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Research projects

Concluded research projects

Knowledge production in postgraduate studies at Egyptian universities: conditions and modalities

Funded by the BMBF, managed through the OIB.

The project aims at exploring the ways in which knowledge, especially at the post-graduate  level, is produced and transmitted in Egyptian universities, with a  particular focus on social sciences and humanities (SSH). It  particularly intends to improve understanding of how the autonomy of  research agendas, academic freedom and creativity of academic work are  addressed, achieved or obstructed. The importance of the higher  education sector in the shaping of the transformation processes in Egypt  and in other Arab countries is crucial. Discussing the production of  knowledge within the Egyptian universities is a way of assessing the  possibilities of a plural and open society in the country.    

The politics of higher education and the everyday life of youth in Jordan

I study higher education in Jordan and its  policies as attempts both to create a national community and more  recently as a way of controlling the more problematic part of the  population, youth, which constitutes more than half of it. I have  concentrated on the differences between the scientific and the  humanistic curricula – and the different sets of values attached to both  – and how this reflects on differences among the students enrolled in  these curricula, differences among the more and the less privileged  faculties, and on the increasing importance of the private higher  education.

I examine the relations between youth and knowledge in a country that  is commonly regarded as being outstanding in the region for its  achievements in the field of education. Its youth have to face many  changes and challenges, the growing impact of the globalisation  processes, increasing fears for the unemployment and the perspectives  for the future, and more generally a serious shift in the norms that are  acceptable as related to the new social order that is being put into  being. In this context, usually depicted as potentially explosive and  surely unstable, issues like the ones of tradition and modernity,  religion and secularism, have a strong political tone, and are quite  relevant in ordinary people’s everyday lives. I thus focus my analysis  of the Jordanian society on these issues, with the analytical category  of youth as a major symbol of the changes that are occurring in this  country, and in the region at large.

Universities in the Arab Region: Governance and Autonomy in a Shifting Landscape of Higher Education

Funded by the Social Science Research Council, NY

In this project, started in 2010, I studied private universities in  Egypt, with a particular case study of the University of 6th October. I  am part of a research team, headed by Dr. Iman Farag. The team studied  all the models of universities in Egypt, from the public ones to the  privates, both local and foreigner. The project intends to look at the  changing landscape of universities in the Arab world in a comparative  perspective, and comprised research teams from Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon  and Tunisia. In 2012 there was a follow-up to account for the changes after the 2011 revolution.    

Patterns of migrants integration in the ‘Zona Tempio’ (Modena)

Funded by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena

During this project, I was affiliated at the Laboratory of Ethnology, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (,  and conducted research on the ways in which immigrants, particularly  those of Muslim faith, organise their lives in the highly multicultural  environment of Zona Tempio, a neighbourhood near the train station known  to be the place in which immigrants settle down at least in the early  stage of their stay in Modena. The main theoretical frame for this  research has been to investigate the notion of “integration” to check if  it’s a viable notion for studying immigrants patterns of socialisation  and to account for their economic, social and religious interactions.  Results of the project were presented and discussed publicly in a square  in Zona Tempio in September 2009.

Worries of citizenship

CEDEJ (Centre d’Etudes et de Documentation Economique, Juridique et Sociale), Cairo, Egypt

In this project I was among the CEDEJ researchers, headed by Dr. Iman  Farag, who looked at the worries of citizenship in contemporary Egypt.  Open interviews were made, almost all of them in Egyptian Arabic, with  Egyptian citizens, different in age, class, geographical origin,  religion, with the aim of assessing the main problems that Egyptians  were facing in the last years of economic and political turbulence,  which at the end led to the revolt in January 2011. Results of the  project are still to be published.

Dependence, Labour, Rights

Funded by the MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education and Research), managed by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

This Prin (research project of national interest) project saw the  cooperation between four different Italian universities (other than  Modena, Milan-Bicocca, Siena and Urbino), headed at the local level  by Prof. Fabio Viti (U Modena) and at the general level by Prof.  Piergiorgio Solinas (U Siena). The research was mainly focused on  African countries, though I did my part on Jordan, and especially on the  entrance into the labour market of the youth, and the ways in which  neo-liberal reforms, general absence of contracts and of rights  lead to an increased personal dependence, which in some cases could  reproduce forms of slavery.