International Conference

AMANN, 22 & 23 OCTOBER 2014

Identities in the Middle East: Ties, Demands and Everyday Practices


Discrete or under the spotlights, quick or underlying, social and political upheavals that Middle Eastern societies are going through seem to very acutely raise the issue of identities. Behind the different discourses and ideologies currently in use, whether Islamist, Salafist, or nationalist, communitarian or sectarians, the region witnesses intersecting projections on social and political use of identity ties and languages. Moreover, while a spring wind was able, at a moment, to blur orientalist ruts borrowed on the region, it is again the image of primordial and bloody identities that is recalled when reflecting on conflicts, divisions and issues related to “Arab revolutions” and their future. At moments, it is as if those identities are mobilized to split the social structure by opposing, in an increasingly performative way, a “them” against an “us”. At other moments, these identities are resorted to with the aim of imagining the people and the nation beyond these cleavages.

Poster of colloque in AmmanIn light of this observation, the present symposium aims to initiate a critical discussion on the tools that social sciences can offer to understand processes that deeply shape contemporary Middle Eastern societies. Based on extensive surveys, comparisons that go beyond the Middle East borders, and taking in consideration historical contexts, the different contributions will endeavor to take a critical distance vis-à-vis two approaches commonly pursued in the region. On the one hand, there is the essentialist or culturalist perspective that fed a profuse reflection on and in the Arab world, establishing identity variables (role of the tribe, religion, patriarchy, etc.) as being decisive and singular factors in the understanding of observable political representations and practices. On the other hand, there is the Utilitarian perspective that addresses identity discourses only in terms of social and political constructions of which they constitute the subject. The first rejects the observed social, historical and complex processes, constituting thus an obstacle to capturing the social transformations that are continuously taking place, especially today. The second ignores the meaning and the challenges of resorting daily, by ordinary acts, to affiliations, territories, and rights that cannot be reduced to instrumentalist manipulation of extremely tractable individuals.
We rather propose to initiate a discussion on how forms of identity labeling, vibrant demands or quiet identity practices are embedded in social interactions at various scales. We will of course look at how identity discourses are mobilized in the context of open or tacit conflicts. But we will also discuss how everyday practices of Middle Eastern citizens, migrant workers, refugees, men and women of different generations can be worked by milder, irenic, but effective forms of identification with identity stereotypes, prejudices and representations. We will discuss how the latter refer to the social conditions of these actors, to rights claims (rights to housing, to vote, to work, to move, etc.), to shared concerns or ambitions, as well as to political projects. Finally, light will be shed on how “identities” as they are practiced, represented, and mobilized, are subject to a hybridization processes that sometimes dim their contours.
This symposium will bring together and confront the work of researchers from different backgrounds. In order to better understand the way languages of identity and affiliation today express themselves, transform, and are articulated, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists and geographers specialized on the Middle East will share their fieldwork.


22 October 2014

09:00-10:00 Accueil des participants et séance d’ouverture / registration and opening session

10:00-11:00 Keynote Lecture

  • François Burgat, CNRS/IREMAM-WAFAW
    The Islamic Reference in Politics : the Secrets and the Routes of Perennity / La référence islamique en politique : les clefs et les itinéraires d’une pérennité

11:30-13:00 Appartenances / Ties (1)

  • Géraldine Chatelard, Ifpo
    Internally Displaced Sunnis in the Heart of the Iraqi Shiite Country: When Tribal Ties Trump Sectarian Identities
  • Lucine Taminian, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, based in Amman
    Suppressed Identities: Emerging Threats to the Iraqi Nation-State
  • Sabrina Mervin, CNRS/CEIFR
    Appartenir aux mondes chiites, des centres (Najaf, Qom) aux marges.
  • Arthur Quesnay, Univ. Paris I
    L’utilisation de la ressource identitaire par les groupes politiques au Nord de l’Irak

14:30-17:30 Appartenances / Ties (2)

  • Laurent Bonnefoy, CNRS/CERI-WAFAW
    La revanche des zaydites au Yémen
  • Norig Neveu, Ifpo
    Mobilisation et recomposition des identités confessionnelles dans la région de Karak en Jordanie.
  • Boris James, Ifpo
    Appartenance, positionnement ou différenciation : comment parler de la construction d’une identité kurde à la période pré-moderne ?
  • Najla Nakhlé-Cerruti, Ifpo
    L’Israélien dans Al-zaman al-muwâzî (Le temps parallèle): le geôlier, l’Autre, la métaphore

23 October 2014

9:30-10:30 Keynote Lecture

  • Joseph Massad, Columbia University
    Islam and the Choice of Liberalism / L’islam et le choix du libéralisme

11:00-12:30 Asiles, exils et nationalismes / Asylium, exile, nationalism (1)

Diasporas, migrants et exilés : quels rôles dans les révolutions et les transitions politiques du monde arabe ?

  • Claire Beaugrand, Ifpo-WAFAW
    Une diaspora en formation ? Les nouvelles trajectoires de la troisième vague d’exil bahreïnienne
  • Vincent Geisser, CNRS/Ifpo-WAFAW
    Le retour des « nationalismes migratoires » ? Le rôle des binationaux et des descendants de migrants dans les processus politiques du monde arabe

Identités palestiniennes en diaspora

  • Nicolas Dot-Pouillard, Ifpo-WAFAW
    La recomposition du nationalisme palestinien en exil. L’exemple du Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)
  • Xavier Guignard, Univ. Paris 1/Al-Quds Bard Honors College (Abu Dis)
    Se reconnaître entre élites : NewPal, organiser la diaspora palestinienne autour de l’expertise.
  • Jalal Al Husseini, Ifpo
    « Diaspora » palestinienne et construction étatique

14:00-15:30 Asiles, exils et nationalismes/ Asylium, exile, nationalism (2)

  • Ouroub al Abed, SOAS
    Palestinian-origin Jordanians of East Amman: Challenges to Integration
  • Luigi Achilli, Ifpo, Myriam Ababsa, Ifpo, J. al-Husseini, Ifpo
    Migrations forcées et nation Building en Jordanie : nouvelles perspectives de recherches

Organised by:
Institut français de Jordanie et Institut français du Proche-Orient

With the support of:
Fonds d’Alembert et Programme WAFAW (ERC)

Working language: Arabic, French and English, with simultaneous translation