question as a whole impedes to observe the everyday resistance of Kurdish population towards the state and various incorporation stories. That is why, my research aims to shift the attention to an alternative approach which focuses on the political economy and everyday life together. Rather than a time-centered analysis, I offer a space- centered analysis of Kurdish question.

Maneuvering across Ambiguities and Boundaries: Negotiations of National and Religious Identity in Contemporary Turkey

Erol Saglam, Stockholm University, Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS)

A considerable volume of scholarly corpus has extensively dealt with how national identities have historically been forged out of a multitude of experiences through a series of political, economic, sociocultural, and technological interventions (Anderson 1983; Hobsbawm 2004; Gellner 1983). These accounts have also pertinently explored how states around the world strived and struggled to a generate a homogeneous identity through linguistic, cultural, educational, and juridical policies. In the Turkish context, too, such nationalist agenda of the state has been thoroughly analyzed both through its institutional enactments (e.g., promoting the use of Turkish across schools and discouraging/banning the use of minority languages in public) and how resistance to this socio-cultural homogenization has faced a violent oppression (e.g., discrimination against non-Muslim minorities and oppression of Kurds) (see, Yegen 2004; Ozkirimli 2000; Ustel 2005; Ungor 2011). And yet, how Turkish identity in contemporary Turkey still bears ambiguities through which nationalist imaginaries and boundaries are incessantly re-negotiated, subverted, and breached in the everyday life has rarely been explored through its everyday entanglements. Drawing on an ethnographic research in northeast Turkey, this paper explores how Greek-speaking and yet Turkish-nationalist communities indeed performatively dismantle nationalist boundaries and bring together what are thought to be mutually exclusive identities (Greek vs. Turkish), forcing us to rethink the scope and everyday maintenance of contemporary identities.

Contentious Politics and Collective Violence and Changing Intergroup Boundaries from Democratization to De-democratization

Imren Borsuk, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS)

This article addresses an ethnic conflict puzzle: How does de-democratization affect intergroup boundaries? While the EU-induced democratization in Turkey gave way to the increase of communal violence against Kurds over the last decade, the growing state’s monopoly over the means of ethnic violence under the impact of democratic backsliding has decreased it in recent years. However, the popular anger and communal violence have changed the target and diverted from Kurds into Syrian refugees. Locating communal violence into contentious politics literature and focusing on the mobilization process, this article discusses how intergroup boundaries between Turks, Kurds, and Syrians have changed and why the targets of communal violence veered from Kurds into Syrians in a context of dedemocratization.

Breaking and Bridging the ‘us/them’ Divide: New Forms of Civic Mobilization under Authoritarian Pressure

Bilge Yabanci, Graz University

Particularly in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt, the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) has pushed its authoritarian agenda through religious, political and gender/sexual polarization. This study looks into new civic mobilizations that challenge, contest and seek to bridge the social and symbolic boundary imposed and entrenched by the AKP. The study particularly focuses on (i) the new forms of grassroots women’s collective action defying the religious versus secular women dichotomy and (ii) dissident Islamist-leftist networks that seek to create shared definitions of justice and class issues across the left-right boundary. Based on interviews with activists, the study aims to answer ‘what collective actions and mechanisms do these groups that initiate and constitute boundary change?’ and ‘What roles do they play in contesting authoritarian power structures in Turkey?’ Overall, the study contributes to the understanding of the role of creative and novel forms of cross-boundary encounters and conversation and the ensuing civic resistance to authoritarian regime dynamics.

Transcending the Boundaries of Law, Education, Residence, and Culture: Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews between State and Non-State actions

Thursday 15.8. 11.00 – 12.30, Sessions V

Organizer: Kimberly Katz

Chair: Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago

The 1948 Palestine War produced porous physical and cultural borders between each of the surrounding Arab states and Israel. How did the implementation of new borders complicate people’s movements? How did life in border communities take shape in educational and cultural forms? How did the arrival of Mizrahi Jews complicate ethnic boundaries between Arabs and Jews and between Jewish and Arab spaces? This panel considers Palestinians’ efforts to transcend the Jordan-Israel geographical boundaries imposed through legislation and the Jordanian educational boundaries that narrated a particularly Hashemite Jordanian legacy. In the first case Palestinians were arrested for committing a crime in crossing the border; in the second case Palestinians sought to enhance their socio-economic mobility and their nationalist sensibilities. Moreover, the Israeli state wished to construct boundaries between European and Arab Jews through the construction of transit camps. In other cases, however, Palestinians insisted on boundaries between cultures, as a way of resisting cultural appropriation. The nonstate Palestine Liberation Organization’s efforts in this regard shifted Palestinian culture into the realm of resistance.

