Navigating North Africa in 2020: Dominating Narratives and New Perspectives

Noble Horvath

Date and time: Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 10 am to 5 pm British Summer Time (UTC+1) Register here. Scholars and experts will discuss the challenges and changes shaping North Africa at this online conference. North Africa is rapidly transforming, but each of its five constituent countries is following a markedly […]

Date and time: Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 10 am to 5 pm British Summer Time (UTC+1)

Register here.

Scholars and experts will discuss the challenges and changes shaping North Africa at this online conference.

North Africa is rapidly transforming, but each of its five constituent countries is following a markedly different trajectory. Our online conference – Navigating North Africa in 2020: Dominating Narratives and New Perspectives – will identify cross-cutting themes and provide unique insights into the current challenges facing the countries that constitute this rapidly-transforming region.

Following an opening address from George Hodgson, Head of North Africa Joint Unit, Middle East and North Africa Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the conference will feature three panels chaired by senior academics and bringing together academics, early career researchers, and experts working in the region:

PANEL 1

10.30am – 12pm: Political Islam across North Africa: Withered to irrelevance or continuous influencer?

PANEL 2

13.00 – 14.30: Religious voices and peace: From grassroots peacebuilding movements to leading religious leaders and their impact

PANEL 3

15.00 – 16.30: Trans-regional threats and challenges: Terrorism, migration and smuggling

The event is free and will be taking place on Zoom. After confirming your attendance, you will receive separate links to the keynote and panel events, allowing you to attend as many as you would like. The links will be sent closer to the date of the event.

This event will be livestreamed and recorded to the War Studies YouTube channel.

Full details on the panels, guests and timings of the day are featured below.

THE EVENT

Log-in and welcomes

10am: Negah Angha, on behalf of the Middle East and North Africa Research Group, and Professor Jonathan Hill, on behalf of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.

Keynote address

10.15 – 10.30am: George Hodgson, Head of North Africa Joint Unit, Middle East and North Africa Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

PANEL 1

10.30am – 12pm: Political Islam across North Africa: Withered to irrelevance or continuous influencer?

After the wave of uprisings that entered collective conscience following the Arab Spring, commentators and analysts were quick to predict an upsurge in Islamist political involvement – eminent movements like the Muslim Brotherhood were considered ideally placed as they had developed networks for decades.

Nine years later, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is suppressed in Egypt, weak in Libya and struggling to continue its profile and influence in Tunisia. On the other hand, other religious groups have grown in influence mainly steaming from their military activity, for example Salafi-Madkhalis adherents in Libya. At the same time, recent polls suggest that the percentage of people who consider themselves as religious is decreasing in North Africa.

This panel addresses this conundrum, examining the role Islamist forces played in the past and their current (2020) influence on North Africa, acknowledging that Islamist groups operate across borders.

Panelists:

  • Chair: Professor Katerina Dalacoura (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • Dr Alexis Blouet (University of Edinburgh) Presentation: Islamic Policies? Ennahda and the Moroccan Justice and Development Party
  • Dr Yasmina Abouzzohour (Brookings Doha) Presentation: Rural Electoral Performance Across the Maghreb
  • Guy Eyre (SOAS) Presentation: Divine Paths to Politics: Salafism, Islamism, and the State in Morocco and Algeria
  • Alice Alunni (Durham University) Presentation: Islam and Islamism in Libya: Reconfiguring a National Identifier

PANEL 2

13.00 – 14.30: Religious voices and peace: From grassroots peacebuilding movements to leading religious leaders and their impact

Religion plays a complex role in modern conflicts, serving as both an inspiration for violence and a powerful force for peace. Given the rise in conflicts across Muslim-majority nations and the grassroots development of terrorist groups in these countries, more research is needed on locally-based models of peace-building and nonviolence.

This panel seeks to generate new knowledge and greater understanding of the ways in which religious and secular forces interact in North Africa and to advance collaboration for the common good and socially harmonious communities. Building peaceful societies in North Africa takes on a new light given the decade-old uprisings and brewing undercurrents in countries that did not undergo upheaval.

Panelists will identify synergies and contestations between theory and practice at the local, national and regional levels and the role religious voices play in confronting the current injustices facing North African states and their surroundings.

Panelists:

  • Chair: Professor Michael Willis (University of Oxford)
  • Fatim-Zohra El Malki (University of Oxford) Presentation: The evolving role of women as agents of peace in Morocco.
  • Noufal Abboud (The Nordic Center for Conflict Transformation) Presentation: Engaging religious voices in peacebuilding: key lessons from the field.
  • Sara Katona (Al Akhawayn University) Presentation: We’ve God it Wrong: Nonbelief in Moroccan Youth Living in Urban Centers
  • Maro Youssef (The University of Texas at Austin) Presentation: Islamist Women’s Organizing in Democratizing Tunisia: The Case of Tounissiet

PANEL 3

15.00 – 16.30: Trans-regional threats and challenges: Terrorism, migration and smuggling

North African countries are naturally situated on central trade routes as they are geographically located on the fringes of Europe and organically connected to sub-Saharan Africa. Many researchers have explored the interactions between formal and informal economy and their impact on the communities and institutions of the region. While some argue that the informal economy interacts with formal structures and hence can contribute to the development of states, others mostly draw frightening conclusions arguing that the smuggling opportunities enable terrorist groups like IS or al-Qaida to flourish. This poses the question whether illicit activities pose a ‘real’ threat to the region and Europe or if these narratives are mere hyperbole.

This panel addresses this dilemma for 2020, acknowledging the sub-Saharan perspective that needs to be taken into account.

Panelists:

  • Chair: Professor Jonathan Hill (King’s College London)
  • Dr Dalia Ghanem (Carnegie) Presentation: At the Edges of State: The case of Algeria and the relationship between State Officials and Smugglers.
  • Rida Lyammouri (Clingendael, PCNS) Presentation: Violent Conflict and Population Movement in the Sahel.
  • Abdulhadi Soliman (Fezzan Organisation) Presentation: Libya as a Hub for Migration, Smuggling and Terrorism: An Assessment of the Post-Qadhafi Years Based on Local Perspectives.
  • Yasmine Zarhloule (University of Oxford) Presentation: Regional (in)Security: Mapping out Regional Flows and Unity in the Post-independence Maghreb.

CLOSING REMARKS AND CONFERENCE ADJOURNS

16.30 -16.50: Inga Kristina Trauthig, on behalf of the Middle East and North Africa Research Group.

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