The 12th Mediterranean Research Meeting of the European University Institute—to be held in Florence, Italy, from April 6-9, 2011—will include a workshop on Social Policy and Religion in the Middle East: Questioning Existing Paradigms:

This workshop will engage with the critical role which religion, particularly the three Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), play in shaping social policy in the Middle East. Not only will it seek to foster deeper debate about the dynamics of social welfare in Middle Eastern contexts, it will also help to develop better understanding of how social welfare provision constitutes the comparative advantage which political movements of a religious leaning in the region have over the state. Thus, the workshop will explore how the study of religious welfare in the Middle East can offer a unique and innovative perspective on the political dynamics in that region. Moreover, it can shed light on new possibilities of public action in the region against poverty and human deprivation. This will help to develop theoretical debate on new classifications of the welfare regimes in the Middle East beyond for example, the narrow classification of the Rentier state in the Arab countries. To this end, the workshop comes at a time of increasing interest in social policy in this region, as can be particularly noted in the policies of international development organisations such as the World Bank and UN-ESCWA. The workshop will therefore, provide a space for critical academic debate and a potential research agenda on a poorly understood area of study.

The organizers have released a call for papers for the workshop:

Scholars from the Middle East and elsewhere engaged in research on social policy and religion in general or on social policy and religion in the Middle East, in particular, are encouraged to submit abstracts by July 15th on the meeting website.

We will be happy to consider papers on issues concerning:

the social welfare activities of faith-based organizations;
the impact of religion on the structuring of social policy
historical perspectives on the role of religion in social policy;
the relationship between religion and philanthropy;
gender and religious welfare;
comparative perspectives (cross-regional or cross-national)
case studies on specific Middle Eastern nations (MENA nations. Turkey, Israel and Cyprus) or on services or sectors within these nations;
overviews relating to the region as a whole or a number of nations within this region;
other areas subject to agreement with the directors

Find more information about the workshop here.