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Borders and territorial reconfigurations in the Middle East and the Sahel

Call for papers

“This Middle East forged in the clash of arms and disdain of its peoples is now crumbling before our eyes. This historic disruption is not the result of the contestation of borders, though they are unfair, but the consequence oftheir fate being reclaimed by the peoples concerned”.

Jean Pierre Filiu, Les Arabes, leur destin et le nôtre (The Arabs : theirDestiny and Ours), p.23, La Découverte, Paris, 2015.

The Arab uprisings lead to many political and sociological analyses but few of them consider the spatial and territorial consequences of the misnamed Arab Springs. Who would have thought that one of the effects of the protests, which started at the end of 2010, would have been to challenge the borders and reconsider the nation states inherited from the mandates and colonial era ?

Conflicts, civil wars, foreign military involvements, refugees’ exodus and proclamation of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq (June 2014) are contributing to a redefinition of the MENA’s map unseen since the Ottoman Empire’s fall at the end of the First World War.

We are talking about an enlarged and reshaped region because the Sahelo-Saharan border areas, particularly those in Mali, Nigeria or Cameroun are also moving because of a new cycle triggered by the collapse of Kadhafi’s regime in 2011 and the rise of jihadist movements like AQIM or Boko Haram. Meanwhile, the European countries are facing a massive influx of refugees, likewise generating questions about the role and signification of borders.

This international conference aims to explore this turn in the Middle East and the Sahel : 5 years after the birth of the South Soudan state and the beginning of the Arab uprisings, what changes have occurred with respect to borders ? Can the collapses of some states be seen as the end of borders or the disintegration of national spaces and the outline of a new enduring and alternative territorial order ?

By who and how are these reshaped spacesmanaged, on both micro and macro scales ? Which actors are competing and operating within them, and which polarized political and administrative visions and logics are deployed ?

One of the most important consequences of the ongoing conflicts is the generalized undermining of borders as a spatial limitation on where state sovereignty operates. Indeed, foreign military involvements and the use of mercenaries are widespread ; many peripheral and border zones, which are economically marginalized and deserted by the states’ development policies, have become the haven of smugglers.

Experts of the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa from various disciplines (geography, political sciences, history, law, sociology, etc.) and academics working on Border studies or international relations are invited to this international conference in order to analyze the current territorial upheaval linked to the redefinition of borders and the reorganization of relations between states, societies and territories.

The conference aims to provide keys to understand the current territorial changes by gathering young and established researchers, theoretical and empirical work, general analysis and case studies.

The event will also feature a photography exhibition and screenings of documentaries on borders.

An important number of events and publications dedicated to borders in recent yearshave mainly focused on the increasing numbers of walls around the world, the securing of borders with new surveillance technologies and the externalization of border controls. Our conference will stand out from these analyses by focusing on a specific geographical area and by giving special attention to new territorial divisions and the administration of spaces more than the transgression of borders. One of the objectives is to identify processes that are remodeling space on the short and long term.

Another objective is to link work on the MENA region and the Sahelo-Saharan region in order to overcome the usual divide between sub-Saharan Africa on one side and North Africa-Middle East on the other. History and current events remind us that this division is artificial.

With this bridge between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world, we aim to promote North-South scientific partnership in Egypt through the involvement of the University of Cairo (FESP), and the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies. It is also the opportunity to foster collaboration between research centers located around the Mediterranean and in Africa, whether it is the IRD, French research institutes abroad (UMIFRE), research groups located in the North with specific geographical specializations (PRODIG in Paris…) or think tanks (IREMMO in Paris).

The proceedings of the conference will be published in French and English, through a collective book published by the Presses de l’IFAO and a special issue of Egypte Monde Arabe and a special issue of the journal Confluences Méditerranée whose publication committee has already expressed its interest.

Paper proposals should be sent to and

Terms :
 Abstract in English or French : 500 to 600 words
 5 to 7 keywords
 Title, Author(s) and affiliation(s), Internet address of the author(s)
 Abstract should present the research questions, the context, methodology, field, and main conclusions.

Deadline : July 1st, 2016