By Mariam Salehi
The Summer Academy’s program ended on Saturday with a look back at the last week. The participants reflected in newly mixed groups about their work and discussions in the family groups, which had spent the whole week together.
These reflections were focused on two sets of questions. The first one was closely related to the overall topic of Reconfiguring the (Non-)Political: What is the political at all? Is it political institutions, everyday practices or both? The second one put the researcher her-/himself and her/his political sensibilities in focus. By contrasting an affirmative approach to research, respectively research solidarity, with an exotifying one, characterized by choosing a research subject not confirm with one’s own political sensibilities, Michael Allan posed the question whether current (or post-‘Arab Spring’) research in the MENA region is prone to Orientalism 2.0.
In response to these questions, for example, it was critically remarked in one of the discussion groups that researchers working on the MENA region are basically forced to employ a political lens, even if they are working on issues where this would not always be necessary for analytical reasons. This is because research on the region that does not use this lens is hardly being funded. Therefore, the particularistic notion of the region is reproduced by the researchers and their choice of topics. Resisting in this sense, then would be not to talk about the political at all.
After the reflection exercise, the group received a surprise visit from the Tunisian Minister of Education, Néji Jaloul (Nidaa Tounes). He stressed the historical responsibility of academics, both domestic and foreign, to work on Tunisia as a hopeful example for a prospective transition to democracy.
The official program ended with warm thanks to the reliable partners in Tunis (IRMC/La Manouba), Marburg’ post-Doc Team who developed the programme, the tutors, as well as the administrative assistants in Marburg (especially Sihem Hamlaoui) who contributed tremendously to making the event as smooth as possible for all the participants.