Palestinians as “Infiltrators”: The Jordan-Israel Border following the 1948 War in Palestine

Kimberly Katz, Towson University

This paper examines the application of Jordanian law to Palestinians living in the West Bank following the 1948 War that left many Palestinians on one side and their homes and fields on the other side of the 1949 Jordan-Israel Armistice line. As Palestinians adapted to life as Jordanian citizens but, often, also as refugees, I argue that they did not see the border as an obstacle to reaching their lands or traversing it, notwithstanding the legalities and local/international laws and armistice agreements. Palestinians crossed the border for grazing purposes, selling and buying, transporting currency considered illegal, among many other reasons, the more personal seemingly not recorded in arrest records. Analysis of case studies of border crossings, penalties applied, and socio-historical circumstances offer a framework for rethinking what scholars and politicians have referred to as infiltrations by Palestinians who ignored a border that has not existed a few years prior.

Pedagogical Fugitivity: Seam Zone Schooling in the West Bank, 1948 – 1954

Mezna Qato, King’s College, Cambridge University

After the 1948 war and the dispossession of most Palestinian refugees into Jordanian territory, a massive educational infrastructure was developed to accommodate the needs of students. This educational system provided the newly-expanded Jordanian kingdom with a tool by which they hoped to reproduce and consolidate a state narrative that could both denationalise Palestinian youth and implicate them into Hashemite legitimacy. Concomitantly, however, Palestinians too came to regard education as a vehicle for mobility and security in precarious times. This paper focuses on the schools in the frontier villages on the border between Israel and Jordan, and proposes the concept of pedagogical fugitivity in order to understand how education came to be enacted by teachers and students. Through the use of institutional archives, memoirs, oral histories, and intelligence reports, this paper asks, between Palestinian nationalist stirrings and desires for class mobility, what precisely did Jordanian education do, and what was done with it?

“A People Who Sing Shall Never Die”: Mobilizing the Boundaries of Palestinian Popular Culture in the 1970s

Toufoul Abou-Hodeib, University of Oslo

This paper looks at the Palestine Liberation Organization’s promotion of Palestinian culture in the 1970s. As part of its state-building project in exile, the PLO promoted several Palestinian cultural products and performative practices, such as embroidery, songs, and dabké dancing. The PLO’s aim in this was twofold. On the one hand, by promoting the exhibition and performance of Palestinian culture around the world, the organization had the proclaimed aim of preserving it against disappearance. On the other hand, the PLO explicitly strove to counteract the appropriation and redefinition of Palestinian popular culture as Israeli culture. Focusing on the latter aspect, this paper explores reactions to Israeli initiatives that laid claim to the same cultural forms that the PLO promoted as Palestinian, and how the boundary thus constructed around what constitutes Palestinian popular culture became intimately tied with the notion of resistance.

Crossing the Boundaries of the Transit Camp: Mizrahi Jews in 1950s Israel

Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago

This paper studies the ways in which Middle Eastern Jewish migrants to Israel crossed the borders between Israeli urban centers and transit camps. During the 1950s, Middle Eastern Jews (Mizrahim) arrived in Israel. The state settled them in transit camps in tents and shacks, and supervised their movement to permanent housing. Mizrahi Jews, I suggest, resisted the state's settlement policies by squatting illegally and by fighting settlement plans in faraway locations. While individuals who disobeyed the government lost rights to state benefits, including food and labor, Mizrahi Jews wanted to stay close to big cities where they could eventually find jobs. In doing so, they challenged the state's intention to create borders between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi spaces and to populate the border zones with Mizrahim. The state, however, used violent means, especially police violence, against these squatters.

State-society relations

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

The (new) social contract/ عقد اجتماعی in the Middle East: finally reconciling state and nation?

