Research on the Arts Program
open call
07 Jul 2020
01 Sep 2020
06 Nov 2020


AFAC-ACSS Research on the Arts Program (RAP)
Cycle 2 (2019-2021)

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) are pleased to announce the second cycle of their joint Research on the Arts Program (RAP). The AFAC-ACSS research grants are a funding opportunity that aims to support research on all art practices across disciplinary boundaries and methodological approaches on key themes of concern to, and in, the Arab region.
(For the purposes of this program, the Arab Region is defined as the 22 countries that are officially members of the League of Arab States. This includes: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.)

This program is funded by AFAC and the ACSS ( funds to the ACSS provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation). Grants are available to individual researchers (up to USD 15,000), teams of researchers or collectives (up to USD 25,000), and institutions (up to USD 35,000).

Research on the Arts:

Research on the arts aims to answer a specific analytical question concerning artists, art practices and/or art production. Additionally, the processes and practices involved in connecting, producing, thinking, and communicating art and culture work, in specific contexts, may be documented and analyzed.

Within these broad issues, the autonomy of arts has been subject of controversy. On one hand, art for itself and the domain of art as free from material purposes outside of itself remains an ideal for some artists and publics alike. When analyzed, in this case, art is seen as an aesthetic space apart from societal context, constructed as occupying an independent space that resists explanation by social scientists. On the other hand, another group sees artists as producers of knowledge that mirrors, analyzes and critiques social and political issues and contexts.

This program supports research on the arts not only for what they reveal about aesthetics but for what they uncover about society. Social, economic and political contexts matter, and the question for researchers becomes how arts engage with the surrounding environment. Social scientists, humanists and art practitioners, working singly or collaboratively, are encouraged to produce knowledge on how social, economic and political processes shape the arts (practices and production) or vice-versa and explore the role and status of artists in the wider community. Forms and functions of works produced by artists and their relationship to the broader society are equally of interest.

Nowhere has the discussion on the role of arts in society been more vibrant than in the Arab countries particularly during and in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings that started in 2010 and are still continuing. At these historic moments, arts and creative expressions flourished, contributing to fostering a dynamic and lively civil society. Young people used music and graffiti as well as other artistic tools to express political dissent and also used their art to engage in critical discussions about politics, religion, culture, nationalism, and identity. As they did, they interrogated the relationship between the state and cultural production and imagined new ways for arts to transform society.

This program encourages academics and art practitioners to undertake research on the arts with the broad aim of empowering the production of different kinds of knowledge and encouraging dialogue between academia and practice. Art research can be academic or practice-led however the research output must include a written component, where theory, context, connections, reflection, and systematic investigation are shown and communicated. The program aims at canvassing a broad range of research proposals from across different countries and disciplines. We also encourage research that studies more than one country or region. We particularly invite interdisciplinary proposals that link the arts, humanities and social sciences. Quantitative as well as qualitative projects are eligible and mixed-methods approaches are encouraged.

Possible Topics

  • The role of official and unofficial institutional processes in giving rise or constraining the emergence of art.
  • The impact of the expansion of art markets, economic restructuring and constrained public funding on the arts.
  • The impact of neoliberal models of institutions and organizations on the arts.
  • The definition of artistic work, artistic identity and audiences.
  • The relationship between artists and the state; the role of official institutions in providing support or undermining artistic production.
  • The effect of technological innovations and computer technology on artistic dissemination and the production of new forms of artistic expressions.
  • Impact of laws, cultural policies, culture industry and practices on the form and content of art works.
  • Access of diverse publics to the arts.
  • Art spaces as aesthetic and/or political spaces.
  • The role of the arts in class and status reproduction; how current social inequalities reflect on the arts.
  • The role of arts at particular historical moments and what they reveal about society.
  • Meaning, measurement and impact of arts.
  • Arts as tools of inclusivity and exclusion.
  • Public perceptions of the arts.
  • Elitism vs. populism in the arts
  • The impact of exile, displacement and migration on art production.



