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Research Projects 2000

A Genealogy of the Concept of Youth: Emerging Categories in Egyptian Public Discourse

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Omnia El Shakry
Project Description:

Phase One
This research project explores the emergence and consolidation of a concept of youth, asking how a category of identity based on an age cohort developed historically within a Middle Eastern context. Much in the same way that scholars have argued that childhood, adolescence, and adulthood emerged as categories of social, psychological, and political experience at particular historical moments; this project explores the emergence of the category of “youth” in twentieth century Egypt, by examining three key historical moments: the period of anticolonial nationalism (1930-1952); postcolonial nationalism and Nasserist state building (1952-1970); and neo-liberalism and the emergence of a so-called ‘crisis of youth’ in Egypt (post-1970).

Phase Two
In this phase of research I will focus on the period of neo-liberalism and the emergence of a so-called ‘crisis of youth’ in contemporary Egypt. Building on my earlier research I will look at how contemporary visual culture practices in Egyptian cinema and the visual arts contest dominant discourses regarding the socio-political apathy and consumerism of Arab youth. By looking at the work of visual and performing artists, I will explore how a new generation of Egyptian artists can help scholars redefine debates on neo-liberalism and Arab youth.

Blogging in Egypt and Palestine: The Creation of New Cultural Public Spheres

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Hoda Elsadda
Project Description:

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. In this project I will attempt a mapping of the Arab blogsphere in both 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.

Collecting Data, Constructing Desire: The Girl Child as Problem Space

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Martina Rieker
Project Description:

Phase One
This project will study the production of the concept of the ‘girl-child’ in (a) national and international scientific data collections and (b) oral histories/ethnographies from the early modern and the contemporary neo-liberal period. Data collections have been pervasive in establishing particular modern logics of familial social forms and the roles of problems of individual subjects within these. By examining the constructions of modern families through the problem-space of the ‘girl-child,’ this study seeks to bring fresh insights into issues of girls’ education, women’s labour, gendered subjectivity, and the politics of commodification and desire. This project is particularly focused on a fuller understanding of rural and urban divisions and questions of social location. The study will make use of national census materials, international and local development surveys in addition to interviews with survey and census architects and limited ethnographic fieldwork.

Displaced Arab Families: Coping and Changes in post-war Beirut

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Jihad Makhoul
Co-researchers: Mary Ghanem, Farah el Barbir
Project Description:

This research project aims to explore families’ coping and adaptation mechanisms to social problems and the shifts in dynamics and boundaries of family under the conditions of internal migration and displacement. The General Research Question is: How are displaced and war affected families and their children coping in post-war living conditions? The project aims to explore: family structures and dynamics; children’s health outcomes; coping in postwar economic hardships.

Displaced Arab Families Coping and Changes: Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Jihad Makhoul
Co-researchers: Mary Ghanem, Farah el Barbir
Project Description:

Phase One
Displaced Arab Families: coping and changes in post-war Beirut:
This research project aims to explore families’ coping and adaptation mechanisms to social problems and the shifts in dynamics and boundaries of family under the conditions of internal migration and displacement. The General Research Question is: How are displaced and war affected families and their children coping in post-war living conditions? The project aims to explore:

  • Family structures and dynamics
  • Children’s health outcomes
  • Coping in postwar economic hardships

Phase Two
The research study investigates refugee Iraqi families’ coping strategies in Lebanon. Of specific interest are the challenges the mothers of youth are facing as they raise their children with limited resources and how young men’s and women’s health outcomes are affected by displacement and resettlement.

Exploring the Migration of Young Lebanese Couples

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Mona Chemali Khalaf
Project Description:

Phase One
The unavailability of natural resources coupled with economic deterioration has always prompted Lebanese to migrate. In fact, there seems to be a direct relationship between economic deterioration and the migration of the Lebanese male labor force, seeking jobs and/or better working conditions. Although several studies have been carried out to examine the impact of migration on the Lebanese economy (Lebanon has the highest emigrants’ remittances per head in the world), little has been done at the family level. This project focuses on the impact of the emigration of the head of the household on public/private shifts, well-being, and decision-making within the family, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The survey undertaken focuses on the impact of this migration on the role played by the wife in the public sphere i.e. are we witnessing an expansion of her role? Is this expansion linked to the socio-economic status of the family? To the level of education of the wife? Is this role altered upon the return of the husband? In addition this survey sheds lights on the workload and leisure time left to the “new” head of the household and assesses the impact of migration on the children and the family dynamics.

