History

New Geographies of Discourse – Conference, Dubai. 16-18 April 2-15

ME_NGD_160415[1]Re-Locating Middle East Studies: New Geographies of Discourse

The American University in Dubai (AUD) and the British Institute for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) present a transdisciplinary conference, which considers the need to reformulate study of West Asia and North Africa. Could new approaches for studying these regions be best initiated from a Dubai well known for its innovation? Following Edward Said, can new studies finally be initiated from within this region, rather than continuing to refer to a ‘Middle Eastern’ geographical relationship to a former colonial power?

Dr. Joseph Massad, Edward Said’s most renowned student, will share his recent research on ways not to study women and gender. Dr. Gary Bunt will present his fascinating research on the uses and presence of Muslim communities on the internet. The conference includes a day trip to Sharjah Art Foundation’s Sharjah Biennial, amongst other places (itinerary below).

Middle Eastern Studies Program at the American University in Dubai

The Middle Eastern Studies Program at AUD offers courses in the history, culture, art, religion and politics of the Middle East. Students who following graduation seek employment within the Middle East will gain a deeper understanding of the environment – historical, cultural, and political – which will serve them well, regardless of the profession they choose. Study Abroad students benefit from the structured study of the Middle East as a means of complementing the understanding gained from living in the region.

PROGRAMME

Time Thursday, 16th April
9:00-13.30 Registration and refreshments
13.30-14.00 Opening and Welcome Address – Professor Paul Starkey, Dr. Woodman Taylor, Dr. Nadia Wardeh
14.00-15.30 Panel Discussion 1

Social Change, Justice and Transnational Forces in West Asia

Chaired by Dr. Deniz Gökalp

(Mis)Representing the Sunni Uprising in Iraq: Culture Talk and the “Islamic State”

Professor Tim JACOBY, University of Manchester

(Re) Locating the Middle East’s Armature: Thinking City Networks

Dr Bruce STANLEY, Richmond University (The American International University in London)

Entangled Modernities in the Sultanate of Oman between Cosmopolitanism and Traditionalism

Dr Veronika DEFFNER, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

Migrant Negotiation of Gender and Sexual Stereotypes

Dr Jane BRISTOL-RHYS

Zayed University

15.30-16.00 Refreshments
16.00-17.30 Panel Discussion 2

Reframing Identity: Activating Cultural Memory Through Literature and Monuments

Chaired by Paul Starkey

Relocating the Caliphate

Professor Paul STARKEY, Vice-President, BRISMES

Unravelling Traces of a Bedouin Community in Miral Al-Tahawy’s Naqaraat al-thibaa (Gazelle Tracks)

Dr Hala SAMI, Cairo University

New Dynamics or Strong Historical Ties: the Relationship of Turkey and Iran

Dr Aptin KHANBAGHI, Aga Khan University

Martyrs and Victims: Memorial Architecture in Iran and the U.S.

Dr Sabrina DeTURK, Zayed University

18.00-19.00 Networking Reception – Address Hotel, Dubai Marina
19.00-19.30

19:30

First Plenary Session: Introductory Remarks

Keynote Address: How Not to Study Women and Gender in the Muslim World
Dr Joseph Massad, Columbia University

20.30- Conference Dinner
Time Friday, 17th April
08.30-09.00 Registration and refreshments
09.00-10.30 Panel Discussion 3

Negotiating Modernities and the Contemporary in Visual Culture

Chaired by Dr Nadia Radwan and Dr Woodman Taylor

Al-Funun Al-Jamila”?: Reframing Artistic Geographies in Egypt at the Turn of the 20th Century

Dr Nadia RADWAN, American University in Dubai

Out of the Ordinary: the Quotidian Body and Dazzling Patterns

Dr Atteqa ALI, College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University

Conceiving the Conceptual: Contemporary Art Practices in the United Arab Emirates

Dr Woodman TAYLOR, American University in Dubai

Framing a Discipline: Challenges of Art History in Regards to Contemporary Art Production from Iran

Dr Elahe HELBIG, University of Geneva in Switzerland

10.30-11.00 Refreshments
11.00-12.30 Panel Discussion 4

Transdisciplinary Studies of Women and Gender in West Asia and North Africa

Chaired by Dr Moulouk Berry and Dr Pamela Chrabieh

New’ Feminisms in Western Asia: the Case of Lebanon

Dr Pamela CHRABIEH, American University in Dubai

Arab Women’s Activism: Intersecting History and Poetry

Ms Nathalie HONEIN, University of Bristol

Pushing the Agenda: Cultivating Research Capacity in the Sultanate of Oman

Dr Sameera AHMED, Sohar University

Gender or Class? Theorizing Women’s Emancipation in Egypt

Ms Liina MUSTONEN, European University Institute

Religion Challenged by Feminism in the MENA region

Ms Malika HAMIDI, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales

12.30-14.00 Lunch – Second Floor Cafeteria – C Building
14.00-15.30 Panel Discussion 5

Youth Culture Activating New Geographies, Art Forms and Social Media

Chaired by Dr Woodman Taylor

Transformation of Turkish Youth in Changing Middle East: Between Gezi Park Movement and Conservatism

Dr Erhan AYAZ, Near East University

Critical, Dissident, Unofficial: Committed Artistic Practice in Syria

Ms Charlotte BANK, University of Geneva in Switzerland

Hekayat Khaleejiya: Short Filmmaking in the Gulf

Dr Firat ORUC, Georgetown University

#UAE: Do Emirati Youth Change the Cultural Game with Social Media?

