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Abdulla Al Sayyari, Fayez Hejaili and Faissal Shaheen

Discussions on bioethical issues within the Saudi society are a relatively new development. However, they have taken increasing importance over the last two decades. This accompanied the massive advances in medical care, the beginning of medical and biological research, the establishment of pharmaceutical companies and the exposure of society to international norms. By and large the driving forces of the need for bioethical discourses are the practical needs arising from these recent developments in our region rather than that being due to theoretical or academic investigation. In this article, we discuss issues related to the interaction between society and medical ethics in Saudi Arabia with particular reference to organ transplantation ethics.

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Sunday Paul Chinazo Onwuegbuchulam and Khondlo Mtshali

In contemporary development and political studies the Capability Approach as proposed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has become an alternative analytical framework used to conceptualize the promotion of well-being (‘capabilities’) in society. Notably, an important component of this framework is agency, which underscores the various ‘transformation mechanisms’ towards realising well-being in societies. This study straddles the area of political theory and development studies and seeks to contribute to the literature on the Capability Approach from a fresh perspective of the contest for agency between the different political stakeholders in society’s development arena. The study interrogates the agency roles of different stakeholders in society’s development focusing on the liberal-communitarian and the state-insociety debates on the politics of state from the perspective of the Capability Approach.

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Rohan Bastin

The current moment, seen by some as an interregnum between societies of discipline and control, is marked by intense forms of religious fanaticism and iconoclasm that are striving to create new forms of the state. This is evident in the militancy and political engagement of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka, who promote war against Tamil separatists as well as violent resistance to the proselytization identified with global civil society agencies that, due to the war and the 2004 tsunami disaster, have been active in the country. The article looks at this rising Buddhist militancy, which is associated with a political party that is linked to the more famous party known as the JVP. It argues that instead of resisting the formation of the new global civil society, the iconoclasm of this Buddhist political formation is facilitating its establishment.

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Society against Politics

Exclusions from Israel's #J14 Movement

Callie Maidhof

In the summer of 2011, a movement known by the hashtag #J14 swept across Israel. At height of #J14, thousands of people were camped out in tents on Tel Aviv’s swanky Rothschild Boulevard, and smaller encampments peppered the green space of nearly every city in Israel. The Saturday night protests in Tel Aviv drew upwards of 300,000 people, who made a broad call for “social justice,” with specific demands focusing on skyrocketing housing prices, health care, childcare, and the overall high cost of living. Notably absent were any demands addressing the myriad of issues facing non-Jewish citizens of Israel, as well as the question of the ongoing occupation. In this article, I will consider the #J14 movement in terms of how civil society operates as an ideological construct, making possible some alliances (however counterintuitive) while excluding others from public debate all together. Following Mamdani’s argument that civil society as a concept is premised on exclusionary practices, I argue that mobilization in the name of civil society will not only reproduce these exclusions, but also widen the gap between those who do and do not receive crucial state services.

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Civil Societies and Uncivil Times

The Rubber Band Ball of Transnational Tensions

Brian Callan

This article introduces a special issue of Contention Journal addressing various contemporary mobilizations of civil society in response to the war in Syria and the migration of refugees into Europe. With contributions from Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Canada, the Czech Republic and Germany, the cases represent a breadth of multidisciplinary approaches and a variety of stylistic standpoints, from statistical media analysis to troubled personal reflections of engaged activist academics. The subject matter ranges from political mobilization against authoritarianism and austerity, transnational philanthropy, the emergence of local grassroots voluntary aid to right-wing populist nationalism. Though diverse, a coherent narrative is seen to converge around the refugee crisis as it unfolds in Europe; one of radical polarization within civil societies and starkly conflicting imaginaries of social futures that claim to preclude the legitimacy of other possibilities. At the same time alliances are being generated beyond borders in an attempt to bolster ideological capacity, authority, and force. This is not a clash of civilizations but the rubber band ball of transnational tension, a strained, chaotic and overlapping global contestation. At stake is the understanding of what a civil society should be.

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Syrian Diasporans as Transnational Civil Society Actors

Perspectives from a Network for Refugee Assistance

Shawn Teresa Flanigan and Mounah Abdel-Samad

This article presents early qualitative data from an ongoing project that includes interviews with members of a Syrian diaspora network engaged in giving and receiving philanthropy. With the onset of the Syrian refugee crisis, the network began to provide education for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon in addition to its other activities. The purpose of the research project is to understand motivations and mechanisms of humanitarian assistance toward a conflict region, and also if and how the practice of philanthropy is tied to peacebuilding on the ground and individuals’ sense of political efficacy. This article gives particular attention to the civil society aspects of diasporan assistance, and how those engaged in humanitarian aid conceive of their influence on politics, policy, and peacebuilding.

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Menachem Keren-Kratz

Belying its conservative and old-fashioned image, Haredi society is constantly changing. Scholars examining these changes debate their direction and scope as well as their future implications. In this article I address the most striking example of these social changes. I argue that not only is Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) society adopting Western social values in addition to certain Israeli characteristics, but that these processes are occurring even within the most extreme sub-group of Haredi society, which I refer to as Extreme Orthodoxy. I then proceed to offer several examples to demonstrate how, in recent decades, Extreme Orthodoxy has appropriated many Western and Israeli social and behavioral traits.

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Softening culture, opening Europe

The European Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue

Jeff Katcherian

This article examines the development of cultural policy recommendations, in the form of “soft law,” by the Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue, a nascent European civil society collaboration aiming to make culture a separate political endeavor within the context of European integration. Drawing on fieldwork among European bureaucrats and members of European civil society in Brussels, Belgium, the article offers an alternative discussion from common understandings of soft law, paying close attention to law as an aesthetic form that challenges dominant modes of policy-making. An investigation of soft forms of law provides a useful perspective to those who attempt to define, locate, and create European identity.

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Marek Mikuš

This article reconsiders established anthropological knowledge about postsocialist “civil society” through an analysis of recent efforts of Serbian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce their dependence on foreign donors and develop “local fund-raising” from individuals and businesses. These initiatives had to address widespread suspicion toward NGOs, which confirms earlier findings about their donor-driven origins and the class divide between them and the surrounding society. Nevertheless, the article shows that the fund-raising activists strove to overcome suspicion and indigenize civil society. While anthropologists tend to portray NGO workers as a transnationalized elite, they are more adequately described as a middle-class faction currently subject to a process of precarization. The article also shows how the NGO workers' strategies to overcome suspicion, drawing variously on the global models of rational philanthropy, populist modes of self-presentation, or pre-existing ties to new donors, obscured or reduced the relevance of the class divide.

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Empire/Multitude—State/Civil Society

Rethinking Topographies of Power Through Transnational Connectivity in Ecuador and Beyond

Suzana Sawyer

This article uses a lawsuit against Chevron as a means to examine the complex, compromised, and incomplete practices that form what can be described as Empire/Multitude and state/civil society. The class-action suit, filed on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorian citizens, encapsulates processes of globalization and their attendant consequences. I argue that the binaries Empire/Multitude and state/civil society assume a physiology of coherence and topography of power that obscure their deeply transnational nature. Systematically exploring the networks of connectivity that produce and transform these dyads allows for a refiguring of indigenous peoples within the political realm. Rather than outside or below, subaltern subjects (indigenous and non-indigenous alike) are co-existing political embodiments that can shape the sphere of authority and legitimacy that make up the state and the practices of Empire.