Phase Two
Exploring the Migration of Young Lebanese Couples
The war that has plagued Lebanon during the summer of 2006 had – despite its short span- a horrendous effect on the country. Hundred thousands of Lebanese were displaced, thousands of houses and businesses were destroyed, the infrastructure was annihilated and unemployment soared. This has resulted in a desire to escape which was illustrated, once more, by a huge exodus, an exodus that is, however, different from previous ones. Lebanon is witnessing today the migration of whole families, particularly young couples belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds seeking a better future abroad for them and their children. As such, the project will focus on the reasons behind the migration of these young couples, their countries of destination, the duration of their migration, their expectations about their future and that of their children. Emphasis will be placed on young Lebanese couples who have left to the Arab Gulf countries. A sample of Lebanese migrant couples in these countries where the husband works in a large corporation, or is himself an entrepreneur, will be selected. Data will be collected through a questionnaire and interviews with some of these couples during their visits to Lebanon in the summer, to secure more in depth information. A control group of Lebanese couples belonging to older age brackets who had migrated at an earlier stage will be selected in an attempt to compare their aspirations with those of the younger ones.

Gender and Nation in the Literature of the 1990s in Egypt

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Hoda Elsadda
Project Description:

Literary representations play a key role in the production of national imaginaries as well as in the construction and definition of the self at a particular moment in history. The project investigated changing visions of gendered relations in the literary works of young writers writing in the 1990s in Egypt. This was done through the analysis of literary texts, critical reception of the works under study as well as through the analysis of oral interviews conducted with writers.

Male Migration and Feminization of the Lebanese Family

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Mona Chemali Khalaf
Project Description:

The unavailability of natural resources coupled with economic deterioration has always prompted Lebanese to migrate. In fact, there seems to be a direct relationship between economic deterioration and the migration of the Lebanese male labor force, seeking jobs and/or better working conditions. Although several studies have been carried out to examine the impact of migration on the Lebanese economy (Lebanon has the highest emigrants’ remittances per head in the world), little has been done at the family level. This project focuses on the impact of the emigration of the head of the household on public/private shifts, well-being, and decision-making within the family, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The survey undertaken focuses on the impact of this migration on the role played by the wife in the public sphere i.e. are we witnessing an expansion of her role? Is this expansion linked to the socio-economic status of the family? To the level of education of the wife? Is this role altered upon the return of the husband? In addition this survey sheds lights on the workload and leisure time left to the “new” head of the household and assesses the impact of migration on the children and the family dynamics.

Marriages and Movements: Weddings and Wars

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researchers: Annelies Moors, Penny Johnson, Lamis Abu Nahleh
Project Description:

Phase One
How do Palestinian families and communities arrange marriages and celebrate weddings during protracted warlike conditions in the West Bank and Gaza? Do weddings and marriage as social imaginaries change for young men and women in these conditions and are there differences in varying geographic, familial, and social settings? Does marrigeability – the desirability of certain kinds of marriage partners – change during periods of war and resistance? How are marriages arranged and celebrated in conditions of curfew and community isolation? Why were marriage celebrations subscribed subject to a widespread culture of austerity and mourning in the first intifada but marked by public display and relatively lavish consumption in the second intifada? Over the past three years, the researchers have addressed these questions by through in-depth interviews with women and men who married during two Palestinian intifadas (1987-1993 and September 2000 to the present).

In the sustained emergency conditions in Palestine, marriage and family life constitute both a source of survival and mobility and a site where insecurities and tensions are enacted. In the next stage of the project, among other topics, we will explore discourses of proper and improper marriages in contemporary Palestine. Of particular interest are how Palestinian wives and husbands deploy discourses and practices of “partnership,” “respect,” “trust” and being “together” to produce and safeguard family life and welfare in troubled times. Another focus is discourses of improper or illicit marriages, such as customary marriages or marriages between the very old and very young, where stories of such marriages circulate as tales of moral danger and social illness.

Palestinian Youth: Construction of Desires and Imaginaries in Different Social Contexts

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Eileen Kuttab
Co-researchers: Randa Nasser
Project Description:

Phase One:
The research focus on Palestinian youth political participation in particular ages 18-25. It investigates how youth’s desires, aspirations, imaginaries, in shifting circumstances, are being received, shaped, reshaped and reproduced within the different social classes, genders and localities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as expressed in political participation.