Kristin KAMOY, American University in the Emirates

15.30-16.00 Refreshments
16.00-17.30 Panel Discussion 6

Fluctuating Geopolitics of West Asia

Chaired by Dr Magdy El-Shamma

Fluctuating Geopolitics of West Asia and North Africa: A Historical Understanding of the “New Middle East”

Dr Magdi EL-SHAMMA, American University in Dubai
Wither the Central State? Framing the Relationship between Power and Territory in post-2011 Libya

Mr Timothy POIRSON, University of St Andrews

Rejecting the State as a Foreign Construct: The Appeal of the Caliphate in the 21st Century

Dr Nassima NEGGAZ, National University of Singapore, currently based in Oxford

Re-approaching the Ruling Discourse: Using Nouri al-Maliki’s National Role Conceptions to Assess his Impact on Iraqi Foreign Policy

Ms Laura KANDLE, University of Edinburgh

17:30 – 18:00 Networking Reception – Outside Room C-227
18:00-19:00 Second Plenary Session

Keynote Address: Interpreting Cyber Islamic Environments

Gary R. BUNT, University of Wales Trinity St David

20.30- Dinner at the Majlis al-Areej in the al Fahidi neighborhood of Old Dubai
Time Saturday, 18th April
08.30-09.00 Registration and refreshments
09.00-10.30 Panel Discussion 7

New Dynamics in the Economies of West Asia

Chaired by Dr Basak Ozoral

Multidimensional Analysis of Malaysia’s Relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dr Mohd Fauzi Bin ABU-HUSSIN, Universiti Malaysia Sabah

Political Economy in Iraqi Kurdistan: Between Traditional Tribal Structures and Modern Capitalist Features

Mr Dimitri DESCHAMPS, Institut Français du Proche-Orient / French Institute for the Near East

An Analysis of Factors Responsible for Lowering the Oil Prices and its Impact on the Middle East with Special Reference to the Gulf

Dr Anand BAJPAI, Al Sharq Studies Institute, Sharjah, UAE

Mr. Prakash Balchandra, Government of Dubai

10.30-11.00 Refreshments
11.00-12.30 Panel Discussion 8

Re-Readings/Re-takes: Narratives in Literature and Media

Chaired by Prof Fadi Haddad and Dr Nadia Wardeh

“Oh sms enter the phone of my soulmate!”: Love, Mobile Phones and the Codification of Intimacy in Contemporary Yemen

Dr Luca NEVOLA, University of Milano-Biocca

Social and Cultural Factors in the Success of Turkish Drama Series Among Arab Audiences in Qatar

Dr Miriam BERG, Northwestern University in Qatar

Towards the “social media generation:” Rethinking Traditional Instructional Classroom Sources

Dr Nadia WARDEH, American University in Dubai; Prof. Fadi Haddad, American University in Dubai

Graphic Novels, Web Comics, and New Narrative Forms in the Middle East

Dr Micah ROBBINS, American University in Dubai

12.30 CONFERENCE CLOSES
13.00 Trip to the Barjeel Art Foundation and the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF Biennial 12 will be on view) in Sharjah

Re-Locating Middle East Studies: New Geographies of Discourse

Underpinning new approaches to Middle East Studies (MES) is a shared conviction that the label “Middle East Studies,” following Edward Said’s critique, is problematic. In academic domains, MES departments are expected to incorporate the vast scope of Western scholarship on the cultures, religions, political systems, economies, ethnicities, literatures, arts and languages of countries ranging from Morocco in North Africa to the borders of India in South Asia – without any unifying logic for doing so.

As part of the same problem, MES is traditionally divided along geographical lines, with positions in MES departments based on specific regional boundaries. While useful at the level of departmental organization, this places the generalist at a disadvantage while often obscuring the historical interactions between the areas under study. Perhaps the main problem is that many of the region’s geographical borders are recent and, to varying degrees, arbitrary. The histories of the inhabitants residing within these borders include countless interactions – borrowings, alliances, clashes – with other peoples and civilizations, whose histories have been severed from theirs.

A growing number of scholars within MES circles strive to subvert this static presentation of North Africa and West Asia by focusing on the flow of ideas, people, and products across regional boundaries. Exploring networks that expand well beyond national borders, these scholars demonstrate impressive sensitivity to the geographical visions of the peoples they study. They realize that concepts and languages traverse national borders thereby creating new and transnational communities. Similarly, new studies of Middle Eastern economies show their integration into a wide variety of global markets. A growing body of literature, given added impetus by the Arab Spring, studies the movement of religio-political ideas across the region. The nature of such inter-regional flows is often determined by modern social media (internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth). There now is a strong interest in analyzing the impact of these media on cultural, political, educational and artistic circles.

While many scholars explore the flow of ideas across regions, others continue to focus on geographically defined setttings, yet explore the creation of new spaces within these settings. Gaining momentum in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and adapting approaches from post-colonial scholarship, this kind of approach explores how the recent, often violent jostling of established structures and hierarchies has created new spaces, or interstices, within the religio-political, and cultural fabrics of many societies in North Africa and West Asia. One characteristic of these spaces is the emphasis placed within them on the language and symbols of tradition, orthodoxy and authenticity. Concomitantly these spaces provide room for fresh modes and syntheses of thought and expression.