Bernhard Trautner, Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik

The presentation develops a conceptual framework for thinking about social contracts between the state on the one side, and society on the other, for a) analysis and b) policy prescription for social and political organization in the Middle East. The written or implicit social contract, applied not as a normative blue print of ‘Western’ origin but as an analytical tool is to be validated with local stake holders. It shall eventually substitute the highly conflictual focus by foreign policy and international cooperation actors on transforming or re-building the nation state. Reconstituting or rather: newly inventing state-society relations and building trust within society and its constituent groups comes on top of the challenge reconstructing the physical damages by the current wars in the region (cf. ‘Toll of War’ World Bank 2018) . The paper discusses one case where stateness has been destroyed or at least seriously damaged even before the so called ‘Arab Spring’, Iraq (since 2003). It addresses the following research questions: First, at the conceptual level, which actors, factors and processes contribute to forging a sustainable social contract in MENA countries affected by violent conflict and state collapse? Second, at the empirical level, to which of these actors, in the case of Iraq as an example, does society turn to for providing the most crucial delivery of the contract, human security?

Youth vote in Tunisia: A factor of risk for political consolidation?

Bosco Govantes & Antonio Alfonso, Universidad Pablo de Olavide

The aim of this paper is to analyse Tunisia’s democratic status through the experience of the vote (or not vote) of the young electors in the Municipal elections in May 2018. In order to analyse this features, we perform an extensive data analysis of the electoral results of the Municipal elections in 2018, both globally and locally, combining this quantitative information with qualitative data obtained on the field interviews to political and social elites. This fieldwork took place during pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral periods. One of the most relevant elements of this electoral process was the extraordinarily low turnout, 35.6% among registered voters (17% of the potential voters) and the astonishing level of disaffection towards the traditional parties, especially remarkable among young voters. In fact, a big percentage of these electors preferred to vote to independent list not linked to the parties. Independent lists obtained altogether more support (32.9%) than any single political party did (winning party Ennahda, obtained 28.6%). This election had, additionally, an important effect on the national political dynamics. Among others, the decomposition of the ruling party, Nida Tounes, due to its internal divisions or the cancellation of the Carthage Agreement supporting the National Unity Government. The current research analysis through vote data the political behaviour of the young voters, particularly affected by the social and economic crisis, and its effect in the current crisis of the political system, which is a major factor of risk for the consolidation of the democratic transition.

Is­raeli Na­kba Denial and Palestinian Refugees: Im­pos­ing and Break­ing Spa­tial and Ideo­lo­gical Boundaries

Michael Fischbach, Randolph-Macon College

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have brought renewed attention to resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, a war Palestinians call the Nakba. Yet Israel's long-standing opposition to refugee reparations, including return/repatriation, constitutes a clear boundary delimiting what is possible diplomatically. This opposition is part of the process of Nakba Denial: Israel's reimagining of Israeli-Palestinian relations in order to create and maintain real and ideological boundaries that preserve Jewish ethnocracy. This study examines how Israel used the Nakba to create new spatial and demographic boundaries separating Arabs in Palestine/Israel from their land and from Jews. It details how Israel thereafter has used Nakba Denial - specifically, denial of any responsibility for the flight and permanent exile of the refugees - to create and enforce imagined boundaries that redefine history. Israel has done this to counteract the refugees' attempts to break through all these boundaries, including through their demands for repatriation.

Tangier (Morocco) as a Border City: Urban Transformations at Multiple Borders

Steffen Wippel, Philipps-Universität Marburg

The presentation will consider Tangier as a border city. Borders display an ambivalent character: they are not only separating lines, preventing humans and goods from crossing, but also interfaces that offer opportunities for cross-border exchanges, with changing qualities according to time and kind of flows. Consequently, they can impair as well as foster economic progress and urban expansion. After a short historical outline, the presentation will focus on Tangier’s contemporary experiences. In its more recent history, the role and development of Northern Morocco’s metropolis has been repeatedly characterised by its specific position at multiple borders – international borderlines, maritime façades, limits of ports and free zones, regional block borders, and intercontinental delimitations. This multiplex border situation generated as well as blocked numerous flows from, to, and through Tangier making it a cosmopolitan city in international (colonial) times, before it “re-moroccanised” after independence and rapidly globalised with the more recent development visions.

Religious texts – creating and reflecting norms and boundaries

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Riikka Tuori, University of Helsinki

Image of the Ethiopians in the ascetical literature of the Christian Middle East

Serafim Seppälä, University of Eastern Finland

The image of Ethiopians in Early Christian literature has been interpreted in modern scholarship as thoroughly racist (Guy) and not racist at all (Snowden etc.). The matter is of importance for modern discussions on racism, not least because “Ethiopian” functions as symbol for all Africans. To deal with the question, however, one needs a careful analysis on the metaphorical usages and their contexts in a wide variety of sources. This paper examines the image of Ethiopians in sources that are at the heart of both Catholic and Orthodox Christian spirituality but are not sufficiently used in studies on this topic: the ascetical literature written in the Middle East from the fifth to seventh centuries. The paper is based on three well-known classical works (Apophthegmata of the desert fathers, John of Sinai, Palladius), and three less known works (Barsanuphius and John of Gaza; Anastasios of Sinai, the “anonymous collection” of Apophthegmata).