Applicants must be citizens of an Arab Country (defined as a member of the league of Arab States) or nationals of an Arab Country (defined as long-term residents, even if they don’t hold citizenship as in the case of refugees or stateless residents) and must be based in the Arab region.

In the case of teams and collectives, the team leader must be a citizen/national of an Arab country and must be based in the Arab Region. However, teams, collectives and institutions may include Arabs in the diaspora or non-Arabs, but at least two members of the team/collective/institution must be citizens/nationals of an Arab country and must be based in the Arab region. For institutions, the institution must be based in the Arab region. (Branches of foreign international organizations are not eligible to apply).


This program is open to researchers from diverse backgrounds in arts, humanities and social sciences, as well as allied fields. Arts and humanities disciplines include art history, comparative literature, contemporary art, curatorial studies, fine arts, graphic design, architecture, languages and literature, folklore studies, media studies, musicology, performance arts, and visual arts. The core social science fields include disciplines such as anthropology, demography, economics, history, political science, psychology and sociology. Allied fields include education, gender studies, cultural studies and urban studies.

Interdisciplinary proposals are encouraged.

Individuals, Teams, Collectives and Institutions

The program is open to individual researchers, research teams, collectives of researchers and institutions (universities, research centers, arts centers, Research NGOs, etc.). For the purposes of this call:

  • Individual researchers could be academics or art practitioners Research teams include researchers from the same or different institutions, geographies and disciplines who have an interest in conducting multidisciplinary research on the topic of arts.
  • A collective is an independent group of researchers that has been working collaboratively on a specific theme for years and has a mission statement, a set of practices or a set of outputs that reflect its identity and purposes.
  • Institutions could be a university or a university department, a think-tank, a research NGO etc.

Research teams, collectives, and institutions must present their applications in teams of up to four members, including a principal investigator and co-investigators.

Educational Requirements


An applicant should be:

  • A holder of a Ph.D. degree in one of the disciplines or fields described above; or
  • An art practitioner with at least ten years of practical experience.

Teams, collectives and institutions

  • Teams and collectives may comprise up to four research team members.
  • Team structure may take one of two forms:
    A Ph.D. holder (principal investigator) in one of the disciplines or fields described above, and up to three team members including (at least) MA degree holders and/or art practitioners.
  • An art practitioner with at least ten years of experience after graduation (principal investigator) and up to three team members including (at least) MA degree holders and/or art practitioners.
  • ACSS grantees (principal and co-investigators) who have benefited previously from an ACSS grant are only eligible if their grants were closed before March 2017. AFAC grantees who have a current open grant are not eligible to apply.


Grants are for the duration of 18 months for individuals, teams and collectives (starting December 2019 and ending May 2021) and for up to 24 months for institutions (starting December 2019 and ending December 2021).


This program supports research projects at any stage of their development. Research proposals can be submitted for new or ongoing projects and may include:

  • Preliminary or “pilot” phases of a project
  • Longer-term projects combining fieldwork and analysis
  • Analysis and write-up of previously concluded data collection
  • Extensions of previous projects that seek to bring in new cases and examples
  • Comparative projects extended to include further locations


The proposed outputs of the project must be commensurate with the research plans and must include a substantial written component such as publications (web and/or print) and scholarly resources (e.g. visual products, websites, databases, curricula, bibliographies, maps, policy briefs). The output of preliminary research may be a fully developed research proposal, while projects including data analysis and write-ups may have substantial journal articles or full-length book manuscripts as outputs.

For the purposes of this program, films and documentaries are not considered as suitable project outputs.


1. Applicants are required to submit an online application form and a narrative proposal (including appendices) on AFAC’s website. If you’re already a registered user on AFAC’s website, please login with your username and password. Once you login, you will be directed to the applications page. In case you don’t have an existing account, please create one here.
Completed proposals can be uploaded to the application portal at any time before the application deadline on August 10, 2019.

