World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


ARAB FAMILY WORKING GROUP (AFWG) - 2/2: Conflict, Exclusion, Transnationalism and Arab Families (266) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: The American University in Cairo (Egypt)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Ibrahim Elnur

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The Arab Families Working Group (AFWG) is a collective of fifteen scholars from universities, NGO's and research foundations whose work focuses on youth and families in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt and their diasporas. Founded in 2001, AFWG is committed to advancing the state of empirical and theoretical knowledge on Arab families and articulating research processes and outcomes with practitioners. AFWG projects include comparative, transnational, interdisciplinary, and collaborative work on the three countries, with comparative work on diasporic Arab families in the United States and Canada. AFWG acts as a bridge bringing together scholars, policy makers and practitioners to improve understanding of and work with families.
AFWG is co-hosted in Cairo (Egypt) and Davis, California (USA). Its 15 core members represent diverse disciplines and organizations. An institutional network supports the work of AFWG, including the American University in Cairo (Social Research Center and Institute for Gender and Women's Studies); the Population Council, Cairo; the Lebanese American University, Beirut (Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World); Birzeit University, West Bank (Institute of Women's Studies); and the University of California, Davis (Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and Middle East/South Asia Studies).
The founder and facilitator of the Arab Families Working Group is Suad Joseph.

Chair: Suad Joseph (Director of Middle East/South Asia Studies, University of California, Davis)
Discussant: Barbara Ibrahim (Director, John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, American University in Cairo).

Paper presenter: Hoda Elsadda (Chair in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World-The University of Manchester), "Blogging in the Arab World: The Creation of New Cultural Public Spheres"
The internet as a venue for expression, mobilization, for dissent, for the organization of alternative networks is a key feature of the new global order since the 1990s. First email messaging and websites, then blogs and facebook, all venues for expression and organizing that were unavailable and unimaginable only a few years back. Cyberspace is also transforming our understanding of social communication, of networking, and of cultural production. I argue that this phenomenon has resulted in the creation of new public spheres that have opened up new forums for subversive or alternative cultural forms and expressions that have emerged adjacent or parallel to mainstream literary centers. I will attempt a mapping of the Arab blogsphere in Egypt and Palestine, paying special attention to cultural blogs. The aim of this comparative study is twofold: to better understand the impact of the new ‘counter publics’ on the Arab cultural scene; and to shed light on the geographical and political implications of blogging and access to cyberspace.

Paper presenter: Lamis Abu Nahleh (Institute for Women's Studies, Bir Zeit University), "The elderly in Palestine: A gender perspective"
The elderly, or older people, in society are a disadvantaged group of people / citizens who, though are presently living longer life, are on the whole suffering from isolation, negligence, and /or low quality of life. In most developing societies, they are marginalized if not excluded from national development plans and projects and international funding development and rights agencies , and are thus are left behind with very few opportunities or alternatives for a decent quality life. Their opportunities and alternatives become even slimmer when they live in a society under a foreign occupation and ruled as well by a national authority that is highly restricted by the foreign occupation policies and measures and by the unfair yet non-implemented international “peace agreements” , and which is largely dependent on foreign assistance and funding. They are further deprived living in conditions where the social fabric is fragmented, the family’s structure, composition, and role is changing, and kinship network and relations are deteriorating. This paper seeks to explore from a gender perspective, the impact of these conditions and of the two individual demographic features - marital status and class (in terms of education and income)- on the needs and living conditions of the elderly

Paper presenter: Ibrahim Elnur (The American University in Cairo), "From Sufi to Salafi Islam: The Cultural Remittances of Sudanese Oil Diasporas:"
While Sudanese return migration was considered as an unlikely scenario, field investigation, showed, albeit numerically not very significant, return migration of educated elites families. The two main sources of such return migration are:
-Highly educated migrants to Arab-oil producing countries where access to university level education is strictly confined to citizens of these countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia) or access is extremely limited to certain specialization.
-Return of highly skilled professionals to some booming sectors (mostly oil-related and telecommunication sectors0.
The emphasis of this paper is on return migration from oil-producing countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Such return migration in its different forms "short term visits, partial family return and whole family return" is triggering a marked tendency towards a new one dimensional interpretation of Islam. Such impact is increasingly undermining the public sphere of the traditional multilayered and flexible interpretations of Islam. The paper conclude that the transformative potential either through "ideational transmission, model roles, or new family structures resulting from formation in various diasporic communities is not one directional. It could be, for lack of more neutral terms, regressive or progressive.