Like on Different Planets? Lebanese Social Scientists in Their Scientific Communities
Social sciences and humanities (SSH) at Arab universities are often described as suffering from a lack of academic freedom. However, institutional autonomy and the individual academic's opportunities and constraints seem to differ considerably among Arab institutions. Individuals conducting social sciences and humanities under different configurations of local, regional and international influences from the state, the market and the civil society. One problem made evident by existing research literature about Arab social sciences is the comparably weak networking capacity of its academic publishing and library systems. It suggests over-dependence upon international systems, a lack of direct communication amongst local and regional scientific communities, and intellectual bigotry. This article sheds light on the question how Arab institutions and individuals cope with this particular shortcoming in their academic system. It focuses on correlations between institutional and individual autonomy as measured by the modes of decision making and funding. The article will also explore the relationship between an institution's autonomy and its interconnectedness as measured by its library services and by references in faculty's dissertations. Data stem from interviews with faculty, surveys among students, and visits to libraries of two different universities in Lebanon, which are analyzed in comparison. Moreover, several networking initiatives are characterized by which social scientists in the region tackle this problem. Through private initiative, these academics seem to recover regional coherence based on Arab language and experience.
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