2. In addition to submitting the application form on AFAC’s website, applicants must fill out a profile page on the ACSS Website.
Proposal materials can be submitted in Arabic, French or English. Proposals and attachments should be written in one of these languages; mixing different languages in the same proposal disqualifies the application. Only fully developed proposals will be examined by the Selection Committee. Final proposals should include all information and details necessary for the Selection Committee to understand the research ideas and plans. The final proposal should be between 10 - 15 typed, double-spaced pages in length (12-point font). This 15-page limit does not include the proposal appendices, including the project time-line and outputs, budget request, and curriculum vitae (see below).


I. The body of the proposal should include the following components:

Background and Rationale (Evaluation Criterion 1): This section should explain the significance of the research and what new knowledge will be generated as a result of the project. It should describe the context and key background information about the issues and research sites being explored. It should identify the research questions explored by the project, the significance of exploring them in the identified research sites, and the methodology that will be used to investigate these questions. It should state clearly the contribution of this project to existing knowledge.
Literature Review and Theoretical Framework (Evaluation Criterion 2): This section should include an evaluation of previous research on the subject and current gaps in the literature. The review of the literature should demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge of international as well as regional research on the subject. It should explain the contribution of the proposed research to the current state of scholarship on the region, and possible contribution to larger theoretical and conceptual debates as well as practice-based knowledge. Quotations and bibliographic references should be fully documented. The Committee does not welcome literature reviews that consist of an annotated bibliography (even if this is an accepted practice in some universities in the region). The Committee will look most favorably on literature reviews that bring together the key arguments and themes related to the stated research questions and situate the proposed research in its wider theoretical, conceptual, and empirical context.
Methodology (Evaluation Criterion 3): This section should explain the methodology and detailed steps for carrying out the research over the duration of the project. In addition to explaining the methodological approach and its rationale, it should specify the research activities that will be undertaken and how their results will be interpreted in relation to the key research questions. This includes specifying, wherever relevant, the archives, the secondary sources, the respondents, the sample, the selection of research sites, the proposed techniques of analysis and the different phases of the research, including transcription, writing, preparation of dissemination activities and preparation of manuscripts for publication. For field data collection, the researcher's prospects for obtaining necessary permits should be addressed. For secondary analysis, sources of information or data and their accessibility to the investigators should also be identified in the proposal. For team projects, this section should clarify the division of labor between co-investigators and other team members.
Bibliography: List of all works cited and consulted in the proposal.

II. In addition to the above, the proposal must address the following issues:

  • Significance of the expected results.
  • Plans for the write-up and dissemination of research results. For institutional projects, this section should clarify authorship of project outputs.
  • Provisions made for the protection of human subjects and the protection of confidentiality as well as an assessment of the impact of probable findings. These should be discussed in conformity with the ethical guidelines of each discipline. Accepted applicants will be expected to comply with the ACSS guidelines on research ethics and sign the relevant ethics forms.
  • Utilization of existing research facilities at the researcher’s institution or other institutions.

III. All submitted proposal must contain the following appendices and should be filled according to the provided forms:

Appendix 1: Project Timeline and Outputs Form
A timeline for the research project should be presented in a maximum of 2 pages (single-spaced), outlining the unfolding of the proposed research in reasonable detail and the outputs expected to be produced in each phase of the project. Individual, team and collective projects can be completed over the 18-month period of the grant, between December 15, 2019 and May 15, 2021. Institutional projects can be completed over a 24-month period, between December 15, 2019 and December 15, 2021. The final version of Appendix 1 will become part of the Grant Contract.

