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06/15/2021 14:35

Liminal, Public and Urban Spaces in the Arab World – Research outcomes of projects on Socio-Cultural Transformation

Lena Herzog Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)
Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren Berlin e.V. (GWZ)

    Stories from the margins about moments where the world around us can be reimagined differently are told in the online newspaper “3al-Janib”. The bilingual paper addresses topics such as the politics of solidarity and disintegration or agencies of (im)mobility and makes other voices from the cultural field visible. The intersection of urban and public space and various forms of engagement are the focus of edited volume “Spaces of Participation: Dynamics of Social and Political Change in the Arab World” (AUC Press 2021). Both publications are outcomes of international and collaborative research projects between Palestinian, Egyptian, Moroccan and German scholars.

    “3al-Janib” (“On the side”) highlights liminal moments, when individuals or groups decide to bend formal regulations and rethink the use of resources around them. These moments enable the creation of new social relations and different imaginings of a brighter future. Randa Aboubakr and her research team from Cairo write about “A Cultural and Artistic Revolution” in Egypt, Ulrike Freitag reflects on the Saudi art scene and Fadma Aït Mous speaks with theatre director Hosni Almoukhlis about street theatre and the liberation of public space in Morocco. Other articles cover Palestinian youth initiatives, the Martyrs’ Square in the Libyan city of Tripoli or narratives of flight from Syria to Berlin. All articles are available both in English and Arabic language.

    The edited volume “Spaces of Participation: Dynamics of Social and Political Change in the Arab World” adopts an interdisciplinary approach between sociology, anthropology, history, and political science. It asks questions such as: Where do people meet and how do they form relations of trust? Once organized, how do people debate social and political issues? The book poses these questions in an attempt to understand social and political change from a spatial perspective. Based on original fieldwork conducted in Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, and Palestine, the volume connects and reconnects social, cultural, and political participation with urban space. It explores timely themes such as formal and informal spaces of participation, alternative spaces of cultural production, space reclamation, cultural activism, and the reconfiguring of space through different types of contestation. It also covers a range of spaces that include sports clubs, arts centers, and sites of protest and resistance, as well as virtual spaces such as social media platforms, in the process of examining the relationships and tensions between physical and virtual space. “Spaces of Participation” underlines the temporal and transformative quality of participatory spaces and how they are shaped by their respective political contexts, highlighting different forms of access, control, and contestation. The volume was edited by Randa Aboubakr, Sarah Jurkiewicz, Hicham Ait-Mansour and Ulrike Freitag and was published by The American University in Cairo Press.

    The projects “Liminal Spaces as Sites of Socio-Cultural Transformation and Knowledge Production in the Arab World” (2018-2021) and „Spaces of Participation” (2014-2017) were funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung. They were a collaboration between Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin, Mohammad V University Agdal/Rabat in Morocco, the A. M. Qattan Foundation in Palestine and Prof. Randa Aboubakr (Cairo University, Egypt).

    Please send your interview requests to A public launch of 3al-Janib will take place on 22 June at 6 pm (Berlin time). Please find a link for participation here:

    Contact for scientific information:

    Sarah Jurkiewicz:; Ulrike Freitag:

    Original publication:

    Randa Aboubakr, Sarah Jurkiewicz, Hicham Ait-Mansour, Ulrike Freitag (Eds.):
    Spaces of Participation. Dynamics of Social and Political Change in the Arab World. AUC Press, Cairo, 2021, 302 p. ISBN 9781617979897. .
    Randa Aboubakr, Yazid Anani, Mokhtar ElHarras, Sarah Jurkiewicz, Hicham Ait-Mansour, Ulrike Freitag (Ed.): 3al Janib - «on the side». 2021, 66 p.

    More information:

    http://Information on research project:; Information on event:

    Criteria of this press release:
    Journalists, Scientists and scholars, Students, all interested persons
    Cultural sciences, History / archaeology, Media and communication sciences, Politics, Social studies
    transregional, national
    Research projects, Scientific Publications

    Cover of "Spaces of Participation"

    For download


    Cover of "3al Janib"

    For download



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