Phase Two:
Palestinian Youth: Construction of desire, imaginaries and identity in East Jerusalem
This research will focus on Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem in particular, ages 18-25. Using a class and gender perspective, the study will explore the changing circumstances of Jerusalem youth based on their unique reality of living in a Palestinian city aspired to be the capital of the future Palestinian state, yet at the same time considered to be the united city and eternal capital of the Israeli state. A city that is considered by the Israelis to be the heart of their state, while its original Palestinian inhabitants are discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. However, the Israelization of East Jerusalem on daily basis in the form of either market exchange or commerce, physical proximity, social entitlements that are given to Palestinians as residents or imposed normalization with Israel has been a tool for changing cultural attitudes of youth and has impacted their daily lives and daily practices, have produced a new kind of youth that are different than the West Bank and Gaza Strip in certain things but similar in other things which needs to be explored.

Post-Crisis Household Division of Labour in Lebanon

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Ray Jureidini
Project Description:

Phase One
Domestic Division of Labour and the post-2006 Lebanese Crisis
From interviews with Lebanese middle- and upper-class women in their latter years, the research to date traced an oral history of domestic service in Lebanon over the past century. The outbreak of the civil war from 1975 marked a total shift in the source of domestic workers, from Arab to non-Arab migrant workers. The current research phase looks at the more recent conflicts in Lebanon beginning with the Israeli invasion in July/August 2006 and subsequent internal crises. How do Lebanese families and the local labour market deal with these crises in terms of the employment of domestic workers that they rely so heavily upon? How does this effect the functioning of the family, particularly when household help leaves (for various reasons) and the means by which they seek to replace them? Who performs the household chores under such circumstances, that may be only relatively short transitional periods, and how does this affect internal family relations and emotions? In-depth interviews with both employers and employees, as well as NGOs, embassies and members of the Lebanese Ministerial Committee for the reform of contracts and management for migrant domestic workers are the focus of this analysis.

The Civic Struggles of Urban Egyptian Youth

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Barbara Ibrahim
Co-researchers: Dina Sherif and Amr el Tayeb
Project Description:

Despite the size and significance of Egypt’s largest ever youth cohort, little empirical research has been undertaken on how members of this generation relate to public spheres. Education and unemployment, and to a lesser degree health issues have dominated the recent research agenda. Youth are assumed to be alienated from public participation and more concerned with personal goals like employment or marriage. Alternatively they are thought to be incapable of engagement on a meaningful level until they are fully adult. These perspectives derive from patriarchal underpinnings and dominate not only public discourse on youth, but to some extent the scholarly discourse as well. It is largely in community-based or international NGO settings that one finds a serious engagement with ideas around youth public participation. This study attempts to understand the channels of participation being created by young Egyptians, independent of those opportunities arranged for them by adults. Primarily youth-generated activities include community service, internet-based activism, political protest, and religious participation. While the parents’ generation had a very low probability of volunteer or civic engagement, this generation is far more likely to participate in the public sphere and more likely to report that activism or service is an important aspect of the way they define themselves.

The Politics of Group Weddings in Palestine: Political and Gender Tensions

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Research: Islah Jad
Project Description:

Group Islamic weddings in the West Bank and Gaza began in the mid – 1990s. They developed as a successful way to counter Israeli’s policy of siege and impoverishment of Palestinian society through the economic benefits they offer and by introducing a spirit of collective joy. Yet, they have become a site of conflict between the two main political rivals, Hamas and Fate4h, and they also have implications for gender relations. Women are not passive observers of the conflict between the two parties and the new traditions and rituals these parties are inventing. Women are actively involved in creating more space for themselves by resisting certain Islamist initiatives. Even as they demonstrate resistance and agency, however, the political context in which Islamist and nationalist group weddings occur is unfavorable to women, as both forms lead to more segregated gender roles at their expense.

The Transnational Circulation of Families in a Time of War:

Lebanese Border Crossings Between Lebanon and Michigan

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Nadine Naber
Project Description:

This research focuses on the experiences of southern Lebanese in Dearborn, Michigan in the aftermath of the 2006 war in Lebanon. It focuses on the significance of family and gender to the intensification of long-distance nationalism among Lebanese diasporas. It addresses how the war inspired a sense of belonging to a transnational Lebanese family under siege, which naturalized the practice of “comfort mothering.” It also explores how concepts and practices of belonging to a transnational “Arab family” placed a double duty upon women activists within official Arab American public politics. In addition, I focus on engagements with normative concepts of belonging to an “American family” and the gendered strategies in which official Arab American politics deploy women’s narratives to humanize Lebanese people in the face of a “war on terror” discourse that conflated Lebanese Shi‘a masculinity with Hizballah and terrorism.

