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Research Projects 2006-2012

Recognizing the difficulty of conducting collabortive projects on the ground across three countries,  AFWG Core Members developed thirteen individually based research projects with the exception of one collaborative project. As intersection among projects emerged, AFWG grouped projects into two large thematics for the purposes of publishing two special issues of journals. The first thematic, "War and Transnational Families", was published in the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies while the second thematic, "Contesting Youth", was published as individual articles in different journals.  Below is a list of the research projects undertaken during this period. For publications that emerged from these research projects, click here.


(1) Consumption and Desire Among Young Working Women in Rural and Peri-Urban Egypt

Researcher: Martina Rieker

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.


(2) Contradictory Patriarchies and the Refashioning of Arab Families in the U.S.

Researcher: Nadine Naber

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.


(3) Displaced Arab Families: Coping and Changes in Post-War Beirut

Researcher: Jihad Makhoul

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.


(4) A Documentation and Analysis of Domestic Workers in Lebanese Families, 1950-2004

Researcher: Ray Jureidini


(5) A Geneaology of the Concept of Youth: Emerging Categories in Public Discourse

Researcher: Omnia El Shakry

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).


(6) Internal Displacement and its impact on Palestinian Families: Gender Perspective through the eyes of the youth

Researcher: Eileen Kuttab


Lebanese Youth: Public Media, Learning Desire and the Making of Young Citizens

Researcher: Suad Joseph and Zeina Zaatari

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.



(7) Male Migration and Feminization of the Lebanese Family

Researcher: Mona Chemali Khalaf

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.


(8) Producing Families Through Data

Researcher: Barbara Ibrahim, Penny Johnson, Ray Jureidini, Annelies Moors, and Martina Rieker


(9) Representations of gendered relations in the literature of the 1990s in Egypt

Researcher: Hoda Elsadda

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.



(10) Techno-Dreams: Computer Training Institutes and Social Mobility in Urban Cairo

Researcher: Barbara Ibrahim


(11) War, Diasporas and Reproduction of Middle Class and Educated Elites

Researcher: Ibrahim Elnur

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’.



(12) Weddings and War Project

Researcher: Annelies Moors, Penny Johnson, and Lamis Abu Nahleh

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.

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