The crossing of geographical and institutional boundaries, external and internal, provides the focus for many of the new approaches adopted within MES. A similar flexibility and daring is evident in the growing number of interdisciplinary studies in this field. For instance, the work of political analysts is now enriched by the applications of diverse methodologies and data drawn from the fields of anthropology, history, and economics; while the research of classical textual scholars reflect ideas borrowed from modern literary criticism; and experts on religion are increasingly situate their scholarship within an anthropological and/or comparative religions’ framework. In terms of creativity and results, this recognition of the importance of scholarly interdependence and co-operation signals a paradigm shift for studies of these regions.

With much of contemporary North Africa and West Asia in a state of flux, the theme of “Re-locating Middle East Studies” is clearly topical. Given that, to date, MES scholars have dedicated most time and attention to traditional cultural and political centres in the region – Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – hosting a conference on this subject in the United Arab Emirates, where comparatively little research has been carried out, suggests a pleasing symmetry: if Middle East Studies is changing, so too are the location of – and forums for – its discussion.

Main Panels

Panels for the conference will explore a wide array of disciplines and sub-themes (see below. This number is anticipated in the provisional timetable (see next page). The BRISMES/AUD 2015 joint conference welcomes papers on any aspect incorporating new approaches to Middle East Studies and will also consider papers on other related topics.

Panel 1

Social Change, Justice and Transnational Forces in West Asia

From the flows of capital to ideas, conflicts and refugees moving across borders, the impact of transnational forces on the states and societies in West Asia is greater than ever. This session invites papers dealing with transnational actors, forces and processes responsible for sweeping changes in the West Asia and their implications for social justice, economic prosperity and peace in the region.  

Chair: Dr. Deniz Gökalp

 

Panel 2
Reframing Identity: Activating Cultural Memory Through Literature and Monuments

Notions of identity in West Asia continue to cross over and defy borders established by nation-states. This session will focus on how recent literature and built monuments generate new reframing of identity for both their author/architects as well as their intended audiences.

Chair: Professor Paul Starkey

 

Panel 3

Negotiating Modernities and the Contemporary in Visual Culture

Contemporary visual culture and art practices from West Asia and North Africa often challenge notions of national boundaries, thereby generating new configurations of cultural geography. This session aims to reframe the evolution and stakes of visual culture by considering alternative modernities as well as contemporary art practices. By exploring art practices, museology and heritage conservation, the session intends to widen our understanding and analysis of contemporary cultural practices beyond binary discourses of “national” or “imported” modernities, while also investigating complexities of artistic interactions as a major factor of in the dynamic development of visual culture in this region.

Chairs: Dr. Nadia Radwan and Dr. Woodman Taylor

 

Panel 4
Transdisciplinary Studies of Women and Gender in West Asia and North Africa

Although women and aspects of gender in West Asian societies have been researched for some time, this panel will focus on new contextual studies that cross disciplines. This includes new approaches to contemporary constructions of gender as well as the intersection of gender with other categories of analysis, including identity, religion, politics, law, media and literature.

Chairs: Dr. Moulouk Berry and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

 

Panel 5

Youth Culture Activating New Geographies, Art Forms and Social Media

The new and innovative force challenging and changing both the cultural and political landscape in West Asia is youth culture. From calligraphity to hip-hop/rap music and social media, this session will consider how these artistic forms have been crafted by youth culture to activate new cultural geographies.

Chair: Dr. Woodman Taylor

 

Panel 6
Fluctuating Geopolitics of West Asia

In this past decade West Asia has been the site of extreme geopolitical challenges, from major external invasions, a global financial meltdown, to internal fissures and revolts. Increasingly it is apparent that the old ‘Middle East’ is being transformed into new geopolities. What new and innovative strategies are available for us to understand the rapid and varied pace of change in West Asia?

Chair: Dr. Magdy El-Shamma

 

Panel 7

New Dynamics in the Economies of West Asia

Over the last three decades, West Asia has seen the rise of Islamic capitalism, which often is considered key to undermining extremism in the region. This new position of Muslims in neo-liberal market economies will be the main focus of the panel. It will investigate how Muslims integrate themselves into global markets while maintaining their religious identity.

Chair: Dr. Basak Ozoral

 

Panel 8

Re-readings / Re-takes; Narratives in Literature and Media

Developments in information technology and social media have transformed forms and formats of both literature and traditional media. This panel will focus on new forms of literary narrative and media. This includes, but is not limited to, various genres such as the novel and short stories. In addition, the panel will address transformations in the realms of film, TV and web content, as new platforms for media, especially in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Chairs: Prof. Fadi Haddad and Dr. Nadia Wardeh

 

FIRST PLENARY SESSION

How Not to Study Women and Gender in the Muslim World
Dr Joseph Massad, Columbia University

The lecture will look at the methodology used by academics, non-governmental organizations, and the media in analyzing the lives of Muslim and Arab women, and proposes a way out of certain ossified approaches that have become entrenched and which persist as a “resilient tradition” of research and of academic, media, and NGO representations.