Appendix 2: Project Budget Request Form
Budgets may include: researcher(s) fees, fieldwork expenses (including accommodation away from the home location, travel and transportation related to the research, living expenses), honoraria for short-term consultants providing specific technical advice, and meetings/workshops costs related to the research, as well as purchase of research equipment, software, books, stationery and other supplies. The Selection Committee may consider the dedication of a portion of the grant, which is not more than the 30% of the total amount requested, to stipends or salary replacements for: a) Principal Investigator on an individual project; b) Principal Investigator and co-investigators on a team or collective project (30% for all salaries or stipends combined). Institutional projects can dedicate a portion of the grant, which is not more than 10% of the total amount requested, to specific running costs. The Selection Committee reserves the right to determine whether the proposed running costs items is relevant or not.
Budgets may not include: university/research center overhead, or travel expenses/ registration fees for conferences and workshops.
The budget should clearly indicate whether other sources of funding are already available or have been applied for and which items would be fully or partially covered by other sources. The Selection committee, AFAC and the ACSS staff will review each budget on a case-by-case basis. Please note that the total and detailed budget may not necessarily correspond to the one requested. Please review the Budget Request Form carefully for the full details of allowable expenses and instructions for filling out the form.


In addition to uploading the project narrative and appendices described above, applicants will need to provide the following information using the online application form (ONE application per project):

  • Project Details (title, 250 word abstract, duration and location(s) of research)
  • Project History (if relevant) including earlier phases of the project and future expectations as well as collaborators who may not be participating in this phase of the project Outputs must include publications (web and/or print) as one of the main outputs of the project and the additional outputs can include scholarly resources (e.g. visual outputs, websites, databases, curricula, bibliographies, maps, policy briefs) with the exception of films.
  • Project Budget Request Form. The budget should be reflective of the extent of the fieldwork and number of researchers, and can range between a maximum of USD 15,000 for individual researchers, USD 25,000 for collaborative research of teams and collectives, and USD 35,000 for institutional applications. The Selection Committee will only approve budget requests that are commensurate with the planned activities and expected outputs of the project. Estimated budgets should only be submitted using the form provided. Incomplete forms will not be considered.
  • Personal and professional details on each researcher (including name, country/ies of citizenship, contact email, current position/institution, brief bio (up to 150 words), education, language proficiency, employment history, relevant publications). The co-investigators are required to create their individual profiles on the ACSS website, and include their professional details mentioned above.
  • The name and contact information for one academic/art practitioner referee who can attest to the significance and feasibility of the proposed project. The researcher is required to submit a recommendation letter from this referee.

Application Material for Individual Projects (uploaded to the online form):

Application Material for Team (uploaded to the online form):

Application Material Collective Projects (uploaded to the online form):

  • Online Application Form
  • Profile page on the ACSS Platform
  • Proposal of 10- 15 pages. Please note that all submitted proposals will be checked on a plagiarism detection software.
  • Appendix 1: Project Timeline and Outputs Form (Download the form)
  • Appendix 2: Project Budget Request Form (Download the form)
  • Appendix 3: CVs including a list of publications and/or a portfolio for all team members highlighting their completed work.
  • Appendix 4: Team Members Acknowledgment Form (Download the form). All team and collective members are requested to sign this form (electronic signatures or scanned hard copy) to express their commitment to the project and their roles as identified in Appendix 1.
  • Appendix 5: Collective documents: mission and objectives, list of board members (or any other similar governing body) if any, portfolio of the collective highlighting completed work (description of collective including areas of work and interest)
  • Recommendation letter from the academic/art practitioner referee mentioned in the application form. The letter should be for the project as a whole, not for individual members.
  • Copy of passport or identification card for each investigator

Application Material for Institutional Projects (uploaded to the online form):

  • Online Application Form
  • Profile page on the ACSS Platform
  • Proposal of 10-15 pages. Please note that all submitted proposals will be checked on a plagiarism detection software.
  • Appendix 1: Project Timeline and Outputs Form (Download the form)
  • Appendix 2: Project Budget Request Form (Download the form)
  • Appendix 3: CVs including a list of publications or a portfolio for all institutional members working on the project highlighting their completed work
  • Appendix 4: An official letter submitted by the administration of the institution confirming that the applying researcher(s) are permitted to work on this project under the institution’s name and will be granted facilities and that the research project is on the institution’s research agenda and in its scope of interest.
  • Appendix 5: Institutional documents: mission and objectives, annual report, registration document, list of board members (or any other similar governing body), portfolio of the institution highlighting completed work (description of institution including areas of work and interest)
  • Recommendation letter from the referee mentioned in the application form
  • Copy of passport or identification card for each institutional member

To apply, you must fill out the application form on AFAC's website AND create a profile page on the ACSS Website.


