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Contested Citizenship: Understanding national identity in the Middle East and North Africa

This event, organised by the FPC and the SEPAD (Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation) project at the Richardson Institute for Peace at Lancaster University, aims to examine how ten years after the Arab Uprisings, the struggle between rulers and ruled continues to shape the contours of political life across the MENA region.

Central to these struggles are questions about citizenship and its capacity to order political and social life through drawing lines of inclusion and exclusion. The study of citizenship has received renewed attention in Middle East and North Africa studies across recent years, reflecting the widespread challenges facing people in the region. The region’s recent past, shaped by conflict, sectarian tensions, geopolitical rivalries, economic crises, and authoritarianism have all exacerbated tensions between rulers and ruled and, with it, questions about who is to be included as citizens.

Contestation over where lines of inclusion and exclusion are drawn are bound up within broader political struggles over the nature of national identity, sectarian cohesion, and transnational politics. From these debates, definitions of citizens’ rights and responsibilities manifest in a struggle between rulers and ruled. The Arab Uprisings and the protests of 2019 in Iraq and Lebanon highlight this dissatisfaction with the terms of the social contract that binds people together in a state, yet in the years that followed, very little has changed; rulers across the region continue to use citizenship – and its revocation – as a mechanism of control within the governance structures of sovereign power.

Join the panel as they discuss national identity and citizenship in the MENA region on Monday 13th December from 14:00-15:30 GMT.

Listen to an audio recording of the event below and you can watch the video of the event here.


When December 13, 2021 2:00pm-3:30pm (UK time)

This event will be taking place on Zoom.


Professor Simon Mabon, Director of SEPAD and the Richardson Institute for Peace

Dr Nour Abu-Assab, co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration (CTDC)

James Verini, author and features writer for The New York Times Magazine

Professor Noora Lori, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies

Chair: Wayne David MP, Former Shadow Minister for the Middle East

Listen to an audio recording of the event here. 

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