The Hagadah of Pesah in Amazigh Tradition

Akseli Saviranta

This document examines the text of the Hagadah of the Jewish festivity of Pesah as celebrated by the North African Amazighs of Tinghir in Morocco. Its beginning presents an overview of the history and the cultures of the Amazigh, Jewish, and Judeo-Amazigh communities in North Africa. The celebration of Pesah, as a milestone in Jewish creed and history, is studied within the North African context and with particular attention to the local Hagadah translations. Among these translations, the Judeo-Amazigh text of Tinghir represents one of the few if not the only known text in existence in a Judeo-Amazigh language. A transliterated excerpt of this text is provided along with an English translation; the Hebrew and Judeo-Tunisian texts are included for comparison as well. Furthermore, the Judeo-Amazigh text is analysed, and the role of each language as well as their overall dynamic are evaluated, and examples of distinctions between the Judeo-Amazigh and the Hebrew texts are listed. Comparisons between the different North African texts and traditions suggest that taking the Amazigh aspect into account, as opposed to the mostly Arabocentric approaches used in the analysis of the history and the texts of North African Jewish communities, would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the particularities of the region.

The Rule of Faith as an approach towards Theological convergence in face of visible textual tensions

Karl-Henrik Wallerstein, Abo Akademi University

This paper pays attention to the fact that there has always been a Rule of Faith as guide, principal or approach in the encounter with the visible textual tensions of the Old Testament. The parting of the ways, i.e. the Christian, Jewish and the Muslim division, could be understood theologically, from the backdrop of different hermeneutical presuppositions. These different hermeneutical presuppositions I would like to highlight with Psalms 44 as case text. In the end of the paper, I will suggest a hermeneutical solution to the theological problem that this text raises. Even though there are differences between Christianity and Judaism, there is, behind the obvious controversies, a theological similarity that goes back to a shared and common understanding of God. This feature is not so obvious within the Islamic traditions, however, not absent at all.

The Language of Coercion in the Qur’an and its Implications for the Classification of Rape in Islamic Law

Amanda Lipske, Wayne State University

This project is an analysis of the language of coercion, or ikrah, in the Qur’an to determine how it may figure into the reclassification of rape in Islamic law. It will thoroughly analyse the Qur’anic text for the word coercion in various forms, and compare the different ways it is used in order to move from a shared responsibility of the rape between rapist and victim to one that places it squarely on the rapist. It will advocate for a reclassification of rape in Islamic law to one of ḥarābah, or forcible and violent taking, in order to remove the stringent requirements necessary to prosecute crimes of zinā, or illicit sex.

Boundaries and political representation in arts

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Wolfgang Mühlberger, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Curating unity: Multi-modal analysis of the Archaic, the national pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale

Anastasia Shanaah, Aarhus University

The system of national pavilions at the Venice biennale allows participating countries to showcase their highest and most innovative cultural achievements. This is particularly important to countries that have been denied the opportunity to represent themselves on their own terms, such as former colonies. This paper investigates how the curators of Archaic, the national pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale, communicate the message of national unity by inscribing Iraqi artists from diverse ethno-religious communities into an Iraqi art historical development – from the ancient times, through modernism to contemporaneity. Since the meaning of political ideology may not be obvious at the first glance, the paper combines the multimodal analysis of the pavilion with the discourse of politics of representation to investigate its implied meanings. The paper argues that the curators produce a particular image of Iraq, where different ethno-religious communities form a united Iraqi nation.

“Political Bodies” inside of the Actual and Imaginary Shopping Malls

Mikko Maki, Tampere University

Abstract This paper begins with the theoretical examination of architecture’s role in constructing a (non-)place where political may or may not occur. It connects Jean-Luc Nancy’s interpretation how places are created with bodies to the invention of an unpredictable subject as political singularities. Built surroundings’ role to the concept of political has become the relevant sub-field of the political theory in recent years. This paper looks and comments Qatari-American artist Sophia Al Maria’s interpretation of shopping malls as a possible ‘political’ places. The starting point is the empirical situation, where post-political attitude has conquered the place of political, in the contemporary Arab States in the Persian Gulf. The paper continues to ask what is the role of actual and imaginary shopping malls to the political, how these spaces can create or break boundaries, and how the art-related representations effect on the empirical political situations.

