Research Project: Higher Education and Citizenship in Egypt // An anthropological critique of the crisis narrative

Emtpy classroom, October 6 University, Egypt, in 2012. ©Daniele Cantini

This project looks at the configurations of society, legitimacy, knowledge and power in Egypt, from the vantage point of the higher education sector, which Daniele Cantini has been researching since 2007. It focuses on the university as a fundamental institution in the contemporary configuration of knowledge and power – what universities are for, how they will be funded, what they will produce – in combination with the recent anthropological interest in global assemblages, in this case higher education as a ‘glocal’ technology of governance. Continue reading

Cluster: Higher Education as the Subject and Object of Critical Discourse

Billboard in Cairo, 6th October Highway © Daniele Cantini

The importance of universities can hardly be overestimated. Their numbers have grown massively, as have the number of the people enrolled in them relative to the total population worldwide. They exert multiple functions in the production and dissemination of knowledge. Moreover, they are ascribed the role to evaluate and certify knowledge in
the form of professional and scholarly status, curricula, as a basis for policies and more.
As universities themselves have a share in the definition and proclamation of social
problems and goals, they can easily turn into contested terrain in the claim for the right
interpretation of social phenomena and the right ways to address them. Unrest on university campuses, dense security regimes and long closures in the aftermath of political change in several Arab countries testify to that, as well as the continued control over teaching and research activities. Continue reading

CfP: Rethinking Social Movements in the Digital Age: Activism, Dissent and Rebellion in the Post-Arab Spring

International Workshop

Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB)

July 29, 2016

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Laila Shereen Sakr
Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

The pivotal and unprecedented role that digital technology has played in instigating, as well as documenting the Arab Spring has without a doubt renewed the interest in social movements beyond the traditional realm of the “physical”. As the revolution in digital technology is slowly revolutionizing the way people communicate, debate existing norms and are exposed to other social and cultural practices and forms of governance worldwide, it is also providing new means for coordination and mobilization. In the advent of the Arab ‘Spring’ revolts throughout the region, digital technology has successfully pushed its way into politics: allowing people across borders, class, and formal venues of associations to debate, coordinate, and transform the ‘digital’ into the ‘physical’. Continue reading

Video: Wohin treibt der Nahe Osten?/Where is the Middle East Heading? (4)

Panel III: Minderheiten, Konflikte und neue Einflüsse/Minorities, conflicts and new impacts

Chair: Dr. Thomas Scheffler, Beirut

Die folgenden Vorträge waren Teil der Konferenz “Wohin treibt der Nahe Osten? Ethno-religiöse Minderheiten im Nahen Osten zwischen Verfolgung und Selbstbehauptung”, die vom 30. November bis zum 2. Dezember 2014 in Berlin stattfand und vom Orient-Institut Beirut ausgerichtet wurde. Continue reading

Article: Mafish Ta‘lim: Why Egypt Ranked Last on Education

By Hania Sobhy

In its 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt as the worst country in the world in term of the quality of primary education. The measure is not perfect and relies significantly on the subjective assessments of respondents especially in the business community. In that sense, however, it captures rather vividly Egyptian sentiments about the state of public education in the country. Schools show us something fundamental about the functioning of state institutions catering to the majority of the population as they developed throughout the Mubarak era. They show us state institutions becoming thoroughly privatized and characterized by both growing disengagement and heightened repression. Continue reading

Video Inverted Worlds: Nonviolent Movements are Dictators’ Worst Nightmares

Social-economic issues are behind Occupy Wall Street, French, Greek and Spanish riots, the Arab protests wave and many other protests in the last few years around the globe. In the wake of what is known as “Arab Spring”, a wave of protests washed away the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt. Inspired by these events, demonstrators across the region stood up against and seriously challenged the strongmen of Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. The question is what the common denominator of the “Arab spring” was. The answer is People Power, the power of non-partisan youth movements. A united movement, committed to nonviolence, with a thorough plan to achieve its goals is capable of momentous achievements.

Such a strategic movement is the worst nightmare for every autocrat and can pull the pillars of support out of the government support and force the strongmen to make concessions once considered impossible. The results have been inconceivable; once ruthless rulers, the leaders of numerous Arab countries have been promising reforms, reshuffling governments, and entering into dialogues with opposition groups they once banned. Maybe the “Arab spring” actually began in Lebanon with the “Cedar revolution” after Hariri’s assassination, but unfortunately it finished the moment violence prevailed and became the leading force in the entire region. Unfortunately guns must be sold and used and everything that happened in Libya and that is happening in Syria cannot be called “Arab spring”. A better name would be “Arab tragedy”. Without labour unions in Tunisia and youth movements in Egypt changes would have been much slower and like in Libya and Syria would rely on armed groups. Therefore achievements of those people involved in changes in Tunisia and Egypt are even bigger.

Nonviolent Movements are Dictators’ Worst Nightmares from Orient Institut Beirut on Vimeo.

Actively engaged in the nonviolent struggle against regimes since 1991 as a high school kid; Siniša Šikman led students at Students protest 1996/97. His networked organization Serbian Students Movement became a fundament of OTPOR! (“Resistance!”), founded in October 1998, a movement in which he was a very active member but that finished with the Milosevic era in October 2000. Siniša then worked as a freelance trainer and has been a trainer with CANVAS (Center for Applied NonViolent Actions and Strategies) for the last five years. He conducted 46 strategic nonviolent struggle trainings with 764 participants from all over the world, including participants and movements who had pivotal role in changes in Ukraine, Georgia, Maldives, Egypt, etc. His expertise unites both partisan and NGO sector skills and knowledge.