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Towards a Beirut School of Critical Security Studies: A Manifesto

The Beirut Security Studies Collective

The acceleration, intensification, and broad diffusion of political violence across West Asia, North Africa, and the Levant, and the continuation of foreign military and diplomatic involvement in the region continue to be made sensible primarily through North American and European academic and policy work situating questions of security within frameworks that privilege the concerns of other parts of the world. Further, the rise of Islamophobia, virulent forms of right-wing populism, and the increasing flow of refugees have shifted and distorted transnational perceptions of the sources of risk, threat, and insecurity with violent effects. As scholars living, working, and researching in the region, we are often tasked with the ‘double burden’ of responding to the largely neglected and destabilizing effects of external interventions that exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the people who bear the consequences of these interventions, while also attempting to understand and articulate the materialization of new security concerns, dynamics, spaces, and affects in more situated contexts. Drawing on a rich and growing critical scholarship on security in the region, we have composed a collectively authored reflection on how to develop, as well as the politics of developing ‘critical’ approaches to security in the region, while also considering the limits of defining the Arab region as an object of study. These reflections are based on a series of exchanges and gatherings over a period of eighteen months in Beirut (April 8-9, 2016 and March 9-12) and Boston (November 14-15, 2016), through collaborative exchanges produced out of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences Summer Institute on Critical Security Studies in the Arab World (July 18-23, 2017), as well as several other online conferences. While our individual approaches to questions of security are varied, we have been brought together by shared ethical and political commitments in our work within and beyond the academy.