Joseph Massad is Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He is the author four books and numerous academic articles. His books include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question, Desiring Arabs which won the Lionnel Trilling Award, and Islam in Liberalism. Professor Massad is also a regular contributor of articles and op-eds to Al-Jazeera English website, the Al-Ahram Weekly based in Cairo, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar among others. His books and articles have been translated to many languages including Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Turkish, Persian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Dutch.

SECOND PLENARY SESSION
Interpreting Cyber Islamic Environments
Gary R. BUNT, University of Wales Trinity St David

This presentation explores how the immediacy and ‘searchability’ of the internet (in particular, the World Wide Web) are impacting on notions of Islamic religious authority online, and discusses how different internet hierarchies of authority have developed specifically in relation to social media. Traditional authorities have in some cases been challenged and usurped online by contenders, whose authority in some cases is based as much on digital proficiency and online networks as on traditional training and values. The algorithms of ‘Sheikh Google’ mediate amongst the information overload of ‘fatwas’ and religious opinions: when #Islam is ‘always on’, does this aid or impede clarity and understanding of religious values by Muslims, particularly in ‘western’ contexts? In what ways do social media impact upon notions of religious understanding? To discuss these issues, examples will be shown drawn from a range of perspectives and sources. While these trends may have a contemporary focus, they can also have a resonance within more traditional frameworks associated with Islamic history and religious development, within diverse contexts. This is reflected within the networks and micro-networks that have emerged in cyberspace, that inform their members and also observers as to historical and contemporary influences on the interpretation of Islam. The opinions and decisions, which are now generated and circulated with immediacy online, may have their basis in more traditional spheres of knowledge and religious engagement. In the constantly changing contexts of cyber Islamic environments, awareness of developments is a crucial adjunct to activities and agendas in the ‘analogue worlds’ of Islam and Muslims. This presentation discusses diverse approaches to this complex and constantly evolving multidisciplinary field, and explores the way forward for academic research.

Gary R. Bunt is Reader in Islamic Studies in the School of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. His primary research focus is on Islam and Muslims in cyberspace, in which he explores the intersection between Islamic religious beliefs and the internet. This has included studies of jihad, and writing about web 2.0, social networking, multimedia and blogging. His books include iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam, Islam in the Digital Age and Virtually Islamic. He directs the MA Islamic Studies (by distance learning), and supervises postgraduates in areas including social media and religion, and contemporary Islam. Further information: virtuallyislamic.com

 

Panel 1

Social Change, Justice and Transnational Forces in West Asia

From the flows of capital to ideas, conflicts and refugees moving across borders, the impact of transnational forces on the states and societies in West Asia is greater than ever. This session invites papers dealing with transnational actors, forces and processes responsible for sweeping changes in the West Asia and their implications for social justice, economic prosperity and peace in the region.  

Chair: Dr. Deniz Gökalp

 

(Mis)Representing the Sunni Uprising in Iraq: Culture Talk and the “Islamic State”

Professor Tim JACOBY
University of Manchester

Mahmood Mamdani argues that, within Western discourses, there exists a clear distinction between moral commentaries on bloodshed in defence of modernity and the apparent “senselessness” of violence that cannot be justified by progress. Instances of the latter, he continues, predominantly remain within “premodern” societies (such as the “communal” conflicts of Asian or “ethnic” wars of sub-Saharan African) and are principally presented in cultural terms. When these confront the apparently unimpeachable values of the West, these cultural challenges are seen as self-evidently “anti-modern” and theologically evil. For Mamdani, such “Culture Talk assumes that every culture has a tangible essence that defines it, and it then explains politics as a consequence of that essence” (2004: 17). The distinguishing marker between the premodern and the anti-modern is therefore not economics or politics, but culture – developed in the West, transferred by the former and resisted by the latter.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the West’s engagement with the Muslim world. Here, contemporary Culture Talk represents a refinement of previous, civilisational discourses which constructed monolithic, oppositional blocs. Finding this fabrication unworkable in a post 9-11 world in which Muslim allies are essential, the focus is now on clashes between the premodern (“good”) and the anti-modern (“bad”) Muslim worlds – the latter being not only a threat, but also theologically evil.

This paper uses Mamdani’s elucidation of Culture Talk as a vantage point from which to consider the ways in which the recent Sunni uprising and the rise of the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria has been (mis)represented. As such, this paper makes four key points: that Culture Talk has

  • Served to obscure the origins of the uprising and the West’s role therein

  • Portrayed the uprising as principally motivated by faith – that held by “bad” Muslims

  • Represented the uprising as theologically evil by focusing on one particular protagonist

  • Overlooked the fundamentally political objectives of the uprising

Finally, this paper concludes by arguing that these four (mis)representations are explained (and driven forward) by the Western policy imperatives of reinventing the outcome of its involvement in Iraq, recruiting the support of “good” Muslims, justifying a military response against “bad” Muslims and depicting resistance to this as culturally anti-modern.

After graduating in History and working as a school teacher in Turkey and Nigeria, Tim Jacoby won an Economic and Social Research Council scholarship for a MA in International Conflict Analysis at the University of Kent. He then completed his PhD (funded by a departmental scholarship) and an Economic and Social Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Politics at the University of York. He joined the Institute for Development Policy & Management at the University of Manchester in 2003 where he is now Professor. In 2009, he co-founded the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester.

