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Arab Middle East

With his Master in Middle Eastern Studies (SOAS, Uni of London), Benoit Challand acquired his background in politics, anthropology, culture and societies of the Middle East, which he then applied for his doctoral dissertation dealing with civil society promotion in the Arab Middle East.

He wrote various reports on Palestinian politics, the impact of international aid on Palestinian civil society, as well as on the issue of democratisation in Yemen. The question of Islam and politics is also tackled though a variety of angles in his work. His teaching at the University of Bologna are precively on these topics.

Between 209 and 2011, he worked for the Center on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding in Geneva on a project dealing with the interplay between religion and politics, connecting previous work done on Palestinian civil society and in particular the charitable organisations. If the latter are often overlooked by donors, they are important service-providers in more remote zones of the Occupied territories.

His analyses of domestic Palestinian politics (with a focus on the role of the PLO returnees, as well as a  sociological analysis of the Palestinian Legislative Council) have now been published in different international journals (International Journal of Middle East Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, A Contrario, The International Spectator) and in different books.

His original work on civil society in the Arab world has been an important conceptual tool to understand the Arab revolts. Rather than focusing on formalized elements of civil society, his alternative defnition of civil society as a "source of collective autonomy" (Palestinian Civil Society. Foriegn Donors and the Power to Promote and Exclude , pp. 55-58) allows to capture the essential contribution that spontaneous forms of organizations have given in launching the revolts in 2011, away from NGOs, and the support of international formal aid. In his article published in Constellations he aptly noted that these historical uprisings happened "despite international aid, rather than because of it."

(See: 2011, “The Counter Power of Civil Society and the Emergence of a New Political Imaginary in the Arab World”, Constellations. An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory , Volume 18, No 3, 271-283)


Children in Jabalya Refugee Camp - Gaza Strip


Last Updated ( Saturday, 25 August 2012 )
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