Arab family’s challenges and opportunities under scrutiny at colloquium
Panelists discuss the topic of "Arab Families in Times of Social Stress." From left: Dr. Ray Jureidini, associate professor of Sociology and associate director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo; Dr. Suad Joseph; Dr. Hammoud; Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, director of the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo; and Dr. Jihad Makhoul, associate professor and acting chair of AUB's Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.
"Gender Norms and Values in Arab Families" panel participants. From left: Dr. Mona Ibrahim Ali, associate professor of English at Cairo University and American University of Cairo; Dr. Ray Jureidini; Dr. Seiko Sugita, program specialist of Social and Human Sciences–UNESCO Regional Bureau; and Dr. Nancy Jabbra, professor and chair of Women's Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.
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June 27, 2008—
In the midst of the powerful globalization currents engulfing the Middle East and the world in general, the Arab family has been facing significant challenges. Rising international movements of people, goods, capital and ideas, and their reflected impacts at the local level, have been transforming its traditional shape and role. At the same time, they have created opportunities for positive change.
The study of these trends was the focus of a two-day colloquium that gathered prominent scholars, UN representatives and civil society members on the Byblos campus last week.
A multitude of issues related to the Arab family and the changes it is undergoing were addressed through 24 papers, with topics ranging from migration, war and conflict management, demographic changes, governance, business, education and child rights to psychological aspects, family relations, gender norms and values, eating disorders and social care.
Keynote speaker Dr. Saad Eddine Ibrahim, professor of Political Sociology at the American University in Cairo and distinguished visiting professor at Istanbul Kültür University, explained that the grounds of the traditional Arab family have been shaken by the “hyphenated families” (e.g., Lebanese-American), the high divorce rates of around 40% in the Gulf, the separation of families, the femininization of the Arab world, and the numerous civil or externally motivated wars in the region. Keeping an optimistic tone, he said, “Whether we like it or not… [globalization] is going to be with us… Let us understand it, learn how to deal with it, and be active participants in it; otherwise, we will become [its] victims…”
Dr. Josiane Sreih, associate professor and director of the Institute of Family and Entrepreneurial Business at LAU, said, “The Arab family is quite a complex entity, bound with its set of traditions and cultural ties on the one side, and its willingness to adapt to the advancement, openness and independence of the West [on the other], and finds itself in a triggering position and a difficult stage of adaptability.”
The institute hosted the colloquium, funded by the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, in an effort to spearhead discourse and research on the pressures and opportunities facing the Arab family and society. The initiative is particularly important, since “the issues of the family in the Arab world have been neglected at the level of serious empirical and theoretical work,” said one of the presenters, Dr. Suad Joseph, professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies, and director of Middle East/South Asia Studies at UC Davis.
The colloquium—the first of its kind in Lebanon—took about eight months to prepare. A scientific committee made up of LAU faculty screened all the papers received, adopting a 50% rejection rate to maintain quality.
Dean of the LAU School of Arts and Sciences Samira Aghacy said the conference “is an indication of the level of commitment our university has to interdisciplinary research and in particular to family studies in Lebanon and the Arab world.”
Founded in 2000 by the School of Business, IFEB aims at becoming a forum to generate and exchange knowledge about family businesses, and enhancing their continuity and growth.
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