Tim’s research initially focused on state development in Turkey, but a particular interest in issues of minority identity and politics there has led him to study broader topics related to political violence, civil society, Islam, nationalism and post-conflict reconstruction. He has published more than 25 articles in international journals and acted as guest editor for Disasters, International Studies Review, Middle East Critique, Progress in Development Studies and the Journal of Peasant Studies.

 

(Re) Locating the Middle East’s Armature: Thinking City Networks

Dr Bruce STANLEY
Richmond University (The American International University in London)

The armature around which a region is constantly reimagined is not its states or empires, but its city networks and the city system which emerges from their dynamics. This paper offers a new (old) metageography on the Middle East by putting cities first, offering a city-network-centric reading of the region. The ‘place’ that is the Middle East is co-constitutive with the inter-urban linkage processes whose structural characteristics help form its temporal and spatial boundaries (Massey 2005).

The paper’s temporal focus is on 21st century Middle East city-networks and on implications of their characteristics for the near future of the region. However, the analysis is grounded in the Braudelian longue durée, drawing comparative insight from past city-networks. Comparative purchase is also gained through examples culled from across geographic sub regions (North and East Africa, the Gulf, etc.) or functional city networks such as Islamic banking ties or airline flows.

The paper has two main sections, each evaluating a crucial issue reverberating across region. Section One examines how Middle East development within the world economy is shaped by the morphology, dynamics, trajectory and processes of the city networks which provide its armature. What are the region’s key economic city networks, and how do these create opportunities or risks into the 21st century?

Section Two focuses on the interface between city networks and conflict, violence and resistance. What do we do about ‘city killers’ and the ghost cities that exist throughout the region? What options for city-based peace-making and conflict resolution are there? What are the struggles for post-conflict development, and how can city-networks contribute?

The analysis is multiscalar, informed by the view that cities must be understood ‘as systems within systems of cities’ (Berry 1964) and that regional city systems are embedded with a global world city network (Taylor 2013).

Brian Berry. 1964. ‘Cities as systems within systems of cities’. Papers of the Regional Science Association, 13:147-63.
Doreen Massey. 2005. For Space. London: Sage Publications.
Peter Taylor. 2013. Extraordinary Cities. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Bruce Stanley teaches Middle East political economy, conflict resolution and global governance in London. In the past he has taught at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels at the University of Exeter, SOAS and Earlham College, as well as managing development projects in Palestine. His research focuses on cities in conflict resolution and globalization. He is currently finishing a book on Middle East city networks.  

 

Entangled Modernities in the Sultanate of Oman between Cosmopolitanism and Traditionalism

Dr Veronika DEFFNER
Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

In a first part, the paper offers from a trans-disciplinary perspective a differentiated, critical analysis of the social, economic and urban development that the Sultanate of Oman has accomplished in the course of oil modernisation over the last 40 years. The aim is to focus on the societal and political context behind the modest yet visionary transformation process, and to examine the Sultanate’s way of meeting the ideals and values of modernisation without denying its own traditional values, practices and lifestyles that define the Omani identity. For this, Oman is widely recognized as being moderate in its pursuit of development goals relative to most of the other GCC countries. However, the Sultanate is rather neglected in contemporary social studies, albeit it is facing rising questions and implications on national identity due to political, economic and societal shifts within the realms of the ongoing international migration dynamics to the Gulf.

In a second part, the focus will be on the capital area of Muscat as point of concentration for the diverse entangled modernities. The city stands for its various socio-cultural encounters due to the cohabitation and lived trans-locality of the heterogeneous diasporic communities. The longstanding cosmopolitan character of Muscat goes back to the historical significance as an important hub in the Indian Ocean sea trade; and still it is the countries’ nodal point for its main economic activities, hence, the city hosts the majority of the foreign labor force of the Sultanate. However, intensifying efforts to replace foreign employees with nationals in the process of ‘omanisation’ has caused tensions and shifting meanings of the global encounters. New challenges for the Urban emerge such as dealing with social heterogeneity and diversity, integration, the “right to the city”, etc.

Veronika Deffner is a social geographer, working at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. Before, she was a visiting assistant professor at the German University of Technology in Muscat and at RWTH Aachen University. Her research focus is on international migration to the GCC and its implications and challenges for cities and societies, such as: heterogeneity, integration, trans-locality, economic diversification and nationalisation strategies. Her main regional focus is on Oman and Qatar.

 

Migrant Negotiation of Gender and Sexual Stereotypes

Dr Jane BRISTOL-RHYS
Zayed University

In addition to the ethnic and socio-economic class divisions that mark the migrant communities in the UAE, migrants – both male and female – are also commonly perceived to be either sexless or hypersexual. Indian men often work in offices that are considered “women only” by Emiratis, and they and non-Pathan Pakistanis commonly work as drivers for families and so transport daughters to school and beyond. They are considered “safe” it appears because they have been de-masculinised; they are not considered to be “real” men. Female migrants, on the other hand, are often described in terms that highlight their sexuality and, indeed, the women of some ethnic groups are portrayed as being sexually predatory. Some women are labeled “husband stealers” while others are often assumed to be at least part-time prostitutes. Interlocutors, both migrants and Emiratis, point to markers such as clothing, demeanor, and “hang-outs” to confirm their stereotypic assumptions. In this paper I explore the sexual stereotypes and tropes that shape perceptions and language in Abu Dhabi. The research presented here combines several different migrant populations and spans a decade of interviews and observation.

