Dr. Tamirace Fakhoury is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow who visited the GIGA from May to August 2017 as part of her 18-month fellowship. She is an assistant professor of political science at the Lebanese American University and a visiting lecturer for summer sessions at the University of California, Berkeley.
Tamirace, why did you choose to conduct your research at the GIGA?
I chose the GIGA because, first of all, the various regional institutes caught my interest. Being here, I would not only study about the Middle East but I could also interact with scholars and experts from other regional institutes. The second attraction point is GIGA’s closeness to policymaking circles. I thought it would be a great experience to see how very good research can be harnessed for the sake of policy engagement.
You do research about Arab immigrants in Europe. What are your key questions?
I am studying how Arab communities in Germany and in Europe seek to be engaged in politics or seek to influence their homeland and their host land. I discovered that there is not much research about Arab immigrant engagement in Hamburg, so I conducted intensive interviews with the Arab community here. I wanted to find out: How have they engaged in the Arab uprisings and their aftermath? What were their methods of mobilisation and overarching discourses on political change in the Arab region? How are they engaging in the refugee crisis? How are they partnering through dialogue and consultative processes with the German government in projects on counter-radicalisation and refugee integration?
Are there any preliminary results?
The Arab communities in Germany have weak lobbying potential when it comes to political advocacy. They have lately dissipated much energy in debunking stereotypes that Muslims are not radicals in the light of the rise of the so-called Islamic State. This has in various ways impacted their capacity to engage as active political agents taking a stance for instance vis-à-vis Germany’s foreign policy in the region or seeking to establish diaspora initiatives with their country of origin. At the same time, we should not overlook the fact that they are very active in civil society spheres and in community organising.
Did you witness any changes in behaviour or perception because of the refugee crisis or the rise of Pegida and other movements?
I conducted around 30 interviews last year and have met again with some of my interviewees from last year to find out how perceptions and facts on the ground have evolved as the mood vis-à-vis refugees has changed. The initial "Refugee welcome" enthusiasm and euphoria have waned. Despite this, various Arab secular groups and mosques have continued their work on relief and cross-cultural understanding.
One of the reasons you joined the GIGA was to have interactions with scholars from other regions and research. Did you find new prospects or arguments?
I detected many synergies with the Institute for Latin American Studies – for example, in terms of research on ethnic diversity and legal pluralism. It was interesting to debate with colleagues how some Latin American countries deal with their indigenous populations, and how they incorporate their rights and grievances into the political system. This has provided me with a critical look towards the Arab world and with new topics of inquiry. It is indeed fascinating to learn how managing diversity in Latin America can provide us with lessons in dealing with the Arab world. The latter has emerged in the wake of the 2011 Arab revolts as highly heterogeneous and fragmented. The upcoming challenge is to design political systems based on "fair pluralism."
Thank you for the interview.