Like on Different Planets? Lebanese Social Scientists in Their Scientific Communities

Jonathan Kriener


Social sciences and humanities 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 and 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 evident from 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 trait of their academic system. It focuses on correlations between institutional and individual autonomy as measured by the modes of decision making and funding, and between an institution’s autonomy and its interconnectedness as measured by its library services and by references in the dissertations of its faculty. 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. With private initiative, they seem to recover regional coherence based on Arab language and experience and international quality standards to an extent that governmental and inter-governmental institutions never remotely succeeded to establish by ways of their cultural policies.


Connectivity; Governance; Language Gap; Lebanon; Social Sciences

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Research fellow at the Department for Oriental and Islamic Studies