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University of Balamand > News > Archive > Conference: Arab Uprisings and Citizenship

The Rationale and Objectives of the Conference on Citizenship and the Arab Uprisings

The concept of citizenship is today addressed in many parts of the world both in states where the people seek to establish and guarantee their rights and in states where rights were established historically  but are now subject to challenges by the authorities or by groups attempting to curtail people’s accomplishments in that regard. 

Citizenship suggests membership in the state and a contractual relationship among people and between them and the state. This relationship should allow for the establishment and the safeguarding of political, economic, and social rights as well as obligations towards the common good. These rights and obligations should be maintained by a state that recognizes and works to advance social equality – and when the state fails to do so, people have the right to struggle to achieve such equality. 

In the Arab World, we have suffered for too long from the absence of those rights or, when they exist, states have neglected to protect them. We live in societies where all we see are obligations, obligations, and more obligations. We have to pay taxes, be prepared to go to war (usually for the wrong cause), and obey state laws and regulations, many of them unjust and oppressive.  
Here lies the significance of the Arab uprisings. 

People simply wanted a change in their oppressive political systems in order to establish and achieve their rights in dignity, liberty, work, bread, participation, access to resources, and to guarantee their well-being and development. And although many states, under the uprisings, have apparently failed to deliver on these goals, we need to remember that progressive change and the ability to achieve it, is a process that may take many years. Check, for example, the changes that occurred in Tunisia since late 2010. 

While some were quick to write an obituary for the Tunisian uprising, the most recent election results suggested otherwise. They suggest a new momentum and continuum in the process of change. That most celebrated of revolutions, the French Revolution, took in fact more than one century until some of its gains were consolidated and for the violence and conflicts that it spurred to calm down.  

An examination of the impact of the Arab Uprisings on citizenship in the Arab World, which our conference is trying to address, is a very important subject. Did the demands of people in the streets constitute a call of citizenship? Were they able to establish rights, or not? Did they advance in their struggle for change? And what kinds of obstacles did they encounter in their way? 

The conference attempts to address some of these questions to understand the uprisings and to evaluate this process of change and its directions. 
This conference is unique in the sense that it addresses the impact of the uprisings on citizenship, and looks into ways of establishing a direct relationship between them, issues that are rarely addressed. Thus, we in the Political Science department believed these were issues very much worth exploring and addressing – and that is why we have been preparing this conference for almost a year. 

The underlying assumption made here is that many of the calls for change and participation in the decision- making processes, and  the ability of the uprisings to cut through state obstacles blocking the rights to participation and expression, were successful in establishing a turning point that will advance people’s rights and their access to resources in the long run.  

This international conference has attracted the attention of many academic circles and civil society groups. The numbers of abstracts presented to the conference’s screening committee were high considering the security conditions we are facing in Lebanon. We had difficulty rejecting many of the abstracts submitted due to the overall high quality of the abstracts submitted. We certainly would have had a larger number of paper presenters attending were it not for the recent events in the north of the country. 

The conference also attracted the interest of many participants from various world regions.  The participants in this conference come from many countries and from diverse disciplines. They are traveling from 17 states in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Their disciplines are drawn from the social sciences, humanities, and arts and their expertise includes political science, development, human rights, gender studies, history, sociology, literature, philosophy, cultural studies, mass communications, economics, business administration, psychology and fine arts. 

The participants are addressing various topics related to the uprisings and citizenship, including dignity, civil and theocratic states, the impact of nationalism, media, identity, social media, public space, democracy, political economy, sectarianism and the struggle against it, ethnicity, theater and cinema, children and youth, electoral system, and the impact of the Syrian crisis over Lebanon and social cohesion. 

And the participants are addressing the impact of the Arab Uprisings not only on the six Arab states that witnessed them, but also on states that were affected by these uprisings, such as  Morocco, Algeria, and Lebanon.
Articles selected on quality basis will be published in an edited volume and renowned international publishers have already contacted us showing interest in the project.

I hope that we will be able in this conference to shed light on the important relationship between the Arab Uprisings and the rise of citizenship in ideas and practice, and to advance citizenship along with the continuous struggle for social justice in Arab states 

The University of Balamand has had a good number of successful conferences in the past, including two last year on conflict and identity as well as the 19th century Arab renaissance period. The university is planning a few others in the next few years including one on the media and religion by the department of Mass Communications this coming spring. 

These are all subjects of great interest and relevance to our lives as citizens of Lebanon, the Arab World and, in fact, citizens of this ever more intertwined world. The conference is open to the public and we hope to see a strong participation by our communities, from both here in the North and  from Lebanon in general.​
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