Transnational Lebanese Families and Youth: Moveable Citizenship

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Suad Joseph
Project Description:

Phase One
A new lexicon, of “transnational families”, for studying families living across and between the borders of states and nations emerged in the past two decades. This project challenges key assumptions in the literature on transnational families through case studies of Lebanese families who have migrated to the United States and Canada recently. The research focuses on a network of closely related Lebanese families from the same Christian village in the Metn district of Lebanon who migrated to Ottawa and Montreal, Canada and to New Brunswick, New Jersey. Launching the project in 2006 (among families with whom I had been working on a longitudinal study of child socialization since 1994), I have found an uneasy fit between the current conceptual tool kit theorizing “transnational families” and the experience of the Lebanese families in this research project. The project critically analyzes the underpinnings of the concepts of “transnationalism” and “transnational” families, and the repertory of ideas associated with them, especially 1.) The notion of women as more connected to the nation than the men. 2.) The presumptions of binaries, bifocalities, dualities undergirding the notions of transnationalism and transnational families. 3.) The preconceptions of family coherence in the natal country and the related focus on transnational families as nuclear families which get fractured by their deterritorialization. 4.) The assumption in much of the literature that individuals move as individuals to support “family” back “home, and send remittances from the receiving country back to “home”. New vocabularies, new concepts, and new assumptions need to be generated to understand these kinds of families on the move.

Phase Two
The next phase of the project addresses transformations in notions of citizenship and belonging as a new generation grows up in Canada and the United States, while still embracing belonging and connection to Lebanon. Of particular concern is the impact of state attitudes towards Arab immigrants and new forms of surveillance and citizenship control in the aftermath of 9/11.

Visual Media and the Making of Citizens and Gendered Subjects

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Zeina Zaatari
Project Description:

Phase One
Lebanese satellite television has been since its early beginnings in the 90s a battleground between a diverse set of political, social and ideological visions. In addition, the impact that Lebanese satellite television has had on other Arab satellites and on other Arab spaces has been tremendous and has effected transformations in techniques, images, representation of women, and presentation. Nonetheless, similarities in representation of women, in aspirations for particular types of family formations and of citizenship imaginings often cross-cut political trajectories. In addition, Syrian melodramas that have gained in popularity in the last decade as well as other melodramas are often aired on multiple channels. Particular patterns of gender roles, political national visions, and family ties emerging in the last decade are visible on television screens in different shapes and forms. A textual analysis of several television melodramas provides an understanding of these conversions and their reception. A particular emphasis will focus on those shows most common during the month of Ramadan since this is the period where such television programming is most watched not only by adults but also by youth.

War, Diasporas, and Reproduction of Social Class among Sudanese Elite

Contributor(s):
Core-AFWG Member Researcher: Ibrahim Elnur
Project Description:

Phase One
In all war-torn communities, a phenomenal migration of educated and middle-class has taken place. In places like Sudan, Iraq, Palestine such massive migration led to the reshaping of such social classes. Elites’ reproduction trajectories were radically altered and reshaped with significant loss of inter-intra generational transmission of knowledge and traditions, continuity and potential for dynamism has also been lost. Within this broad context, studying changes in family dynamic offers a powerful lens through which many dimensions of societal changes and potential can be observed, particularly when such dynamic changes are associated with multi-layered urbanities, transmigration and transnationalism. The focus of the research will be Sudanese middle class diasporic communities with primary focus on Egypt as a transit migration site as well as the global North and ‘home’.

Phase Two
Our initial field investigation lends further support to the need to include ‘home’ as a research both as a site in which the transformative potential is triggered through various links as well as through directly through return migration. While Sudanese return migration was considered as an unlikely scenario, our preliminary investigation in Sudan, showed, albeit numerically not very significant, return migration of educated elites families. In order to capture the links between reshaping of families and reproduction of social class, the analysis will constantly shift from micro to macro level. It will also explore the networks linking diasporic communities with both home and other diasporic communities. What kind of transformative potential is embedded in such the reshaping of the process of social class reproduction? In an attempt to capture the essence of such potential, some major concept will be used such as mobility, consumption, social class, displacement, media, desire and opportunity. The research will utilize in-depth interviews and observation and available surveys on migratory flows. The process of adaptation to the new social, economic and political structures in the destination sites contribute to social transformation. In this stage, the research project will look at various sites of the Sudanese diaspora (Egypt as a transitory site, the global North and home). The focus of the field investigation will be on three mechanisms/mediums for interaction linking all these sites: Sudanese electronic sites which are emerging as the most dominant form of networks between diasporic communities and ‘home’; Sudanese NGOs and professional organization with active participation of both diaspora and ‘home’; and Political parties and forums which overtime and with no exception exhibited a constant presence in both home and diasporas.


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