The International Interventions and Local (In)Security: Critical Perspectives on State-Building in the Arab Region Project 2018, Lebanon


March 26, 2018

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The International Interventions and Local (In)Security: Critical Perspectives on State-Building in the Arab Region Project

The Beirut School of Critical Security Studies, a Working Group of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) in Beirut, has launched the International Interventions and Local (In)Security: Critical Perspectives on State-Building in the Arab Region project as a platform for the study of intervention and state-building in the Middle East. Led by Samer Abboud (Arcadia University), one of the coordinators of the Working Group, and Benjamin Muller (King’s University College at Western University), one of the Working Group’s affiliated scholars, the project seeks to solicit contributions that support the Collective’s work to foster and disseminate critical research on the study of security and insecurity in the Arab region. This platform aims to address key questions related to the study of intervention and state-building as it manifests in the contemporary Arab world, including: What overlapping forms of intervention are occurring in the region? How do interventions generate insecurities for certain populations? What knowledge production underpins these interventions? How are populations responding to, and resisting, the multiple material, military, and humanitarian interventions that are occurring in the region? What innovations in interventions are occurring in the region?

The proliferation of violence throughout the Middle East in the wake of the Arab uprisings has generated renewed calls for Western military, economic, and political interventions into the region either to initiate regime change (Libya), contain a perceived global threat (Syria), or “stabilize” countries experiencing unrest (Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain). These post-2011 interventions are part of a much longer, post-colonial trajectory in which the Middle East has been articulated and acted upon as a site of global danger and insecurity, inviting various forms of intervention aimed at paralyzing states and societies through sanctions, no-fly zones, international tribunals, occupations, and other forms of political intervention that nurtured forms of weak or so-called “quasi-sovereign” states. Intervention, in its multiple forms, has remained a key feature of the regional geopolitical and increasingly biopolitical landscape as innovations in humanitarian and military practices have often been manifest in the region by various actors, states, and coalitions.

At the same time, intervention and state-building practices have become increasingly entangled and inseparable. For example, the security-development nexus framework emerges in the late 1990s a model for intervention into, and overhaul of, society more broadly. It is this nexus that partly motivated the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan and the Bremmer-era in Iraq. Indeed, the rigid lines between intervention and state-building that defined the peacekeeping missions of the Cold War and some of the interventions of the early 1990s are seriously blurred and virtually non-existent. In the Arab World, as recent interventions as well as the accompanying discourses and knowledge production underpinning them reveal, intervention and state-building are intertwined.

The proliferation in humanitarian intervention after the Balkan wars and then again after the “failed states” discourse located the source of global instability in states whose perceived weakness and imminent failure demanded forms of intervention either through military operations or development aid. The ubiquity and hegemony of these discourses were cemented after the 9/11 attacks and the emergence of Afghanistan and Iraq as the models of how failed states were to be articulated as threats to global security. Under these circumstances, a wealth of literature emerged in response to various Western interventions around the world. However, much of this literature remains policy-oriented and focused on how to improve on intervention practices. In many cases, the analysis frames the issue as a problem associated with “security sector reform” or the implementation of some version of the Human Security Agenda, hearkened to in international documents such as the United Nations’ “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility”, and more recently, a the UN protection of civilians mandate. Policies are always molded to fit certain universalisms and never local realities, producing misfits that often exacerbate problems and demand further interventions. Similarly, the debate over reconstruction in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, often reflects certain epistemologies and assumptions about the cause and consequence of conflict, often neglecting the very real, serious needs of local populations in favor of universal solutions.

Today, these conflicts in the region and the wider instability generated by the post-uprisings landscape has conflated geopolitical insecurity and global instability. A range of international interveners have thus positioned themselves to penetrate states and societies with far more than clear strategic geopolitical interests, but with the broader goals of societal overhaul and reconstruction. These practices are increasingly entangled with discourses and norms around intervention vis-à-vis human security, the Responsibility to Protect, and the mandate to protect civilians, and are thus grafted on to an existing intervention landscape.

Critical scholarship on humanitarian intervention engages with various facets of the epistemology, practice, and various legal and technical developments implicated in interventions. This proposed project seeks to build on this work and make two main contributions to the literature on intervention and state-building. First, the program first seeks to solicit empirical contributions from around the Middle East that examine how interventions manifest materially in local spaces and how various political and socio-economic reconfigurations are brought about through these interventions. Much of the literature on the local impacts of interventions ignore case studies and empirics from the Middle East. This project seeks to address this gap and ask how people can better understand intervention practices through an examination of the lived realities and experiences of people and actors who have borne the brunt of Western interventions. Second, the program encourages theoretical explorations of intervention around questions of insecurity: how do interventionary practices generate insecurities for individuals, societies, economies, and states? In asking contributors to reflect on this broader question,  the program encourages a shift in focus from intervention as a security practice from the vantage point of the intervener to, instead, a set of practices that produce material realities which generate insecurities for the individuals, communities, and societies that are the targets of intervention. Participants will engage in the increasing chasm in both the theoretical and academic literature on the experiences, success and failures of the intervener, regularly measured on policy terms and apolitical notions of institutional reform, in sharp contrast to the often violent, unstable, and politically and economically devastating experiences of those upon which the intervention is concentrated.

Questions of Interest

The following is a list of suggested topics and questions of interest. Contributors should feel free to propose others and should not feel limited to this brief list.

  • Scalar responses to intervention by recipients/targets

  • Intervention as/and insecurity: how do interventions produce insecurities?

  • “Resiliency” interventions

  • Constitutionalism and the contested norms of intervention

  • Biopolitics/Neoliberalism and regime change

  • Knowledge production around intervention and state-building

  • What role does international law play in intervention?

  • In what ways do local communities engage and resist intervention practices?

  • How do the discourses and frameworks of intervention translate into local languages and spaces?

  • Who are the interveners?

  • UN mandate on Protection of Civilians and the politics of defining combatants and non-combatants

  • What are innovations in intervention occurring in the region today?

Submission Guidelines

The International Interventions and Local (In)Security: Critical Perspectives on State-Building in the Arab Region project is looking for contributions to be submitted for inclusion in a special issue of an academic journal, the ACSS peer-reviewed Working Papers Series, and/or the Beirut School of Critical Security Studies’ online portal, the Beirut Forum.

Submissions are open to academics, practitioners, and others who offer different perspectives on intervention and its consequences in local spaces.

Abstracts of no more than 500 words can be submitted in Arabic or English. Abstracts must include the following information:

  • Research question(s)

  • Argument

  • Methodology

  • How the research fits within a critical approach to intervention and state-building

Submissions should be directed to Benjamin Muller ( or Samer Abboud ( .  

All submissions will be reviewed and notifications will be sent out by April 2, 2018. The final accepted papers are required to be submitted by September 15, 2018.

Accepted papers will be submitted for inclusion in one of the following outlets:

  • A  special issue of an academic journal
  • The ACSS peer-reviewed Working Papers Series
  • The Beirut Forum, the online portal of the Beirut School of Critical Security Studies

For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Study Levels
Publish Date
March 01, 2018
Link To Original