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Workshop on Regionalisms and New Regional Dynamics 

(27 March 2021)

 

The ‘New Regionalisms Working Group’ of the Arab Council for Social Sciences held an online workshop on 27 March to discuss themes raised by Adam Hanieh’s working paper on ‘Space, Scale, and Region: Thinking Through the New Dynamics of the Middle East’. The workshop was attended by 20 invited participants from the Middle East, North America, Europe, and Asia.

 

The first session of the workshop focused on comparative questions of regionalism in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and China. Speakers examined movements of working classes across West Asia and the ways this plays into our conceptualisations of regional spaces and identities (Majed Akhter); the impact of transnational flows of capital on the changing territoriality of labour regimes in East Asia (Dae-oup Chang); the nature of transboundary processes in Kasserine, a province on the margin of west-central Tunisia (Olfa Lamloum); China-Middle East interdependencies and US regional policy in the Middle East (Salam Shareef); and the different trajectories and methodological distinctiveness of Chinese scholarship towards the study of the Middle East (Mohammed Sudairi).

 

The second session examined regional and cross-border processes in the Middle East. The discussion encompassed the nature of Turkey’s presence in Syria since 2011, and the impact of these emerging cross-border relations on social processes in Turkey (Seda Altug); the Turkish experience of financialisation and the potential ramifications of this for how we might understand state formation in the region (Pınar Bedirhanoğlu and Funda Hülagü); the position of the Gulf states in the global and regional food regimes, and what this might mean for the concept of Food Regimes  (Christian Henderson); and the increasingly prominent role of the UAE in regional humanitarian chains and logistics infrastructures, and the implications of this on regional geopolitics (Rafeef Ziadah).

 

The third session focused primarily on the urban scale in the Middle East. Speakers examined the nature of urbanisation in the Middle East, and the connections between cities, hinterlands and regional spaces (Salma Abouelhossein); the methodological challenges and significance of approaching the urban scale as a process rather than form (Mona Fawaz); the connections between Palestinian urban development in Jerusalem and the new regional dynamics (Lucy Garbett); the spatial-material turn in social science and its potential for opening up and ‘de-exceptionalising’ study of the Middle East region (Sarah El-Kazaz); and new theoretical and methodological questions concerned with the rural Middle East (Giuliano Martiniello).

 

The final session raised a series of important questions about history, methodology, and more recent political economy changes within the Middle East and Latin America. This included a discussion on the utility of micro-historical approaches to understanding the connection between regional and global processes (Fahad Bishara); the role of sectarianism in the promotion of neoliberal change within the region (Rima Majed); the spatial bifurcation of development processes in Egypt, and its connections with social stratification in the country (Yezid Sayigh); the mutual constitution of different scales in colonial Egypt, and the importance of foregrounding the lived experience of these scales (Ahmad Shokr); and the role of populism (both left and right) in the exit from crises in Latin America since the 1930s (Jeffrey Webber).