Bobst Center-American University of Beirut Collaborative Initiative

The Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) are pleased to announce the continuation of their ongoing joint initiative. This initiative is supported by the generous funding of the Bobst Foundation, according to the wishes of philanthropist Mamdouha S. Bobst on projects designed to promote studies relating to the Middle East in order to advance the cause of peace, mutual understanding and justice. This unique collaboration seeks to leverage both institutions’ intellectual capital and mutual interests to raise awareness about the politics of transformation in MENA.

This partnership takes on multiple forms, including research support, visiting Professorships, graduate student exchanges, joint workshops and conferences.

Bobst-AUB Collaborative Initiative: Research Grants

In August 2020, the Bobst-AUB Collaborative Initiative launched a call for research collaboration at the American University of Beirut. The applicants had to submit a research proposal focusing on one of the following themes: A) The policy responses implemented in the Middle East and North Africa to mitigate socio-economic losses resulting from the pandemic or B) the political and socio-economic implications of COVID-19 in the region.

Dr. Carmen Geha, Dr. Najat Saliba, Dr. Dima Smaira, and Dr. Dina Hakim Hussein Agha: “Collaborative Action Research: Local Recovery with Global Implications”

The Collaborative Action Research (CAR) is an interdisciplinary documentation, synthesis, outreach, and mobilization project housed under FAS. We focus on the experience of Khaddit Beirut, a network of activists and experts working in the wake of the 2020 Beirut port explosion on an inclusive recovery. KB is engaged with the community around health, education, environment, and small businesses. The material gathered and produced by CAR aims to serve as a transdisciplinary repository of knowledge and to create a space for collective critical reflection on organizing and mobilizing in time of disaster.

Dr. Carmen GehaDr. Najat SalibaDr. Dima Smaira, and Dr. Dina Hakim Hussein Agha

Dr. Hiba Khodr and Dr. Tania Haddad: "Towards Creating an Index for Civil Society in the MENA region: A multiple case study of policy responses to political, health and economic crises in Lebanon”

This research is a multiple-case study that examines the country’s key policy responses -fiscal, social, and political-  in the light of a failed and corrupt state to four of the most severe crises Lebanon has faced. The Lebanese revolution that started in October 2019 was followed by a major financial crisis that preceded the COVID 19 crisis-which in turn has been contributing to the economic recession- and then, Beirut was hit by the third largest explosion in history. It is important to note that these four cases, although connected, cover four different policy areas: healthcare, economy, politics, and administrative/governance. The analysis aims at evaluating/assessing the role of civil society in terms of scope and size in these four cases and showing the importance of a community base approach with a participatory governance perspective. Based on these four cases and applying the Diamond Civil Society Index by Anheier (2013), we aim at developing an index that measures the role/impact of civil society in times of crisis (COVID 19 in particular) and that is specific to Lebanon but that could also be used in other countries in the MENA region or in assessing the role of civil society across different policy areas in Lebanon. The study would conclude with recommendations on the need of more coordination between local government, political parties and government in disaster response.

Dr. Hiba Khodr and Dr. Tania Haddad

Dr. Lina Khalil: “Lebanese schools response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises: Lessons learned”

This study gauges the responses of school leaders in Lebanon to COVID crisis, financial, economic, and political crises. An analysis of these responses will be used to develop training programs to help school leaders in Lebanon better anticipate and manage current and future crises. In order to address this aim, the study answers the following question: “What can we learn about schools' responses to Covid-19 that could inform future responses to large-scale crises?” The researchers will concentrate on the school leader responses, challenges, problem-solving tools and strategies, useful support mechanisms and what has been learnt from the experience. Those who will be eligible to the study are school principals or directors in public and private schools in Lebanon who were active in their positions during the academic years 2019 to 2021.

Dr. Lina Khalil

Dr. Livia Wick: “How cancer patients and their families manage illness and livelihoods amidst the collapse in Lebanon”

The objective of this project is to produce an ethnographic study of the role of what people call al-inhiyar, the collapse, in shaping the ways cancer patients and their families seek care, try to protect their lives and understand their illness in Lebanon. The thesis is that the economic and sanitary collapse in Lebanon is actively contributing to redefining the ways in which people can be ill with cancer, and is affecting how people individually and collectively situate themselves in medical systems, how they strategize to share medical information and personal experiences and how they negotiate narratives about cancer. The product will be articles that will contribute to understanding the effects of this historical moment of collapse on our notions of cancer, health, life and death. Its analysis will draw off the methods of medical and cultural anthropology and science studies.

Dr. Livia Wick

Dr. Blake Atwood: “Creative Work, Care, and Crisis in Beirut”

This project studies the everyday, lived experiences of creative work in Beirut, especially in times of crisis, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on cultural laborers as they engage with a sector that is both highly energetic but also frighteningly uncertain. Building off of feminist economic theories, I understand creative work in Beirut as “always embedded in non-monetary and nonmarket interpersonal and community relations” (Alacovska and Gill, 2019, p. 202). To study creative labor in Beirut, thus, requires that we move beyond the metrics of the formal economy and instead examine the ways in which creative labor is sustained by informal processes, such as care work, reciprocity, favor-swapping, wasta, and clientism. I am particularly interested in the bonds of care that develop between creative workers. In the absence of unions and state protection, how do individual workers come together to support one another and to absorb the pressures of neoliberal labor? Do informal modes of care and reciprocity among creative workers resist the individualistic and competitive logic of the marketplace itself? The ramifications of such a project extend beyond the immediate conditions of creative work in Beirut which were exacerbated by the pandemic and the current economic crisis and reach to the subjective experiences of work as they transform globally during this tumultuous time.   

Dr.  Blake Atwood

Dr. Chantal Berman, Dr. Killian Clarke, Dr. Rima Majed: "Revolutions in Flawed Democracies: The Lebanese Thawra and Iraq’s Tishreen Uprising in Comparative Perspective

Typically we think of revolutions as seeking to topple authoritarian dictators. But in recent years the world has seen an increasing number of revolutionary uprisings against regimes that are technically democratic - albeit also deeply flawed and corrupt. In this project, Berman, Clarke, and Majed seek to unpack the unique dynamics of revolutionary mobilization in flawed democracies using protest data collected from the 2019 uprisings in Lebanon and Iraq. They find that the fragmentation of power in these types of regimes render them, paradoxically, more resilient to mass mobilization than their authoritarian peers.

Dr. Chantal BermanDr. Killian ClarkeDr. Rima Majed