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 Critical Security Studies in the Arab Region

Working Groups Program

The Working Groups Program (WGP) aims at bringing scholars from across the Arab region and beyond, who are at different stages in their academic careers, to work collectively and comparatively on a particular research theme. This collaborative work not only enables the WG to explore and develop new and innovative research agendas from interdisciplinary perspectives but also allows its members to network effectively and share academic knowledge, skills and experience.

Beirut Critical Security Studies Collective

This Working Group was launched in Spring 2016 and takes a critical approach toward the proliferation of ‘security studies’ and ‘strategic studies’ programs and publications that are developing across the region, many of which advance state security interests rather than the security of individuals, communities and societies of the region. The Beirut Critical Security Studies Collective (BCSSC) engages with existing frameworks from the field of critical security studies but also strives to move beyond them to develop alternative approaches based on regional realities, in an effort to understand the materialization of new security concerns, dynamics, spaces and affects. The Beirut Critical Security Studies Collective aims at connecting regional and transnational networks through the Eastern Mediterranean city of Beirut. This Working Group is coordinated by Professors Samer Abboud (Villanova University) and Omar S. Dahi (Hampshire College).

This Working Group is funded by grants provided to the ACSS by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Working Group Members

  • Coralie Hindawi, Assistant Professor of Political Studies, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

  • Jamil Mouawad, Max Weber Fellow, European University Institute, Italy

  • Nicole Grove, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii, US

  • Omar Dahi, Associate Professor of Economics, Hampshire College, US

  • Samer Abboud, Associate Professor of Global Interdisciplinary Studies, Villanova University, US

  • Sami Hermez, Assistant Professor in Residence, Northwestern University-Qatar, Qatar

  • Waleed Hazbun, Richard L. Chambers Professor in Middle Eastern Studies, University of Alabama, US

What these scholars have in common are encounters with the lived experiences of insecurity and precarity, the complex dynamics of contentious politics within pluralistic political environments, and an interest in engaging in scholarly knowledge production across and between North American, European, and Arab spheres and institutions. From this core group, the project has expanded to include scholars from or working across the region with similar concerns about developing a critical approach to security studies.

Themes

The work of this Collective is organized under five themes each of which is managed by different members of the working group. These themes currently include the following:

  • Political economy of (in)security: This theme explores the ways in which violence and insecurity are increasingly tethered to the political economies of the Arab region and, in turn, how these political-economic landscapes are shaped by the exercise and production of insecurity. This is developed through three broad lines of inquiry: commodification of security, the relationship between capital accumulation and violence and the connections between aid provision and violence.

  • (In)security of everyday life: This theme explores the micro-relations of everyday experiences of (in)security by taking people’s experiences, understandings, and terminologies as starting points for what it means to feel (in)secure and further looks into the strategies people employ to live with some form of insecurity. The theme explores questions of how fear, risk, precarity, and instability operate in the daily maneuverings of people’s lives, and how aspiration, hope, and well-being are achieved and sustained.

  • Technologies of security: This theme addresses the relationship between technology and security in the region. It seeks to investigate the implications of a wide range of technologies from GIS applications to biometric border management on the governance of security and production of (in)security.

  • Discourses and knowledge production and rethinking global norms and practices: This theme focuses on the politics of knowledge production in the field of International Relations of the Middle East and seeks to produce alternative approaches of theorizing knowledge on the region. The problematic is addressed by questioning the construction of global norms and engaging with conceptions that place the experience of peoples and states in the region at the center of theorizing.

  • Borders, migration, and mobility: This theme aims to unpack the making and remaking of borders in the Middle East in light of unfolding conflicts, and the so called “migration/refugee” crisis. It uses multiple approaches to exploring the resilience or erosion of borders: ethnographies of borders (everyday smuggling, mobility of dwellers), unpacking deep historical (dis) connections (trade, exodus), or more contemporary practices of governing and securing the borders (surveillance, policing).

Activities

The main activities of the project so far have been the following:

  • Manifesto: A collectively authored document that outlines the intellectual genealogy of the project as well as its theoretical and empirical commitments. The manifesto is followed by a series of small essays that reflect each of the scholarly working group members’ particular interests and engagements.

  • Summer Institute: The aim of the summer institute is to bring together doctoral students, junior scholars, and researchers working within critical approaches to questions of security in the Arab region with established faculty members who provide sessions on a range of methodological, theoretical, and professional issues. The first Summer Institute on critical security studies in the Arab region was held in Dhour Choueir (Lebanon) on July 18-23, 2017, and included 10 participants and seven faculty members. The second edition took place on June 21-26, 2018 in Broummana (Lebanon), and hosted 17 participants and five faculty members.

  • Roundtables: Members of the core working group planned, organized and participated in a number of events and roundtables, whereby they introduced and launched the Beirut School of Critical Security Studies by presenting the manifesto, discussing the need for a critical security studies in the Arab region and mapping out the work of the collective. (See this page for a report on the roundtable that was organized during the Third ACSS Conference.)

  • Beirut Forum: The website serves to publish and disseminate the outputs of the project as well as other content.

  • CSS Research Grants: The BSSC launched a research grants program on ‎the subject of critical security studies in the Arab region, which aims to provide small grants ($3,000 to $5,000) to scholars from the Arab region. The first call for research proposals was issued in December 2017.

About the Working Group Coordinators

Omar Dahi is Associate Professor of Economics at Hampshire College in Amherst, USA. He specializes in economic development and international trade, with a focus on South-South economic relations and the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa. Dahi also serves on the editorial committee of the Middle East Report and is co-editor of the Syria page at Jadaliyya. His work has been published in various academic journals, including the Journal of Development Economics, Applied Economics, and the Southern Economic Journal.

Samer Abboud is Associate Professor of Global Interdisciplinary Studies at Villanova University. His research is interested in the intersections of Critical Security Studies and Political Economy with a focus on the Middle East. He is the co-author (with Benjamin Muller) of Rethinking Hizballah: Authority, Legitimacy, Violence (Ashgate) as well as Syria (Polity). In addition, he has published in a number of edited collections as well as leading journals, including Security Dialogue, New Political Science, Arab Studies Quarterly, Middle East Policy, and Peace Review.