Social Innovation in Times of Conflict. Economic and Citizen Alternatives in the Middle East

This project, led by Stéphanie Latte, deals with the emergence of economic and citizen alternatives in the contemporary Middle East in conflict contexts: that is to say, contests and struggles related to situations of war or conflict, confinements and sieges, severe political, economic and/or migratory crisis, various forms of opposition to political systems and to neo-liberalism, claims for autonomy. Hence, it focuses on situations where the States are challenged either because they are failing or weak, or on the contrary due to their authoritarianism.

The starting point of this project is an on-going personal research on the arising forms of engagement in a "resistance economy" in Palestine aimed at strengthening a local economy, just and respectful of the environment, in order to regain parts of sovereignty in a context of colonial occupation and confinement. This resistance economy relies equally on traditional economic forms and innovative practices. It is part of a history of resistance echoing the first Intifada (1987-1993) which was initially conceived as an “economic war”. This project resulted in two conferences and a workshop which brought together researchers and social actors in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at An-Najah University in Nablus and in Ramallah (Palestine).

The objective is to analyze comparatively the specificity of these contexts of conflict or deep crisis for the emergence of alternative economic schemes (social and solidarity economy, social entrepreneurship, local productions, bio and agroecology, community farms, seed banks, movements without intermediaries, citizen consumption, circular economy, renewable energies, community financing and non-monetary exchanges, etc.) that are to be studied in their citizen dimension : the way they challenge power organization with new forms of governance and solidarity, direct democracy, self-management, collective ownership, etc. We will consider what they have in common, i.e. their societal significance. In fact, these engagements most often combine economic, political, cultural and subjective claims and are woven equally by critical thinking and practices.

Firstly, this research aims to develop common perspectives from different case studies in the Middle East - namely in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Kurdistan, Egypt, and Turkey - to which will be added the case of Greece in southern Mediterranean Europe which has experienced a serious economic crisis. Secondly, its objective is to strengthen a team of researchers in order to formalize a more ambitious research project in 2020.

Social and solidarity economy emerges from necessity that is omnipresent as a factor of engagement. Thus, this project assumes that conflict and crisis situations will show how political necessity, economic necessity and environmental necessity are closely interconnected. Analyzing social innovation in such situations in a geographical area which has not yet been studied in that perspective is of special heuristic dimension. Moreover, it will foster a better understanding of practices that are, by some aspects only, similar in Europe, North and South America which have been thoroughly studied.