World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: WED, 21 / 5 -7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Institute for International Politics, Institute for International Politics, Helmut-Schmidt-University, University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Annette Jünemann and Jakob Horst

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Jakob Horst, Institute for International Politics, Helmut-Schmidt-University, University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg

Paper discussant: Hakim Darbouche, Institute of Energy Studies, Oxford, UK

This is the second of three corresponding panels that will focus on various processes of interaction with and within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The overarching aim is to overcome the traditional role models that dominate the interregional discourse in northern as much as in southern Mediterranean countries. We can learn a lot about political realities if we analyze the logic of action of relevant political actors within their social environment. While the first panel will address the topic from a conceptual and theoretical perspective, the second and third panel approaches the same issue through empirical case studies.
The analytical focus is on patterns of interaction between governmental institutions, economic entrepreneurs, religious groups and other diverse groupings. Their complex – individual and/or collective - logic of action, determined by a multitude of interrelated parameters like political and economic interests, norms and values, is in the center of the research. This may also include academic discourses such as “democratic peace“, “securitization” or “neo-colonialism”. Since interaction does not happen outside time and space, social and political contexts on a global, regional and local level have to be considered as well as institutional and legal frameworks of interaction and the specific rationale of organisations.
This diversified analytical approach transcends the established perception of interregional relations as mainly intergovernmental and as predominantly driven by particular interests of national and/ or regional powers. Popular notions like ‘dominance’ or ‘partnership’ might change their meaning if interests and strategies of actors that are neither ‘north’ nor ‘south’ are taken into account. This does not mean that notions of power, dominance or exploitation will become irrelevant. However, we believe that interregional relations are much more complex and truly interdependent than the prevalent discourse with its focus on ‘south’ versus ‘north’.

Paper presenter: Tina Zintl, PhD candidate, University of St. Andrews, UK, “International education and the blurring between "us" and "them": A conceptionalization of foreign-educated Arabs' political (inter)actions at home and abroad”
This paper seeks to investigate persons who, by virtue of their biography, do not fit neatly into the categories "north" and "south": persons who spent considerable time abroad, often gaining a university degree before returning to their native countries. Illustrated by the example of foreign-educated Arabs, this paper claims that these persons` 'transnationality' makes them dominant actors in interregional communication and actions.
'Transnationality' hereby refers to their distinctive experiences, skills, and -arguably- norms and beliefs acquired abroad. Despite of this, foreign-educated persons are by no means a homogeneous group: they rather form part of other groups usually in the centre of scholarly analysis (e.g. civil society actors, political elites, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs)
However, this paper assumes that they follow a common logic of action, as incentives to capitalize on their transnational skills are high. While they are often acclaimed as "agents of change", this paper will not explore their contribution to actual reforms but rather the mechanism by which they are drawn into the centre of interregional interaction:
From the perspective of international actors, they are ideal cooperation partners: Speaking foreign languages and familiar with state-of-the-art concepts and jargon, they can tune into a neoliberal and/or democratizing discourse most credibly.
Incumbent regimes, while on one hand losing part of their power to transnational forces, realized they can also tap this resource to their own favour. Firstly, they try to extend their connections with expatriates, or attract them back home, especially those highly-skilled and inclined to invest. Secondly, they co-opt suitable transnational personnel: thus, without granting more political liberalization, their reputation and credibility abroad increases since foreign-educated officials will serve as effective figureheads for international observers.
Contrastingly, much to the detriment of authoritarian regimes, many civil society activists are foreign-educated, too: Mentioned ‘transnationality’ gives them certain advantage in organizing activities; their visibility abroad helps them to gain access to foreign support. As regimes’ reactions to civil society movements show (e.g. Damascene Spring, 2000-2002, protests after the Iranian elections 2009) they are well aware of this linkage.
From a theoretical perspective, Robinson's "eccentric theory of imperialism" (1972), stressing local elites' benefits from collaborating with imperial powers, will be adapted: after their states' independence these "client elites" enjoy more leeway while having kept the advantages from their intermediate position. Also, more recent approaches on the effectiveness of voluntary, 'soft power' interaction as opposed to coercion by external pressure will be used (Levitsky/Way 2006; Moon 1983, 1985).
Do foreign-educated individuals try to monopolize Arab-European relations? This paper claims that their share in cross-Mediterranean interaction is comparatively large and helps explain, beyond fear of terrorism, why Islamic actors are less sought-after cooperation partners of 'northern' parties.