Land, Memory, and Gender in Palestinian Art

Luisa Gandolfo, University of Aberdeen

Since 1948, the Nakba has been remembered through cultural representations of the land that incorporate the body as an extension of the land. As artists use their bodies, and the bodies of others, to carry narratives connected with the land and exile, memorialization traverses cultural and political boundaries. In doing so, two (re)visitings occur: the memorialization of the landscape via the body from afar, and second, physical interaction with the land in situ, while recalling the land as it was in the past. Reflecting on the two approaches, this paper builds on Barthes’ concept of the ‘reality and past both as one’ (Barthes 1988) to question how the gendering of the land allows the female form to metaphorically and physically negotiate temporal and geographical boundaries, as well as the ways that art addresses the past through cultural memorialization.

Cosmopolitanism, Activism and Arab Documentary Film

Josepha Wessels, Malmö University

Egyptian films like 1/2 Revolution (2011) and The Square (2013), gave Arab documentaries a boost after the 2011 growing global interest in the Arab uprisings. Since 2014, Syrian documentaries rose to high acclaim at international film festivals and the Oscars awards in 2017. Palestinian documentaries such as Speed Sisters (2015) and the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-award winning Five Broken Cameras (2011) also entered the global stage, radically changing stereotypical views on the Middle East. Since the 1970s, Arab documentary filmmakers have been highlighting connections between values of humanism and struggles for personal freedom and democracy restricted by colonialism and authoritarianism. This paper reflects how the experience of war, oppression, occupation, uprooting and forced migration, influenced contemporary Arab documentary films. Emerging creative global communities congregating at international film festivals, where Arab artists connect on various humanistic, socio-cultural and political levels with non-Arab peers, offer fresh insights in perspectives on cosmopolitanism and world-citizenship.

Breaking Boundaries or Entrenching Old Ones? Post-Arab Spring Experiences of Women and Political Representation

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Homay Hoodfar, Concordia University

This panel explores women and political representation in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. Our papers examine both the dynamism and potential for change engendered in the Arab Spring and the entrenchment of durable structures of inequality and exclusion experienced by female political representatives and female constituents. We examine the impact that women and political representation may have on constituents and respective publics. Combined, the papers argue that the revolutionary potential of the Arab Spring is still subject to pre-2012 structures of patriarchical legacies of representation such as wasta and dynastic heritages. The papers explore in-depth the contours of the making of female political leaders as well as the impacts on their constituents in cases from across the region, adding to our knowledge of post-Arab Spring regime activity, both differences and similarities, which will play a key role in the region’s future for a long time to come.

Female MPs, Wasta, and the Role of Protest in Post-Arab Spring Jordan

Sarah A Tobin, Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen

Wasta, or kin-based favoritism, is well-cited in Jordan as both necessary and undesirable for resource allocation. Female MPs report often feeling constrained by this system, even if it is the very mechanism by which they were elected, especially in the quota system. Furthermore, many constituents report that female MPs are “less corrupted by wasta” than the male counterparts. While the Arab Spring in Jordan was a relatively small event, the region’s activities have had large ramifications on the renewal of hope in protest as a means of accomplishing political change seeing numerous large-scale protests of proposed tax and labor laws in 2017-8. Based on interviews with female MPs and constituents, this paper explores the possibilities that female MPs in particular have to respond to protests in ways that ameliorate the need and constricting nature of wasta and simultaneously create a new and enhanced space for responding to constituent needs.

It’s in the Blood: The Effect of Dynastic Rule on the Substance of Gender Quotas

Bozena Welborne, Smith College

Gail Buttorff, Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston

Our research explores whether the presence and influence of political dynasties neutralizes the effects of gender quotas in the Middle East and North Africa. Daniel Smith’s research (2018) reveals that female politicians are much more likely to have dynastic backgrounds than men in OECD states. The likelihood of this being the case is increased in countries of the Global South, many of which tend toward dynastic or proto-dynastic rule. In this paper, we argue that the more women from political dynasties running for office—even with gender quotas facilitating their entry into politics—the less likely there is to be an overall shift in policies meant to benefit women. In this way, dynasties mitigate the potential revolutionary effect of gender quotas and affect the types of women likely to run using them. We evaluate this hypothesis by replicating Smith’s statistical analysis with a new dataset from the MENA.

