World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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ARAB FAMILY WORKING GROUP (AFWG) - 1/2: Conflict, Exclusion, Transnationalism and Arab Families (230) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel
 

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

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

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Ibrahim Elnur

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Decades of war, prolonged conflicts, and social exclusion in the Arab region accelerated a number of major ruptures in society: multiple forms of border crossings within and beyond the nation state, ideological shifts, and discontinuities between generations. Arab families have both responded to these ruptures at micro-level and contributed to emergant socialities in their communities and nations. Papers in this panel are expected to address the ways in which aspects of family formation, survival and change interact with the realities of war, inter-group conflict, transnational movement and economic transformation. Papers direct a particular lens onto issues of marriage formation, youth activism, familial adaptation across borders, as well as various forms of changes triggered and accelerated by interactions between sending and new homes material as well as ideational.

Chair: Ibrahim Elnur (The American University in Cairo)
Discussant: Hoda Elsadda (Chair in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World-The University of Manchester)

Paper presenter: Islah Jad, Women's Studies Institute and Cultural Studies Department, Bir Zeit University, Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine,” The Politics of Group Weddings in Palestine: Political and Gender Tensions”
The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas_ embarked on a radical process of ‘Islamising’ the familiar national symbols, including the modification of the Palestinian national flag by emblazoning it with the shahada (the Islamic profession of faith) and calling it the Islamic flag. The map of Palestine was used in posters, graffiti and emblems as a visual means of integrating the patriotic and Islamic message. The original emblem of the Muslim Brothers shows the Quran amidst two crossed swords, with the word wa-a‘eddu (make ready), written beneath the swords. The map of Palestine replaced the Quran, along with two Palestinian flags with two swords circling the Aqsa mosque and the map of Palestine with its name written underneath. The two flags are ‘Islamised’ by adding verses of Quran to them.
Part of this process of 'Islamising the nation', many Islamist and religious groups and societies developed to encourage men and women to marry and form a family. To reach this goal, 'fancy' and expensive wedding was criticised and instead, a new 'invented' form of marriage emerged. Islamist group wedding developed to reduce marriage expenses and to Islamise the nation in one strike. How this form of weddings are organised, who organises them, who benefits from them, in what ways are they different from the other forms of weddings, what are the role of women (brides, mothers and female relatives) in this form of wedding, in what ways this new form of wedding chance/sustain existing gender relations, these are some of the questions this research tries to answer.

Paper presenter: Suad Joseph (Director of Middle East/South Asia Studies, University of California, Davis), "Gender, Transnationalism and Citizenship Among Post-Civil War Lebanese Migrants"
Reversing historic patterns of migration in which men migrated and later brought their families, Lebanese migrants in the aftermath of a 17-year Civil War (1975-1990) are often moving whole families together. This project follows a number of Lebanese from one village, most of whom are related to each other, as they moved from a small Christian village in Mount Lebanon to Canada and the United States. The families had been the center of a study begun in 1994, to study the socialization of children for citizenship in the context of efforts at rebuilding nation and state in Lebanon. Most of these first generation migrants keep close contact with their families in Lebanon, often trying to bring other family members to the United States and Canada. An active exchange via travel, internet, phone, skype and other technologies of communication intimately link these families. In this intensely connected kin network, it is often the women of these young families who push their husbands to leave Lebanon to gain opportunities for their young children in Canada or the USA. It is often the men who yearn for Lebanon and imagine going back to build homes and reestablish their families there. The article addresses the issues of gender, transnationalism, and raising children for Lebanese nationhood and dual-citizenship in Canada and the United States.

Paper Presenter: Barbara Ibrahim (The American University in Cairo), "Youth, faith, and social action in urban Egypt."
In societies with stalled reform projects and high risk associated with political activism, youth negotiate novel pathways to public participation. In Egypt the costs associated with overt political action have increased recently, not only for street protest but also for other forms of political expression such as blogging, internet chatting or the use of telephone messaging. At the same time, access to jobs is shrinking for young labor-market entrants in the face of economic downturn. This paper examines some of the responses of urban youth to multiple forms of social exclusion, through the resurgance of religious piety and practice, as well as novel engagements in civic life. The paper identifies ways in which more open, participatory civic culture is constructed by youth in the absence of functioning democratic institutions.

Paper presenter: Dr. Hani Bawardi (Center for Arab American Studies-University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA), "Voltairian Nationalists: Letters between Three Syrian Youth, 1912."
This paper draws on private manuscripts in the U.S. in order to chronicles the hopes and disappointments of a sample of young Arab nationalists across the Atlantic in the period leading up to First World War.

Drawing on private manuscripts, I will disclose the content of correspondence between three young Syrian nationalists scattered from Nazareth, Palestine; Montpelier, France; Cairo, Egypt, and Flint, Michigan in the U.S. These letters chronicle the beginnings of the first political organization for Arabic-speaking immigrants in the U.S., the Free Syria Society. Their eyes set on confronting encroaching British and French colonialism, the youth imagined a Syrian nation from the diasporas at the risk of severe reprisals by the Turkish military.

The manuscripts-not yet part of the discourse on immigration and Arab nationalism-belonged to Ameen Farah. A Nazarene, Farah fled Ottoman conscription to Cairo at age 24 where he joined the Ottoman Administrative Decentralization Committee (Hizb al-la-Markizuyya al-I’daryya al-U‘thmani) and taught in a Jewish school for youngsters before immigrating to the U.S. He collected correspondence between himself and his childhood friends, Jubran Kuzma and Nicola Qub’ain before embarking on a lifetime of political activism on behalf of the Arab cause.