Paper presenter: Maria Pakkala, Institute of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland, “The westerner in popular North African music”
This paper presents the development of how North African popular music has viewed the Westerners from the 70s onwards. This will be done by taking examples from one hundred popular songs from Algeria, East Morocco and the Diaspora, ranging from Shyuukh and Shaabi to Raï and Pop music. The paper will shed a light on the different views of the first immigrants to Europe, views of the returnees from Europe, and views of those who dream of going to Europe.
The study explores the disturbing ramifications of how the West is portrayed by North African immigrants and returnees. It attempts to analyze the stereotypes and misconceptions that Arabs have of the Westerners, and discusses the far-reaching political and cultural impact of the West, in general and Europe in particular, on the North African daily life. The songs range from admiration to clashes and homicides.
In The songs written in Algeria and East Morocco, attitudes vary to a limited extent according to social characteristics such as education and religiosity, but among immigrants, attitudes are significantly affected by the locality of residence, especially among rural dwellers, which is a reminder of the enduring relevance of the traditional-modern dimension of analysis for this population. Furthermore, the study examines the impact of traditional views on younger generations by examining the material the discography provides. The study provides some disturbing results on a critical topic that has been largely ignored in research and wider discussion.

Paper presenter: Marc Frings, PhD candidate Phillips University, Marburg, “Palestinian Elites and their perspectives on European Democracy Promotion”
Since at least 1995, the European Union (EU) promotes democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).1 Although political realities and researchers teach us that this approach has not been successful yet, the relations with the authoritarian MENA-regimes haven been strongly affected on their operational level of cooperation. The proposed paper shall illuminate the normative power of EU-democracy promotion in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). A main focus shall be given to the political and non-state relevant elites (PNREs) and their perception vis-à-vis the EU as a democracy promoter. With regard to recent developments subsequently to the parliamentary elections in 2006, a shift in the public sphere can be identified. It led to a de-ideologized understanding of politics that is rather pragmatic and/or technocratic: The traditionally strong civil society moved from its left habitus towards liberally framed convictions, while the dichotomous political “party system” (seculars/PLO # Islamists/Hamas) has been simultaneously penetrated by recently formed political groups.2 In presenting themselves as “neither corrupt as Fatah, nor fundamentalist as Hamas”, they prefer to be perceived as “independent” and “unideologic”; their common aim: to reach the vast majority of the Palestinian people that has no direct ties with either of the two movements.
The applicant affirms that these shifts find their causes in the European way of democracy promotion: The boycott-strategy of the EU in 2006, as well as long-term bilateral ties due to EU-cooperation with institutions of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and NGOs enabled the relevant elites to construct an idea of (1) what the EU stands for and (2) what “kind” of (liberal) democracy the EU promotes. Opting now for a moderate way of political thinking gives PNREs hope to fit into the EU-democratization agenda and to take profit out of it through further development and financial assistance, while they might prefer other development agendas.
Although the findings described here concern mainly small political entities,4 the oPt can serve as a good example of where and how European democracy promotion left significant traces. Whether the observed developments are intended by and beneficent for the EU or not is thus the challenging question for the scientific community.
In his ongoing Ph.D.-project, the applicant refers to transitional theory. The herein made findings still can neither give convincing answers vis-à-vis the “Arab exceptionalism” (research gap 1), nor do they consider external (f)actors – such as the EU in the chosen case-study – as relevant for domestic political transformations (research gap 2). The methodological basis of the contribution will thus be two-folded: (1) In the frame of his Ph.D.-project, the applicant will collect empirical data until February 2010 through interviews with Palestinian PNREs on their perception of EU-democracy promotion, as well as with European donors. 5 (2) Through these personal contacts, the applicant is furthermore given the chance to read internal documents, either developed by European policy makers or by PNREs. Both types of sources – interviews and written documents – shall be interpreted regarding relevant information on the above stated assumptions in order to back up the described observations.