Sectarianism and Women’s Political Representation

Rola El-Husseini, Lund University

In some Arab nations, the quota system has provided an effective means to increase political representation of women in governance. In these countries, the quota system has enabled women to demonstrate their competency through public service. I will contrast political representation by women in these non-sectarian states to the dismal standing of women in the sectarian countries of Iraq and Lebanon. I use the role played by quotas in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion, and the similar political status of women in the non-quota state of Lebanon, to question the efficacy of quotas in sectarian countries. I also outline the importance of external actors in the deployment of state feminism. The enactment of a women’s quota is a regular part of Lebanese political discourse. I argue the Iraq case demonstrates the shortcoming of quotas in states where political power is enacted within a regressive system of power-sharing.

‘Gender Justice’ versus ‘Gender Equality’: Elite women’s framing processes in Iran and Turkey

Mona Tajali, Agnes Scott College

Much of the literature on Muslim women’s activism presents the nature of such organizing in dichotomous terms of egalitarianism (secular) or complementarianism (religious), with little regard for dynamism of women’s campaigning efforts. Addressing this gap in the literature, this paper analyzes the recent framing processes of various elite Islamic party women in Iran and Turkey to demand for women’s greater access to political office, in terms of ‘gender justice’ rather than ‘gender equality’. Based on personal interviews and study of public statements and publications of elite women, or those with close ties to key political figures, this paper critically examines the political and social implications of women’s framing processes that are not conventionally deemed as feminist, given their complementarian undertones. It argues that women’s strategic use of ‘gender justice’ enables them to find resonance with the Islamic elites while also advocate for equal opportunities between genders, including gender quota adoption.

New Directions in the International Relations of the Middle East: Foreign Policy and the Changing Regional Order

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Katerina Dalacoura, London School of Economics

The aim of this panel will be to identify, detail, evaluate and explain new directions in the international relations of the Middle East. To this end, its participants will examine the foreign policies of the key external powers influencing the region—the US, Russia, and the European Union—as well as two key regional powers, Turkey and Israel, since the eruption of the Arab uprisings. The panel will identify and explain the foreign policy these actors adopted in the wake of the Arab uprisings, and assess their impact. Keeping theoretical questions at arm’s length, the panel will nevertheless examine the degree to which concepts of IR – such as the balance of power, ideological pursuits and identity politics – are still useful in understanding present and future trajectories in the international relations of the Middle East. It will also assess the impact of the foreign policies of the specific actors on the regional order, loosely defined as the current constellation of structures and relationships that define the Middle East.

Rethinking Israeli foreign policy in the wake of the Arab uprisings

Amnon Aran, City University, London

The eruption of the 2010 Arab uprisings has generated a great deal of academic scholarship. However, the foreign policy of Israel, a key power in the Middle East, has received limited attention. Furthermore, as this paper will demonstrate, the conventional wisdom purported by the current debate, which is that Israel adopted a ‘defensive realist’ foreign policy posture in the wake of the Arab uprisings, is wrong. Rather, utilising an innovative approach that looks at Israeli foreign policy through a domestic lens, this paper will demonstrate that Israel adopted a foreign policy stance of entrenchment. This posture is predicated on peace for peace not territory, reinforcing Israel’s military capabilities, and granting limited autonomy to the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Unlike the traditional view of Israeli foreign policy decision-making, which portrays it as ad hoc and lacking in planning, the paper shows that entrenchment derived from a coherent strategy.

The European Union between ideological pursuits and power balancing: the foreign and security policies of the EU and the shaping of the Middle Eastern (dis)ordeR

Peter Seeberg, Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies

With the Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy the EU wanted to promote a rules-based global order, thereby to position itself as a specific and significant player on the international political scene. But, influenced by the instability of the Middle East, the EU has sought to adapt to the changing conditions. By establishing a comprehensive sanctions regime it was the ambition of the EU to affect the course of the Syrian crisis and, concerning Iran: by playing an active role in connection with the JCPOA, the EU attempted to present itself as an important actor in the Middle East. However, limits of the EU impacting the Middle East realities were demonstrated in the case of Libya and in connection with the Mediterranean migration crisis. 

