Liminal Spaces as Sites of Socio-Cultural Transformation and Knowledge Production in the Arab World is a joint research project with partners in Morocco (Mohammad V University-Agdal/Rabat), Egypt (Prof. Randa Aboubakr) and Palestine (A. M. Qattan Foundation). The project is funded by the VolkswagenStiftung for a period of three years from January 2018 to December 2020.
The follow-up project of Spaces of Participation (2014-2017) is dedicated to the investigation of ‘Liminal Spaces’. By this we mean transitional spaces at the threshold of political, social or cultural transformation. We analyse how knowledge is produced in response to these changes. The case studies from Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Germany will investigate various instances of such spaces and engage with the fleeting nature of participatory moments, especially in the on-going (and often authoritarian) transformations.
Project newspaper 3al-Janib
3al-Janib (‘ala -l-janib or ‘on the side’) tells stories from the margins about moments where the world around us can be reimagined differently. These liminal moments, when individuals or groups decide to bend formal regulations and rethink the use of resources around them, are moments where new social relations and knowledge are forged, and alternative conceptualisations of a brighter future are introduced.
The newspaper format allows for the drafts and the notes that are already present in the different research projects on which the publication builds, and which were part of a collaborative effort by the partners in Morocco, Egypt, Palestine and Germany. The newspaper introduces three thematic axes: 1. Other Voices from the Cultural Field, 2. The Politics of Solidarity and Disintegration, 3. Agencies of (Im-)Mobility. It was published in May 2021.
- Prof. Ulrike Freitag (ZMO)
- Prof. Randa Aboubakr (Cairo University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English; Forum for the Study of Popular Culture)
- Prof. Mokhtar El Harras (Mohamad V University Rabat, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Department of Sociology)
- Assist. Prof. Hicham Ait Mansour (Mohamad V University Rabat, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Department of Sociology)
- Dr. Yazid Anani (A. M. Qattan Foundation)
- Dr. Sarah Jurkiewicz (ZMO)
- Houda Duali (Mohamad V University Rabat)
- Farah Deek (A. M. Qattan Foundation)
- Menna Mansy (Cairo University)
- Rania Hanin (Mohamad V University Rabat)
- Dina Oleimy (Cairo University)
- Yasmeen Qadan (A. M. Qattan Foundation)
- Abed Shabane (A. M. Qattan Foundation)
- Dr. Fadma Ait Mous (Hassan II University of Casablanca, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences Aïn Chock-Casablanca)
- Dr. Suaad Al Ghafal (Department of History, Tripoli University, Libya)
- Dr. Yasmine Berriane (CNRS, Paris)
- Dr. Azzurra Sarnataro (independent researcher, Flensburg/Naples)
- Assist. Prof. Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyżanowska (University of Lodz, Department of Middle East and North Africa)
Independent Cultural Production as Liminal Sites of Engagement
During the past two decades in Egypt, there has been noticeable expansion of independent cultural production by individual and collective actors, reflecting non-politicized citizens’ increasing desire for venues of self-representation within a public sphere heavily policed and dissected by the authorities. The requirements of a new order transform the nature of participation in these venues, affecting the way actors position themselves, as well as the kind of knowledge produced. This trend peaked during the uprising in 2011, is now undergoing transformations reflecting subtle negotiations with those in power and can be witnessed particularly in the digital realm, in terms of low or zero budget collectives and projects characterized by their independence from both state funding/support and capitalist sponsorship. Social media being relatively new to the Egyptian public sphere with an as yet vaguely defined role in social and political interaction, these actors operate in a situation of transition, rendering the knowledge produced and their own identities transient. Such actors operate through novel configurations of activism in social media and can also be classified as having no status or rank, since they are mostly anonymous. The project investigates several cases of this citizen media production, that is, content generated by ordinary (non-professional) users in the digital realm produced by cartoonists, digital/graphic artists, writers/bloggers and translators, where actors are engaged in social and political expression and debate both overtly and covertly, giving their commentaries outside known channels of engagements and constructing ‘narratives’ that do not conform to public narratives.
Investigating Liminal Migrant Spaces in Morocco
For decades, Morocco has been a country of emigration to Europe. However, for about a decade and in the context of political, economic and demographic changes, Morocco has progressively become a transit country and a destination for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and, to a lesser extent, Syrian refugees. While borders have closed, migrant flows from sub-Saharan Africa have not diminished, resulting in a gradual accumulation of ‘in-transit’ migrants in the border zones of Morocco and other North African countries. Migrants in a globalized cross-national movement create a new space where the departure space is intertwined with the arrival space. The notion of ‘in-between’ situations has both epistemic and empirical relevance for studying spaces of migration in Morocco.
The project attempts to investigate liminality in its physical, social and cultural terms. While more and more migrants become lawful residents, the concept of liminality is still relevant in terms of social and cultural forms. Three concepts are central to this research: social liminality, cultural negotiation and social resources.
The investigation focuses on the following set of questions: How do migrants describe the ‘in-between’ situation they experience in all the above dimensions? What are the social practices and the shared experiences used to cope with liminality? How do they use social resources (family, religion, network of friends, neighbours, etc.) to negotiate the transition and achieve a social and emotional balance? How do immigrants reconstruct their new space of residence? What does liminality mean in spaces shaped by transnational mobility, strong international investments and neoliberal economic policies?
Actions of Solidarity in Liminal Spaces: The Case of Alternative Social Spaces in Palestine
The three-year project addresses processes of solidarity within alternative, unfunded, self-organized social initiatives in Palestine that can be looked upon as spaces of liminality. The first year probes deductively into the notion of solidarity as a contemporary, socially induced process that seeks to combat the poor services delivered by the current political and economic structures in Palestine under Israeli occupation. Solidarity is perceived as autonomous social processes that strengthen resilience in uncertain political times. The second year questions inductively the notion of solidarity within liminal spaces and its forms, practices and definitions. 10 unfunded, self-organized social initiatives in Palestine that work between literature, farming, arts and culture will be researched. Nonetheless, the concept of liminality and its conditions will be scrutinized accordingly in these initiatives. The third year is set to analyse material from the first and second year, draw conclusions and make recommendations.