Jane Bristol Rhys is an associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi where she has taught since 2001.  Jane holds a PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her publications include books and articles on Emirati history and society. 

 

Panel 2

Panel 2
Reframing Identity: Activating Cultural Memory Through Literature and Monuments

Notions of identity in West Asia continue to cross over and defy borders established by nation-states. This session will focus on how recent literature and built monuments generate new reframing of identity for both their author/architects as well as their intended audiences.

Chair: Professor Paul Starkey

Relocating the Caliphate

Professor Paul STARKEY
Vice-President, BRISMES

Youssef Rakha’s Kitāb al-¬Ṭughrā (The Book of the Sultan’s Seal), his first novel, was published to enthusiastic reviews less than a fortnight after mass protests centred on Cairo’s Tahrir Square forced the resignation of the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011—a move that prompted the transfer of power to SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) and everything that has followed since. Although the book can be read from a number of different angles, Rakha’s tale of a man’s ‘transformation during twenty-one days from a Europeanized intellectual to a semi-madman who believed he could perform magic deeds to resurrect the Islamic caliphate’ (The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, p. 349) has arguably been given a new urgency by the recent emergence of ISIS and the so-called ‘Islamic State’, to be followed by the subsequent proclamation of a world-world caliphate, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014. This paper will discuss Rakha’s novel, with particular attention to his views on the nature and function of the caliphate, as expressed not only in the novel itself but also in subsequent writing on the web and elsewhere. The paper will discuss the case for a restoration of the caliphate in a historical context, and compare and contrast Rakha’s intellectual and fictional view of the institution with the philosophy that apparently underlies the ‘real-life’ movement towards a restoration of the caliphate, as expressed in the words and actions of ISIS and related organisations. In so doing, the paper aims to bridge the gap between literary criticism and contemporary political analysis, offering a fresh reading of a work that has been described as ‘a game-changing novel for Egyptian literature’.

Paul Starkey is Vice-President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) and Emeritus Professor of Arabic in Durham University, UK. Until his retirement from full-time teaching in 2012, he was Head of the Arabic Department in Durham and Assistant Director of the UK Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW). His main research interests are in Arabic literature, on which he has published extensively.

 

Unravelling Traces of a Bedouin Community in Miral Al-Tahawy’s Naqaraat al-thibaa (Gazelle Tracks)

Dr Hala SAMI
Cairo University

In anthropology, the process of deterritorialisation indicates that a given culture is losing its grips on its space. However, by means of memory, it is possible to pave the way to a past “locale,” offering glimpses into its socio-cultural context. In “The Literary Representation of Memory,” Birgit Neumann significantly observes that “Fictions of memory may exploit the representation of space as a symbolic manifestation of individual or collective memories.” (2010: 340) The shift from the present to the past is accomplished by means of “images” or “remaining traces” (Annette Kuhn, 2007), which can take the form of photographs and paintings, conjuring up bygone days. They represent what French historian Pierre Nora calls “sites of memory.”

In Miral Al-Tahawy’s novel naqaraat al-thibaa (Gazelle Tracks) (2003), the Bedouin cultural space is overwhelmed by a more engulfing newly emerging Egyptian community. With the advent of the Nasserist regime in 1952, together with its agricultural reform and revolutionary correctionism, the Minazi’ Clan terrifyingly witnesses the loss of its property. The novel illustrates a Bedouin community that is on the verge of extinction at the hands of the more privileged class of Nasserist rule. The principal protagonist/narrator, Muhra, traces back her original identity and culture, as she recollects and deciphers her menaced Bedouin heritage by means of pictorial aide-mémoires.

The paper, thus, proposes to explore and elaborate on the poetics of the pictorial landmarks, which embody the vestiges of the Bedouin dwindling community. In the face of the tribe’s displacement, they are the “remaining traces,” and the sole manifestation of resistance to their cultural dispossession. The paper will, therefore, attempt to point out that reminiscence and, particularly nostalgia, reflects and highlights the receding geographical boundaries of the narrator’s Bedouin clan.

Hala G. Sami is Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Her current research interests include Middle Eastern Studies, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, Arabic Fiction and History. Her forthcoming publication is a chapter entitled “A Strategic Use of Culture: Egyptian Women’s Subversion and Resignification of Gender Norms” in Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World (Zed Books, 2015).

New Dynamics or Strong Historical Ties: the Relationship of Turkey and Iran

Dr Aptin KHANBAGHI
Aga Khan University

This research analyses the political and historical factors that underpin the economic ties between Turkey and Iran.

In the last decade, Turkey has achieved spectacular economic growth. This remarkable development has attracted considerable interest, but usually from the perspective of immediate economic-strategic interests. The long-term picture has rarely been analysed. Hence, while many commentators have stressed the significance of policies implemented by recent Turkish governments, and the country’s relations with the EU, other factors have gone unobserved or neglected. One of these factors is Turkey’s highly profitable interaction with Iran.

This under-emphasis of Iran is part of a broader trend by scholars to neglect countries which, like Iran, have remained isolated and not been effectively globalised: because they are not active players in globalisation, it is believed that they can be ignored.

