Call for Papers (Annual Conference): What does it mean to belong?

17th Jun 2022 by Simon Mabon

Call for Papers (Annual Conference): What does it mean to belong?

In the decade after the Arab Uprisings, the nature of political life has changed dramatically. Amidst shifting lines of inclusion and exclusion cutting across states, sects, tribes and ethnicities, critically reflecting on ideas of belonging is of paramount importance in understanding the nature of the political in the Middle East. As scholars of the region have long observed, identity is central in domestic and regional politics. From anti-colonial movements to Pan Arabism, Pan Islamism to sectarianism, the axis of resistance to a resurgence of nationalism, identities – and their interactions with the state and each other – are central.

SEPAD's annual conference, to be held on the 15-16th December at Lancaster University, seeks to build on the existing scholarship that reflects on how particular forms of identity (sectarianism, nationalism, tribalism, ethnicity, and ideology) relate to states, society, urban life, and regional politics. In doing so, it aims to highlight the notion of 'belonging' as a theatre in which these different facets interact. Such issues have taken on increased importance in recent years amidst a rising number of displacements from conflict, environmental change, or sovereign power, along with protest against the dominance of corrupt elites in several states, meaning that questions about what it means to belong – and what to belong to – become increasingly important.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds (including  Politics and International Relations, Geography, Law, Religious Studies, sociology, Criminology, Philosophy, and Area Studies) to reflect on questions including but not limited to: 

  • Where are the new lines of inclusion and exclusion in contemporary political life? 
  • How do states respond to these shifting lines of inclusion and exclusion?
  • What strategies of inclusion and exclusion are used by rulers?
  • How do such processes resonate across regional politics? 
  • What are the implications of this for agency? 
  • How useful are existing concepts in explaining different forms of belonging in the Middle East?
  • How do transnational identities and belongings intersect with existing forms of state power and state-building?
  • What are the formal and informal mechanisms for fostering belonging in different societal contexts?

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to Dr Mustafa Menshawy at oby 30th September. If you would like to submit panel proposals please include a 300 word abstract for the panel alongside individual paper abstracts. Keynote speakers will be announced shortly and SEPAD will provide a number of bursaries to help with logistical costs. 

If you have questions please email Professor Simon Mabon at We look forward to welcoming you to Lancaster!