The Syrian Conflict and the Crisis in US Hegemony

 Jasmine Gani, Centre for Syrian Studies University of St Andrews

US policy has significantly shaped the Syrian conflict and has rightly received much attention. However, in this paper I will consider this dynamic in reverse and argue that the Syrian conflict has precipitated structural changes in both domestic US politics and global politics, undermining American hegemony. The paper will assess the role of recent historical factors in laying the foundations for the US’s position on Syria, namely the Iraq war and US-Syrian antagonism since the Cold War. Despite the apparent differences between the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, I argue that the US’s official policies towards Syria did not dramatically change across the three administrations; however, each administration shaped the foreign policy constraints of the next, and each dealt a blow to three core pillars of US hegemony: willingness to lead, capacity and legitimacy. The paper will conclude with the ramifications of US retreat for the Middle East, evaluating ideological and geopolitical continuities and change.

Ankara’s Foreign Policy and Regional Order in the Middle East: What Does ‘the New’ Turkey Want?   

Katerina Dalacoura, London School of Economics

Much has been made of Ankara’s ambitious foreign policy in the Middle East during the AKP period and its perceived failure following the 2011 Arab uprisings. The devastating civil war in Syria, at Turkey’s doorstep, is rightly seen as the greatest crisis facing Ankara’s foreign policy establishment over the past few years. But what are the objectives of Turkish foreign policy at the present moment of flux in the region? And how to they link up with the ambition of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party to create a ‘new’ Turkey? Two conflicting ideological requirements drive Turkey’s foreign policy towards the Middle East region: nationalism, which dictates the approach toward the Kurdish issue at home and abroad, and Islamism, which shapes attitudes towards a variety of state and non-state actors (from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinians, not least in Gaza). Nationalism and Islamism are being reconstituted in the new Turkey, however, and the impact of their changing relationship has repercussions for the regional order.  

Implementation of the communicative approach in UiO

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Zehad Sabry

Many years ago The Arabic Language team at University of Oslo saw the need to switch their teaching approach to more modern one. In this panel we would like to share our experiences with implementing the communicative approach in a Nordic university, especially last couple of years. We found that this approach fulfilled our students’ academic needs in learning the language rather than just learning about it. I want to present about some interrelated concepts to the communicative approach and impact of these concepts on our program. Among these concepts Language proficiency criteria, student-centered learning, flipped classroom, using authentic materials, spiraling way of teaching language inputs, task-based teaching, and project based teaching, treating culture as a skill, treating Arabic as a language of communications, and anxiety-free classroom. I will focus mainly on teaching reading and listening strategies and the importance of the communicative feedback in and outside the class.

The communicative approach, interrelated concepts and receptive skills

Zehad Sabry, University of Oslo

Many years ago The Arabic Language team at University of Oslo saw the need to switch their teaching approach to more modern one. In this panel we would like to share our experiences with implementing the communicative approach in a Nordic university, especially last couple of years. We found that this approach fulfilled our students’ academic needs in learning the language rather than just learning about it. I want to present about some interrelated concepts to the communicative approach and impact of these concepts on our program. Among these concepts Language proficiency criteria, student-centered learning, flipped classroom, using authentic materials, spiraling way of teaching language inputs, task-based teaching, and project based teaching, treating culture as a skill, treating Arabic as a language of communications, and anxiety-free classroom. I will focus mainly on teaching reading and listening strategies and the importance of the communicative feedback in and outside the class.

Teaching Arabic in a changing world

Stephan Guth, University of Oslo

This intervention tries to assess the role the teaching of Arabic at universities outside the Arab world plays, or could and should play, in the framework of Middle East Studies, a discipline that tries to keep up with the rapid changes that are taking place in the Arab world as well as in the West (refugees, increasing Islamophobia, etc.), a discipline also that is increasingly phased with the media and that claims to have a mission of "social relevance". How "socially relevant" is it to teach Arabic at a Scandinavian university? And which kind of Arabic? And how? And what does that mean not only for Middle East Studies, a discipline of the “area studies” type, but also for the older philological disciplines that used to be the primary domain of Arabic Studies? – The paper will start from the Oslo experience, hoping to inspire a more general discussion.

Zionism Without Borders: Narratives of the Promised Land in and Beyond

Thursday 15.8. 14.00 – 15.30, Sessions VI

Chair: Hannu Juusola, University of Helsinki

This panel conceptualizes Zionism not only as the European ideology that fueled the colonization of Palestine, but moreover as a secularized protestant concept that penetrates the Western world. This panel analyses the genealogy of Zionism (Shohat, 1988), tracing its trajectory in Christian Zionism (Sharif, 1983) and its transmission to its later Jewish effluent. It draws its roots in the protestant colonization of the Americas (Mamdani, 2015) through the spread of Zionist Protestant Christianity by European settlers who travelled to and settled first in 17th century North America. The panel debates Jewish Zionism’s culmination as a settler project where Israel becomes the Promised Land of the Jews (Segev, 1993), and the culmination of American (pre) Zionism where America becomes the Westernized Promised Land. It further explores the composite history of contemporary Christian guilt (Pieterse, 1979), tracing its contemporary manifestations in acts of displacement and projection of European fear that will eventually produce the victims of Christian Zionism as the anti-Semite par excellence.