Nonetheless “quarantined” countries play very significant roles in the changing fates of neighbouring states, and this is nowhere truer than in the case of Iran and Turkey.

The interaction of these two countries makes for a fascinating case-study which promises to act as corrective to models of economic expansion and development exclusively predicated on the notion of globalisation. This paper will thus not only shed light on the economic history of the two countries and the wider Middle East, but also contribute to broader methodological problems of relevance to multiple fields of study.

Aptin Khanbaghi is a senior researcher at Aga Khan University. He received his doctorate from Cambridge University in Iranian studies. He is the series editor for the Muslim Civilisations Abstracts and the author of The Fire, the Star and the Cross: Minority Religions in Medieval and Early Modern Iran (IB Tauris).

Martyrs and Victims: Memorial Architecture in Iran and the U.S.

Dr Sabrina DeTURK
Zayed University

In the United States and the Middle East commemoration and memorialization are important components of national identity. In both regions, this is shown largely through the creation of public memorial structures as well as in more intimate museum spaces highlighting the personal cost of wars and acts of terrorism. While memorials to the recent conflicts in the Middle East have yet to be built within the region, numerous memorials exist to commemorate an earlier conflict, the Iran-Iraq War. The emphasis of these memorials and of related museums is on martyrdom: the intentional sacrifice of men and women in the service of national goals. In the United States, there are also few memorials to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however the many memorials honoring those killed in the precipitating events of September 11, 2001 currently stand as America’s commemorative response to the “war on terror.” Although these memorials honor innocent victims of the terrorist attacks, rather than martyrs who willing gave up their lives for a cause, the visual strategies used in the most prominent 9/11 memorials are in many ways analogous to those used by martyrs’ memorials and museums in Iran. Both emphasize abstract geometry in public memorial spaces and focus on personal details in the reverential environment of the museum. Despite these similarities, however, the focus on martyrs in the Middle East and victims in the West does shape the narratives of these memorials and their museums in different ways. This paper examines the intersections and divergences between Islamic and American memorial design, focusing on the Holy War Memorial and Martyrs’ Museum in Tehran and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

Dr. Sabrina DeTurk is Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University in Dubai. Her research concerns art as a form of social commentary and contemporary visual culture of trauma and conflict. Current projects include a comparative study of memorial architecture and memorial museums in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Panel 3

Negotiating Modernities and the Contemporary in Visual Culture

Contemporary visual culture and art practices from West Asia and North Africa often challenge notions of national boundaries, thereby generating new configurations of cultural geography. This session aims to reframe the evolution and stakes of visual culture by considering alternative modernities as well as contemporary art practices. By exploring art practices, museology and heritage conservation, the session intends to widen our understanding and analysis of contemporary cultural practices beyond binary discourses of “national” or “imported” modernities, while also investigating complexities of artistic interactions as a major factor of in the dynamic development of visual culture in this region.

Chairs: Dr. Nadia Radwan and Dr. Woodman Taylor

Al-Funun Al-Jamila”?: Reframing Artistic Geographies in Egypt at the Turn of the 20th Century

Dr Nadia RADWAN
American University in Dubai

The study of visual culture in Egypt at the turn of the 20th century brings to the fore innovative forms of cultural practices, which came to challenge national boundaries and to generate new artistic geographies. The proposed paper aims at reframing the change that occurred within the field of visual arts following the establishment of cultural institutions, such as the School of Fine Arts founded in Cairo in 1908.

The endeavour of this institution implied the practice of Western techniques, such as easel oil painting, and genres, such as landscapes, and nudes. Thus, the knowledge of the “Fine Arts” (al-­funun al ­jamila), as defined by the West, would from then on become a prerequisite for practicing art in Egypt and, consequently, a necessity to engage with modernity.

This totally experimental project with an obvious underlying “civilizational” attempt involved profound change not only in the perception of art but also in the reception of the artworks and the relationship to these objects. This significant transformation nevertheless occurred within the context of multiple interactions and exchanges between Egypt, the Middle East and Europe.

These transnational exchanges intertwined with the emergence of nationalist movements and anticolonial sentiments led to the constant redefinition of the notion of “Fine Arts.” More importantly perhaps, the complexity and multiplicity of these cultural interactions profoundly transformed artistic approaches, consequently contributing to the construction of new visual identities.

Thus, by shedding light on the emergence of Egyptian modern art at the turn of the 20th century, this contribution intends to re-examine the historical roots of current visual practices in order to open the way to a deeper understanding of contemporary productions, while proposing an alternative to the deadlock of the unilateral concept of “imported” non-Western artistic modernities.

Nadia Radwan is a Swiss-Egyptian historian of art and architecture. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and is currently Assistant Professor of Art History at the American University in Dubai. Her research focuses on Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art and architecture and addresses the dynamics of non-Western artistic modernities and cultural transnational interactions. Radwan is the author of several articles about Egyptian modern art.

Out of the Ordinary: the Quotidian Body and Dazzling Patterns

Dr Atteqa ALI
College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University


In the work of contemporary artists from the Islamic world, the female body is present, yet embedded in repetitive patterns. These bodies do not do anything remarkable; instead, they are engaged in everyday moments. Born in Iran, Nazgol Ansarinia creates interpretations of famous Persian carpets in new designs that show everyday people engaging in quotidian activities. In complex and, quite literally, multilayered works of art, Ansarinia and other artists touch upon gender roles and political issues in Muslim societies.

