September 15, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Abu-Rish Co-Directs Dissertation Institute in Lebanon

Lebanon Dissertation Summer Institute logo

For the fourth summer in a row, Dr. Ziad Abu-Rish, Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Middle East and North Africa Studies Certificate at Ohio University, co-directed a summer institute that brings together an international, interdisciplinary cohort of Ph.D. candidates conducting research on Lebanon.

Abu-Rish explained that he and co-director Dr. Nadya Sbaiti, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB), conceived of the Lebanon Dissertation Summer Institute in response to three factors: (1) their own experiences navigating the research terrain of Lebanon; (2) the increasing number of doctoral students writing dissertations on Lebanon; (3) the desire to help strengthen intellectual and professional networks between scholars conducting research on Lebanon.

“Doctoral students typically receive training in their specific discipline or Middle East studies, but rarely have the opportunity to focus in on research and scholarship on Lebanon in a collective manner. This dynamic is compounded by the fact that much of the scholarship on Lebanon tends to exceptionalize it in relation to the region,” said Abu-Rish. “The institute seeks to provide an opportunity to critically engage Lebanon as a field of study, at the same time that it calls attention to the contributions of disciplines other than one’s own and expands the archival and institutional terrain in which research is conducted. As Lebanon takes up an ever larger share of knowledge production on the Middle East, it is imperative that we both better take stock of the critical scholarship produced and reflect on what it means to engage with and contribute to that scholarship.”

Since 2016, Abu-Rish and Sbaiti have convened the institute over the span of 11 days every June. The program has received between 30 and 50 applicants annually, of which an average of 10 are selected for participation each year. Applicants and participants primarily hail from the disciplines of history and anthropology, but also include those of political science, comparative literature, education, and urban planning, along with Middle East studies programs. Participants in the program have predominantly originated from Ph.D. programs in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, but have also included others from Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Lebanon.

The institute offers a three-tier program: (1) state-of-the field lectures featuring senior scholars of specific disciplines or topics; (2) a graduate-level reading seminar based on a pre-circulated inter-disciplinary reader; (3) site visits to research centers, university libraries, and archives across Lebanon. As such, the program has included some of leading scholars, librarians, and archivists of Lebanon.

The institute is cost-free to participants, though they must secure their own travel to and accommodation in Beirut. Funding for the Lebanon Dissertation Summer Institute is made possible through the Arab Studies Institute in partnership with the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES) at the American University of Beirut. Abu-Rish and Sbaiti co-conceived the institute, and have collaborated in securing funding and administering the institute since its inauguration in 2016.

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