Relocating Zion: The Pilgrimage to America as the Precondition for the/a New World

Ahmed Diaa, Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The Mayflower pilgrimage presented an avant-la-lettre Zionist narrative, not only because of the role it played in shaping the mythologeme of a settler colonial project that would anticipate and inspire its Zionist forerunner, but also because it inaugurated a strict reading of the old testament as a manual for colonization. My paper argues that the pilgrimage to America indexes the protestant-secular forsaking of Jerusalem as the spiritual centre and pilgrimage destination, in a word the Zion, of Christendom. The relocation of the Christian/secular Zion to North America did not only allow for the reinvention of Palestine as a Jewish promised land, but also the inauguration of a New World centred around the pilgrimage to America, and a modern condition whose spiritual centre, or Zion, is the United States.

Thy Kingdom Come Jerusalem Undone: Immigration, Trump, and Arab Christians

Karim Malak, Columbia University, New York City

In this paper I explore how US faith politics have unfolded since the election of Trump when it comes to the place of Arab Christians. I demonstrate how the US uses and misuses Arab Christians to fulfill its imperial designs in the region contemporarily by supporting Zionist land annexation in Jerusalem (van Doorn-Harder, 2011), and the immigration of Arab Christians to America. I show that Trump’s faith politics are a continuation of the politics of his predecessors since Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David peace accords in 1978, the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000 (Christiansen, 2001) and George Bush’s 2003 Iraq war (Samuel, 2017). This I argue can be observed through the resurgence of Zionist Christianity (Penton, 1979; Pieterse, 1979). I close by pondering the contemporary case of Egyptian Coptic Christians in US and their struggle to adapt to the theological and faith politics of Zionist Christianity

The intertextuality of the metaphor of the Promise Land in Paradise Lost and Ikhteyyah

Hadeel Karkar, Université de Lorraine.

The study of colonial empires hardly addresses empire as a subject matter; one of the main reasons can be attributed to the rare accessibility and contribution of the colonized object of empire to this field. This paper explores the relevance of settler-colonialism as a paradigm for the analysis of Zionist and British imperialisms in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, from the 17th century, and contemporary Palestinian author Imil Habibi’s Ikhteyyah. The paper probes parallels and correspondences between the narrative of colonizing Palestine and the pervasive colonial discourse that prevailed during the early stages of building the American empire. A comparative analysis is offered of the intertextuality of biblical references in narratives of colonialism in literary texts from the 17th century British writings, and Palestinian contemporary literature. I explore the intertextuality of the metaphor of the Promised Land in Protestant writings as a discursive strategy in narrating settler-colonialism, and how this metaphor was used to create facts on the ground to the point where mythical narrative became an astounding reality of the colonial projects from the standpoint of two authors in two different eras.

What are you afraid of? Anxiety-production and Fear Politics in Zionist Discourse

Hanine Hassan, Columbia University

This paper surveys the formation of Zionist fear to understand why fear, as a socio-political construct, has unfolded in the Zionist narrative. In tracking Zionist expressions of fear, there appears to be mainly two fears in play. One is the fear of European anti-Semites who oppress Jews and victimize them; and the other is a fear of the victims of Zionist settler-colonialism and racism. Both seem to occur in tandem, and function as sources of anxiety for the Zionists for very different reasons, and both seem to be instrumentalized for different purposes. In order to analyze the uses to which fear has been adapted, adopted, or rejected in Zionist political decision-making, I trace its uses from 1897 in the minutes of the Zionist Congresses, which planned the movement’s strategy, and specifically the speeches of Max Nordau, the perceived intellectual godfather of the movement. I will then proceed to study the way these fears were deployed as an incitement to European Jews to adopt Zionism.

Keynote: Sari Hanafi

15.8., 16.00 in room 1

"Breaking boundaries between secularists and Islamists: The case of the Gender equality debate in Tunisia"

General Assembly of the NSMES

15.8., 17.00 room 1