A multi-disciplinary Selection Committee composed of distinguished Arab scholars and art practitioners with established research and publication records and experience in regional research and teaching will review and select proposals for funding. The selection procedures abide by the highest standards of academic and ethical judgment. Final decisions are based on the following evaluation criteria:

  1. Contribution to Knowledge (Research Question/Significance and Originality)
  2. Theoretical and Conceptual Coherence and Literature Review
  3. Methodology including research ethics,
  4. Outputs (Dissemination/Potential Impact/Relevance to the Arab region)
  5. Feasibility (CVs/Researcher’s Qualifications/Timeline/Budget)

Results will be communicated to applicants by October 2019. Successful applicants will receive provisional Award Letters confirming their selection and, if applicable, requests for clarification and elaboration from the Selection Committee.


Awarded individuals, teams of researchers, collectives or institutions are expected to abide by the following project requirements:

  1. Submit a revised proposal, timeline, and budget request by November 2019, responding to requests for clarification or elaboration put forward by the Selection Committee in its preliminary acceptance decision.
  2. Fill out the research ethics questionnaire.
  3. Sign a contract which specifies the budget, timeline, outputs, and obligations of the researcher(s).
  4. Attend a workshop during December 2019 to meet the Selection Committee members, present projects for feedback and receive orientation about AFAC and ACSS reporting, and financial and ethics procedures, and sign their grant contracts. (Costs of attendance at this event should not be budgeted for in the proposals. They will be covered directly by AFAC and ACSS.)
  5. Attend and present at the ACSS Fourth Research Forum to be held during Spring 2020. (Costs of attendance at this event should not be budgeted for in the proposals. They will be covered directly by AFAC and ACSS.)
  6. Produce project-related content for the ACSS and the AFAC website (such as project descriptions and profiles of researchers)
  7. Submit interim narrative and financial reports. Financial reports should include the original receipts for all project expenses.
  8. Submit the final narrative and financial reports within 30 days of the end of the grant term.
  9. Produce the outputs identified in the submitted proposal in accordance with the project timeline (Appendix 1).


  • May 15, 2019: Application material available online.
  • August 10, 2019: Final and complete research proposals are due by 11:59 pm (Beirut Time). Incomplete proposals will not be reviewed by the Selection Committee.
  • October 2019: Decisions will be communicated to applicants.
  • November 2019: Submission of final proposals revised according to the Selection Committee’s comments.
  • During the first two weeks of December 2019: Workshop in Beirut.
  • December 15, 2019: Projects may begin upon signature of the contract between selected grantees, ACSS and AFAC.
  • Spring 2020: Fourth ACSS Research Forum Conference. Date and location of the forum will be specified later
  • May 15, 2021: Projects for individual researchers, research teams and collectives must end.
  • December 15, 2021: Projects for institutions must end.

Prospective applicants may approach both AFAC and ACSS with questions about any aspect of the call. Please email both AFAC ([email protected]) AND the ACSS Grants and Fellowships Unit ([email protected]).

Please review the programs Frequently Asked Questions Document before applying.

To apply, please login with your username and password. Once you login you will be directed to the applications page. In case you don’t have an existing account, please create one here.

Prospective applicants may approach both AFAC and ACSS with questions about any aspect of the call. Please email both AFAC ([email protected]) AND the ACSS Grants and Fellowships Unit (gr[email protected]).

About the Arab Council for the Social Sciences
The Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) is a regional, independent, non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening social science research and knowledge production in the 22 countries of the Arab region as well as the diaspora. By supporting researchers and academic/research institutions, the ACSS aims to contribute to the creation, dissemination, validation and utilization of social science research, and to enhance the role of social science in Arab public life and inform public policy in the region. The four main principles guiding the ACSS are quality, inclusivity, flexibility, and independence. Its programs include grants, fellowships, conferences, research forums, training workshops and publications.

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