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Najla Zurayk ’37, A Woman for All Ages
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46 Years of Education Through War & Peace
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Fall 2006 Vol. V, No. 1

Recently Published

Research for Development in the Dry Arab Region: The Cactus Flower
(IDRC, 2006) by Shadi Hamadeh, Mona Haidar, Rami Zurayk

The Cactus Flower summarizes and reflects upon ten years of participatory action research in an isolated community in the dry northeast of Lebanon. The community had a story waiting to be told, a paradox: at a time when the global trend is one of loss of trees and vegetation, the drylands of Aarsal were flowering with orchards. This paradox attracted a special breed of researchers and Aarsal became a real life laboratory to test innovative approaches and draw lessons learned.

The book is a tale of this refreshing journey told by El Harid, the cactus, or the very spirit of the drylands. It is a gentle reminder that until recently development in the Arab states had the bitter taste of Bedouin coffee and that true development could only result from true participation and the adoption of a comprehensive approach accommodating the complex interactions between human populations and their environment. The book supports the challenging position of the UNDP Drylands Development Centre holding that with enlightened policy and adequate support drylands can be productive. Drylands will only be able to catch with the rest of the world if development policy is put where it belongs—at the heart of macro-economic, social, political, and environmental policy.

Contributed by Elie Kodsi, Regional Manager – Arab States, Drylands Development Centre.

Heart of Beirut: Reclaiming the Bourj
(Saqi Books: 2006) by Samir Khalaf

This timely and incisive new book recounts how Beirut’s traditional central square, the bourj, developed its pivotal public role over the centuries, and, more significantly, how it repeatedly absorbed local and foreign influences to reinvent itself as a vibrant, cosmopolitan, and fun place that also reflected collective norms and identities. The bourj has always had the capacity to both affirm and transcend narrow identities by creating an unfamiliar space in which people can explore new sensations and worldviews in the company of strangers. The most defining element of this public sphere, Khalaf says, is precisely “its ability to transform closed or cloistered spaces into more open ones and thereby to facilitate the voyaging, traversing, and crossing over.” For nearly a century, Beirut’s bourj epitomized Arab urban civility and cosmopolitanism due to its pluralistic and multicultural nature, readily evolving identity and public image, and as a source of popular culture. There is not much “crossing over” taking place in Arab cities these days, as communities increasingly retreat into their own cloistered spaces. Today, it is up to each of us to reclaim the bourj, to reclaim an Arab legacy of urban sensibility, coexistence, civility, and multicultural fun.

Samir Khalaf is a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Center for Behavioral Research.

Contributed by Rami G. Khouri, editor at large, The Daily Star, and Director of the Isaam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.

The Value of Humanity in Kant’s Moral Theory
(Oxford University Press: 2006) by Richard Dean

Richard Dean, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, examines one of the most important aspects of the moral philosophy of German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

The “humanity formulation” of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which demands that we must “treat humanity as an end in itself,” is one of the most influential principles in moral philosophy. Dean argues that it has been widely misunderstood. While the principle is often taken to be something like a demand to respect people and let them make their own choices, Dean points out that Kant’s principle also presents an ideal to be achieved, an ideal of moral character. Emphasizing this aspect of Kant’s principle helps to make sense of Kant’s texts and also renders the principle more applicable as an actual guide to action. Oxford University Press describes Richard Dean’s work as the “most sustained and systematic examination of the humanity formulation to date.”

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