In October 2016, the joint Autumn School 'Forced Displacement and Regional politics in the Middle East' took place in Byblos and Beirut, Lebanon. The course was part of the German-Arab Joint Research, Training and Networking Programme 'From Responsibility to Protect to Responsibility to Assist: Conflict, Reconstruction and Sustainable Development in the Middle East' and was jointly organised by the Department of Social Sciences at the Lebanese American University, the UA Ruhr Graduate Centre for Development Studies and the Institute for Development Studies and Development Policy at Ruhr University Bochum. It was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as part of the 'Hochschuldialog mit der islamischen Welt'.
This years' Autumn School was hosted by the Lebanese American University (LAU) and attended by ten PhD students and three advanced Master students from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Germany. During the ten day programme, the students worked intensively on their research designs in two workshops facilitated by Prof. Baroudi, Prof. Gerharz, Prof. Hartmann and Prof. Heintze. Through this format, the students had the chance to present their own research endeavours and discuss their approach and methods not only with their supervisors but also with their peers. Furthermore, the students engaged with their research topics by sharing core readings in student-led reading groups with their peers.
Central to the programme were lectures given by the LAU's faculty members as well as their German counterparts. The lectures offered a variety of inputs ranging from theoretical approaches to the region, to women's studies and wider reflections on the region's asylum policies. The thought-provoking lectures were met by lively debates amongst the junior and senior scholars.
Furthermore, the programme went beyond lectures and intensive research discussions, offering field trips and visits to non-governmental organisations such as the Palestinian Women Humanitarian Organization at Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut and Dar El Nimer Art Center. The students also met with representatives of the German research community in Lebanon, at the Orient Institut.
Coming at a critical moment in the region's history, the programme could not have addressed a "more salient issue than that of displaced persons, especially as far as the bordering countries of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon", says Prof. Baroudi from LAU.
"This summer school helped me progress in my research and better locate it. I benefited immensely from the lively discussions we had in the workshops and it was particularly interesting to gain insights from regional experts about forced migration and conflict in the Middle East. The visit to the Palestinian refugee camp was a highlight as it allowed us to witness first-hand the conditions refugees live under – be they legal, societal, economic – that we are addressing in our research and also to see the initiatives taken by refugees to improve such conditions."
Salam Alhaj Hasan, PhD Student in International Development Studies, IEE RUB.
"I really enjoyed participating in the autumn school. The interesting lectures and our lively, thought-provoking discussions in a warm, respectful atmosphere helped me to progress with my research ideas and to develop my thinking. The organising team came up with a good mix of lectures held by professors from both countries, small group discussions on our research, presentations and reading groups. This mix allowed us to tackle our research project with different presentation forms and get feedback from different audiences. The perfect ending was for me our visit of a local NGO, which supports Palestinian women in Lebanon, and the insight I got from talking to the staff."
Frederike Müller, Masters student in Geography at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
"For me it was the first time to visit a refugee camp. I read about it but seeing and hearing the situation by a Palestinian refugee is something I will not be able to forget. It is important for me as I am writing about refugees."
Amal Saoub, Masters student, University of Jordan on the field trip to the Palestinian Women Humanitarian Organization (PWHO) Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut.