HomeThe associative sector in Lebanon: economies and networks of dependency

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Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 by João Fernandes

Summary

The polysemic nature of the concept of civil society refers to a diversity of social actors other than the state, and to multiform practices, strategies, and modes of action. This has lead to a myriad of publications by practitioners and academics. This call for papers does not seek to further investigate the associative sector in Lebanon conceptually nor in practice. We rather seek to critically explore the underlying intricate relations, economies, and networks of dependency, as identified by actors.

Announcement

Argument 

The polysemic nature of the concept of civil society refers to a diversity of social actors other than the state, and to multiform practices, strategies, and modes of action. This has lead to a myriad of publications by practitioners and academics.

Literature focusing on civil society generally discusses three approaches. First of all, the society-centric approach generally embraces an “associational” view, distinguishing civil society from the state, with the ability  to increase political participation (Diamond and Paltner, 1996), and democratic potential (Putnam, 1993). Secondly, the state-centric approach highlights how authoritarian states deploy strict social control mechanisms in order to constrain civil society actors, rather than to encourage them to become agents of change (Abdelrahman, 2004; Heydemann, 2007; Jamal, 2007; Wiktorowicz 2000). A third “state-in-society” approach, influenced by Gramsci (1971), Chabal and Daloz (1999), Gupta (1995), and Migdal (2001), regards civil society as an integral part of the state apparatus and emphasises that states and social actors should encourage their empowerment and complementarity (Migdal, Kohli and Shue, 1994).

Until the “Arab Spring” uprisings,  social science studies on the Middle East tended to focus more on issues like political repression, electoral manipulation, and institutional survival (Yom, 2015). More recently, the topic of civil society appears to have been “re-discovered,” not only by academics, but also by international policy-makers, and activists and practitioners. The latter have for a long time abided to the hypothesis of “passive” or “dormant” civil societies under the yoke of authoritarian regimes, while other scholars have analysed actors and movements, well before the 2011 revolutions, in their rootedness, context, and historicity (as shown by Geisser, 2012). In this regard, some emphasise that, although an abeyant civil society may suggest inactivity (Taylor, 1989), in reality, “critical voices are searching for transformable circumstances” (Yom, 2015).

In Lebanon, the associational sector, as part of the wider civil society landscape, played an important role throughout history (Karam, 2006) and developed tremendously in the post-civil war period (Kingston, 2008: 1); Lebanon is described to have the “most diverse and active civil society in the region” (Hawthorne, 2005: 89). Especially after the Israeli War (2006) (see Moghnieh, 2015) and the eruption of the conflict in Syria in 2011, the associative sector experienced a boom, resulting in more than 5,000 officially registered organisations.

While associations are sometimes imagined to be the road-paving force towards the alleviation poverty or to the development of on-the-ground democracy (Clark 1990, 1995; Cernea: 1988, Bebbington and Farrington 1993), much of the literature devoted to the study of NGOs contains very practical analyses of methods (accountability, diagnostics, monitoring and evaluation) as well as relations between states and NGOs, between NGOs and grassroots organisations, between NGOs and NGOs, and between NGOs and the general population with whom they are working, and occasionally even represent.

At the same time, most of the literature of the last decade acknowledges the difficult position in which NGOs currently find themselves, depending on their size and definition, particularly in relation to their donors. Are NGOs being used more and more as the implementers of international and national state-oriented programs (Bebbington and Farrington 1993, Fisher 1997, The Economist 2000)? Are they trapped in their own middle-class positions, limiting them from efficiently representing the marginalised, often rural, lower classes (Bebbington and Farrington 1993, Herrera 1998)? Are some of the larger NGOs too vested in the interests and methods of their donors, thus undermining their potential impact in providing a wedge for popular participation in the apparati of states (Danaher 1994)?

Main topics

This call for papers does not seek to further investigate the associative sector in Lebanon conceptually nor in practice. We rather seek to critically explore the underlying intricate relations, economies, and networks of dependency, as identified by actors. We specifically encourage submission on the following topics:

  • Deconstructing civility and understanding emerging aid economies; while authors have generally adopted a rather idealised approach to civil society actors, the concept of what is considered and defined as “civil” needs to be revisited; does this category encompass faith-based organisations, notably Islamic ones? How do political actors shape their objectives in relation to the "civil"?
  • Increased donor/funders dependency and relation to autonomy of the organisation on the ground; more practically are NGOs still able to respond to the needs of the population they claim to target?  What have been the concrete results of civil society engagement? Have international donors, on the one hand, and international civil society, on the other, contributed to transformation, or rather to dependency?
  • Increased tendency to the “clientelisation” of society and individuals, that may revolve around sectarian identities; how do neopatrimonial practices, and emerging parallel economies, contribute to the emergence of development brokers and middlemen? In the same vein, can NGOs, through their aid provision by targeting selected beneficiaries, contribute to the (re)production of patronage networks?
  • Informality and affectual economies; employment in non governmental  organisations is increasingly seen as precarious, as it generally is poorly paid, irregular, insecure, and unprotected. To which extent and how is associative – notably humanitarian – work shaped by emotional, as well as cognitive means, such as the hope or need for change? How do complex cultures of social movements and personal identity contribute to emotional motivation and altruistic gratification?

We are particularly interested in the interplay of specific networks and how they negotiate and navigate their changing roles in society and inter/national economies.

Submission guidelines

Lebanon Support encourages contributions from experienced scholars, early career researchers, PhD candidates, practitioners, activists, and civil society experts. Authors can submit papers in Arabic, English or French.  All papers will go through a double blind peer-review process and must comply with Lebanon Support’s guidelines. Selected papers will be considered for in-print publications in Lebanon Support’s journal, the Civil Society Review.

Priority will be given to submissions that adopt a radical and critical approach to related concepts and categories, engage with a solid theoretical framework, and are based on empirical research.

Papers should not exceed 10,000 words.  Practitioners testimonies should not exceed 3,000 words and book reviews 1,500 words.

Time frame

Paper abstracts in Arabic, English or French (not exceeding 600 words, specifying the theme, type of fieldwork, research questions, etc.), along with a CV, should be sent to editor@lebanon-support.org before January 25th, 2017.

The editorial committee will notify authors by February 6th, 2017.

Final papers should be shared with Lebanon Support for blind peer review by May 10th, 2017.

Papers should conform to Lebanon Support’s guidelines for contributors.

Publication of papers is scheduled for winter 2017.

Editor

Dr. Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi, President / Head of Research

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Attached files

Keywords

  • société civile, économie, dépendance, réseau, Liban

Contact(s)

  • Marie-Noelle AbiYaghi
    courriel : mabiyaghi [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Marie-Noelle AbiYaghi
    courriel : mabiyaghi [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« The associative sector in Lebanon: economies and networks of dependency », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, https://calenda.org/389325

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