Academia & Social Justice
11-13 March 2016
Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
American University of Beirut
Faculty and students at institutions of higher learning have often played an important, galvanizing, and sometimes even game-changing role in their societies’ demands for equity, equality, and social and political justice. They have done so both in their academic and research production, and in their direct social and political activism within the community, sometimes paying a heaving price for this activism.
This conference aimed to query aspects of this relationship between academia and social justice, past and present, in the Arab region and internationally. How are the debates and paradigms that define this engagement situated within the current marketplace economics, corporatization, and political orthodoxy? Over three days researchers and participants from the Arab region and beyond investigated the following themes:
Historical Narratives - What have been the successful and unsuccessful efforts of academia (faculty and students) in promoting social justice? What possibilities and challenges have they faced, as faculty and students, both inside and outside the university?
Academia Today - What are the current challenges and avenues for social-justice activism among faculty and students? What is the impact of particular political situations, such as war or occupation, on active academic involvement? What issues resonate throughout university campuses, and what topics tend to be silenced? To what degree are students empowered within academia, both by administrators and by faculty?
Academia and the Marketplace - How has regional and globalized neoliberalism influenced academia? What have been the impacts of the corporate funding of faculties and the rise of private and franchised universities on academic freedom and on public universities? What are potential modes of countering those influences?
The Pedagogy for Social Justice - Are there programs or pedagogical tools that can deepen a culture of public engagement and empower the protest against the commodification of academic spaces? Have the current scholarly production of knowledge and pedagogical practices encouraged such active engagements with and in service of the pursuit of social justice?
A Knowledge-Building Agenda - Based on the discussions of the above, what are the current gaps in knowledge and theory on the role of faculty and students within and beyond the academic environment? What do we propose as an agenda for future knowledge building and activism on the issue?
What is the Asfari Institute?
The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at AUB was established to support the development of an informed and engaged citizenry and to promote increased openness, transparency, and accountability at all levels of associational life in the Arab region. It interprets civil society and citizenship broadly and inclusively and aims to foster fruitful dialogue that builds knowledge on traditional and innovative forms of associational life and encourages an active and engaged citizenry across the region on the basis of freedom of expression and association.
The Asfari Institute was launched with the Inaugural Conference New Spaces of Civil Society Activism in the Arab World on 23 May 2013. This second conference is the first in a planned series of annual conferences on topics of citizenship and civil society and is an integral element of the Asfari Institute’s interdependent program of evidence-based and policy-oriented research, education, and collaboration with like-minded partners in Arab and international civil society and academia.
Introductions & Welcome Panel
Fadlo Khuri, President, American University of Beirut
Bassam Haddad, George Mason University & Arab Studies Institute
Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
Panel 1: Academia and Political Society
Moderator: Omar Dewachi, AUB
Ala Alazzeh, Birzeit University
"Knowledge in a colonial space"
Sari Hanafi, AUB
"The Demise of public life of Arab academics: The case of writing op-eds in Lebanese newspapers"
Coralie Pison Hindawi, AUB
"The role of academia in individual R2P"
Panel 2: Academia and the Marketplace
Moderator: Nadya Sbaiti, AUB
Mudar Kassis, Birzeit University
"Do universities contribute to the consolidation of contemporary slavery?"
Alan Sears, Ryerson University
"Infrastructure of dissent"
Corinna Mullin, University of Tunis & SOAS
"Global neoliberal governance and higher education: power and resistance in post-uprising Tunisia"
Tory Brykalski, University of California-Davis
"Organized labor as a form of strategic resistance against the privatization of the academy"
Panel 3: Are public universities expressions of social justice?
Moderator: Nahla Chahal, As-Safir Al-Arabi Weekly Supplement
Rehab Sakr, Cairo University
"Free university education, the quality of the product and the changing meaning of social justice: The Egyptian experience from
1950s until now"
Nahla Abdel Tawab, Salma Abou Hussein, and Tarek Alam El Din, Population Council
"The cost of free university education in Egypt: Analyzing evidence of equity in access"
MennatuAllah Hendaway, Ain Shams University
"Does academia reinforce socio-spatially just designs?"
Panel 4: The Active Role of Students
Moderator :Aya Adra, Red Oak Club, AUB
Mohamed Baba Mohda, Université Internationale du Sahel
"When students impose social justice through democratic means"
Mohammed Aljssem, Damascus University
"Academic alienation in Syrian universities and the Syrian social movement"
Pankhuri Dasgupta, Centre for Women's Studies
"Occupy UGC– A closer look at student movements in India in 2015"
Panel 5: Academic Organizing in Lebanon
Moderator: Sawsan Abdulrahim, AUB Faculty United, AUB
Emile Shaheen, Author, formerly Lebanese University
"The role of faculty and students in the birth of the Lebanese University"
Jacques Kabbanji, Contemporary Arab Affair, Lama Kabbanji, Research Institute for Development, and Hala Awada, researcher "The university public space and the protest movement experience in Lebanon"
Makram Rabbah, Georgetown University
"Beyond the gilded walls: AUB and the world around it"
Panel 6: Advocating for Palestine in Western Academic Institutions
Moderator: Steven Salaita, AUB
Brenna Bhandar, SOAS
"The big chill: Charities law and the politics of BDS activism in UK universities"
Rafeef Ziadeh, SOAS
"Silencing dissent on campus: the case of Israeli Apartheid Week"
Max Ajl, Cornell University
"Opening spaces for speech: organizing against backlash"
Tareq Radi, Georgetown University
"Repression through reform: The student handbook as a living document"
Panel 7: The University and Beyond: Power, Ethics and Academic Freedom
Moderator: Seteney Shami, Arab Council for the Social Sciences
Eileen Kuttab, Birzeit University
"Gender, equity, and social justice in the university"
Ramy Aly, American University in Cairo
"Academic freedom between the university and the state"
Perla Issa, Institute for Palestine Studies
"Reflections on conducting research with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon"
Panel 8: Pedagogy and Social Justice
Moderator: Elie El-Hindi, Notre Dame University
Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University
"Resisting the new McCarthyism: Palestine studies and justice-centered knowledge"
Sabiha Allouche, SOAS
"No longer caught between two worlds: Towards a decolonized feminist research in the Middle East"
Gregory Shupak, University of Guelph
"Teaching media and the Middle East in a western university"
Panel 9: Schools and Alternative Models
Moderator: Fateh Azzam, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, AUB
Mike Orr, University of Edinburgh, and Samer Annous, University of Balamand
"Linguistic imperialism, identity, and English medium instruction in Lebanon"
Ghada Feghali, Mmkn Association
"Pedagogy for social justice: The experience of Mmkn"
Sawsan El Sherif, AUC
"Learning and knowledge-based society: the community
Closing Panel: Publicly Engaged Scholarship
Moderator: Huda Zurayk, AUB
Patrick McGreevy, AUB
"The idea of university autonomy and the challenges of the 21st
Ahmad Dallal, AUB
"The role of public intellectuals in the changing landscape of
Bassam Haddad, George Mason University & Arab Studies Institute
"Context,opportunities and limits"
Forum on Arab and Muslim Affairs (FAMA) is the research arm of the Arab Studies Institute. It produces and oversees ASI’s research projects on overarching issues related to the Arab and broader Muslim worlds, including the Middle East and North Africa. The forum is the home of ASI's Knowledge Production Project, the Political Economy Project, among others. All FAMA projects are operated by the Arab Studies Institute, a nonprofit organization that produces and scrutinizes knowledge on matters related to the Arab world and its relations.