Axis II
States, power and societies in the Arab and Muslim East

Coordination: Laurent BONNEFOY (CNRS-Sciences Po CERI, CEFREPA) and Mehdi BERRIAH (Vrije Univeristeit Amsterdam, CEFREPA)

This axis considers power in all its dimensions, intellectual, social and economic, and combines long-term programs (study of jihad in medieval times and its current reactivations) with projects centered on the contemporary Arabian Peninsula (foreign policies of the Gulf countries, diplomacy, new dynamics of citizenship).It mobilizes the skills of historians, geographers, anthropologists, political scientists and philosophers wishing to examine the challenges faced by states in full transformation, particularly after the revolutions and social mobilizations that marked the Arab world and the Middle East from 2011.

The research orientations concern both the knowledge of government mobilized by States to develop societies, and the political choices and decisions (diplomacy, peace negotiations, and military commitments) which have been decisive for recent developments, at the regional and international scale. Three privileged areas constitute the sub-axes embodying these different research orientations, which the members approach by taking into account the evolution of notions and concepts, social and historical roots, as well as the overall dynamics and the singularity of each particular case.
I- States and reconfiguration of foreign politics in the Arabian Peninsula
Foreign politics have been an important issue of differentiation between the States of the Arabian Peninsula for decades. From the 1990-1991 Gulf War to the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its neighbors that began in June 2017 and then recently resolved, international issues structure rivalries and largely reshape alliances. Power rivalry within the Arabian Peninsula often yields to different forms of consensus and the development of common actions (particularly within the Gulf Cooperation Council), thus showing to what extent the regimes in place invent tools for political task and work for the establishment of new structures that will leave a lasting mark on the region. The development of empowerment strategies and the affirmation of divergent objectives and interests between the seven countries of the peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates) is the subject of a literature of significant expertise which highlights the polarization around regional issues (ties with Iran, Israel and Turkey) but also ideological questions marked by the weight of tradition (support or not granted to political Islam).
Faced with this observation, the ambition of this sub-theme, focused in particular on the pivotal role played by diplomacy and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, is to analyze the decision-making processes in terms of foreign policies. Who really makes what is labeled as a “foreign politic”? Is the state the only actor? At the time of the privatization of certain public prerogatives and the opening of several countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait), to the different forms of globalization, this question of centralization takes on particular relevance. Hence the interest of focusing on the geopolitical issues of this space which has always been the crossroads not only of several tensions and conflicts but also of numerous exchanges and cooperation.

II- Practices of war and arts of peace in the Arab-Muslim East: ancient readings and contemporary trends
Approached most often through the prism of the notion of “jihad” and the currents of jihadism, war in Islam deserves to be studied in its various causes and manifestations (social, political, economic) as well as in its many repercussions and variations (historical, memorial, psychological). Bringing together historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists and philosophers, this sub-axis is also interested in a forgotten field that of diplomatic activities and the treaties which sought to set standards and precepts. The work carried out by the various researchers is interested in the phenomenon of war in the long term, and is oriented towards the achievement of a triple objective:
  • 1- To wrest the study of jihad from its contemporary reactivations and tinkering curried out by several ideological currents, in particular those of Salafism and Islamism. If current events force us to pay some attention to these reactivations, at least for security reasons and because of their massive presence in the media, they must not however constitute screens preventing the scientific study of the war in the entire civilization of Islam, based on the corpus dedicated to it, and the variety of historical contexts and doctrines that may have marked it.
  • 2- Do not be satisfied with theological-legal definitions of war, which indeed existed in medieval times as well as in contemporary times, and focus on other, often neglected, corpuses which address this phenomenon of a social, political and strategic point of view: literature of the Princes’ Mirrors, treatises on furûsiyya, history and chronicles of wars in Islamic lands, diplomatic letters and archives of relations between princes and states.
  • 3- Studying the real history of warlike practices in order to get out of the illusory construction of an enemy always marked by his religious otherness, which will make it possible to de-theologize the approach to the theme of war in Islam. This will show, for example, how the notion of “jihad” was applied, by historians and chroniclers, to the civil wars that opposed Muslim princes. At the same time, researchers in this field are engaged in a global reflection that bears not only on the role played by weapons in conquering one power or defeating another, but also on the links between, on the one hand, the ethical dimensions of war and peace and, on the other hand, the different forms of violence that have prevailed from medieval times to the present day.
Flagship projects and ongoing programs: Corpus Ibn Taymiyya, by M. Berriah Equestrian Art, Abbès Zouache; Mirrors for Princes, Makram Abbès Partnerships: IFAO-IFPO
III- Dynamics of governance and citizenship in Arab countries
This field is interested in the norms, precepts and knowledge of government that mark the practices and theorizations observed in the Arabian Peninsula in a particular way and in the Arab world, more generally. It puts at the center of the reflection the discrepancies, noted since the Nahda, between ultra-modern political knowledge brought by the Europeans, and practices still determined by forms of management and administration dating back to the classical age of the Islam. It would thus be a question of analyzing the crisis of the assimilation of knowledge of governmentality which has generated crises of governability, which are still visibly confronted by several Arab countries. Crises made more complex on the one hand by the questioning of the State and its ability to regulate other spheres (social, legal, economic, individual), and revealed on the other hand by the blockages made to the consensual practices of the living together (in particular by the currents of so-called “political” Islam), which requires a global reflection on citizenship and on the different forms of transnational or supranational allegiance that are adopted by individuals and groups. To do this, one of the strong dimensions of this sub-axis consists in exploring the link between the new modes of government marked by the search for a certain horizontality between private or institutional actors, and the vertical and hierarchical modes inherited from old conceptions of government.
To address these different issues, three themes will be explored:
  • 1- Analyze the different genealogies of government practices, from medieval times to the recent introductions of the “good governance” paradigm and the role of these practices in political and institutional choices and decisions.
  • 2- To wonder about the transfigurations that the notion of citizenship has known. This is at the heart of many tensions and competitions between several forms of allegiance: tribal, religious, dogmatic, national and political. Its study allows us to see how the relations between rulers and ruled have been the subject of new perceptions and representations, and how certain constitutional, legal or political reforms have made it possible to develop this notion, in social frameworks marked most often by the presence of many non-citizens and where the offer of foreign populations is sometimes numerically superior to that of nationals.
  • 3- Address the link between the notion of citizenship and the socio-economic dimensions of governance, particularly with regard to the focus of certain regimes on the security, well-being and comfort of citizens, which testifies to the significance of certain forms of the welfare state on the political orientations of many Arab countries, particularly those of the Gulf.
Flagship projects and ongoing programs: Cycle of conferences “Politics, governance and citizenship”, in collaboration with the University of Kuwait, Muhammad al-Wuhayb and the University of Tunis (Sonia M’BAREK).