There is the thought that Muslims are not allowed to represent the human figure. And while there is a religious restriction, its actual practice can be debated. Europeans of the 19th century may have fixed the notion that Muslim artisans were forced to develop geometric patterns because of the prohibition in their religion against figurative imagery. This was useful for designers associated with the Arts & Crafts movement in England because it suggested that to lose the figure meant that the design had more spiritual significance.

However, scholars argue against this thinking: on one level, there are depictions of humans to be found in art of Muslim empires; on the other hand, the use of patterns served political requirements. The graphic quality of the designs functioned as advertisements for rulers, for example.

Atteqa Ali is an art historian, writer, critic based in Dubai and New York. She has written for several publications, including an upcoming essay that examines the effects of arts institutions in the UAE on contemporary art in the MENASA (Ashgate, 2015). She is Assistant Professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies at Zayed University in Dubai.


Conceiving the Conceptual: Contemporary Art Practices in the United Arab Emirates

Dr Woodman TAYLOR
American University in Dubai

Does artistic practice necessarily reflect national, regional or even cultural identity? One of the most innovative contemporary art movements in West Asia challenges the notion that art practices need to visually reference any essentialist cultural trope. In my paper, I will follow the choreography of Hassan Sharif, acknowledged founder and mentor of what is now called the Conceptual Art Movement in the UAE, to see how he literally ‘side-steps’ identity issues in his multi-dimensional and often performative art practice.

After explicating underlying concepts and practices advocated by Sharif, the paper will consider how the second and even third generation of Emirati artists in this nascent movement have visually and performatively expressed a variety of generative concepts. This includes engaging environmental landscapes by Abdullah Al Saadi and Mohammed Ibrahim, performance addressing gender roles and the status of guest workers by Ebtisam Abdulaziz, to Mohammed Kazem’s innovative use of GPS coordinates to signify identity as a scientifically generated and ever moving location.

These samplings from an ongoing and dynamically developing art movement in the Emirates also raises questions as to how contemporary art movements in the ‘global South’ need to be considered on their own terms. Rather than relegating these important turns in artistic practice to a merely ‘local’ or regional phenomenon, we need to re-locate these movements and their artists as equal actors on the global art stage.

Performative practices of visual culture are the foci of Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship. With a PhD from the University of Chicago, he has taught at the University of Illinois as well as Jawaharlal Nehru University. After curating South Asian and Islamic art at Harvard and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches at the American University in Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual Communication.

Framing a Discipline: Challenges of Art History in Regards to Contemporary Art Production from Iran

Dr Elahe HELBIG

University of Geneva in Switzerland

This paper explores two series of artworks by the renowned Iranian artist Sadegh Tirafkan (1965-2013): ‘Human Tapestry’ (2009-2010) and ‘Hijla, Always in Our Thoughts’ (2011). Both have frequently been featured on the global stage. Blending photography with other artistic media, such as painting, digital art, video, and installation, Tirafkan composed a contemporary artistic language, which nevertheless remains deeply rooted in Iranian visual heritage and Islamic cultural tradition. Within a complex interwoven narrative, Tirafkan employs visual metaphors in order to approach various layers of contemporary, personal and socio-cultural identities. To this effect, in the series ‘Human Tapestry’ he refers to carpets, emblematic of the Persian culture, and in the series ‘Hijla, Always in Our Thoughts’ to a temporary shrine designed to commemorate the dead in the Shia’

tradition, which transformed and updated an ancient way of coping with grief.

Analysis of the artworks of Sadegh Tirafkan faces pressing challenges within the framework of art history as a discipline originally anchored in the West. Hence, the associated artistic expression tendencies, of which Sadegh Tirafkan was a pioneer, are profoundly shaped by local social-historical, cultural, ethical, and gender-related particularities, which jointly determine form and content of the

artworks. Nevertheless, their presentation, distribution and reception take place in a globalized context, thereby adding a multiplicity of meanings to the works of art. Taking artworks of Sadegh Tirafkan as a point of departure, this paper poses a set of theoretical questions and methodological issues: (i) in what way should these and similar artistic tendencies be considered as an emergent artistic continuity, rather than a reaction to the phenomenon of a global reception for a local

production; (ii) how the dynamics of cultural mobility reflectively act on artistic production outside the West; and (iii) how can art history be substantially rewritten or reshaped, following the insight that art history can no longer be read as one single story?

Elahe Helbig graduated from the University of Bonn in Media Studies with focus on the interrelations between art and media. She was Curator and associated researcher in various exhibition projects. Her current research is devoted to the early History of Iranian photography within the processes of modernization and cultural changes.

Panel 4
Transdisciplinary Studies of Women and Gender in West Asia and North Africa

Although women and aspects of gender in West Asian societies have been researched for some time, this panel will focus on new contextual studies that cross disciplines. This includes new approaches to contemporary constructions of gender as well as the intersection of gender with other categories of analysis, including identity, religion, politics, law, media and literature.

Chairs: Dr. Moulouk Berry and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

New’ Feminisms in Western Asia: the Case of Lebanon

Dr Pamela CHRABIEH
American University in Dubai

Though many commentators have warned that the Arab Spring is turning into a winter, the situation seems more complex when assessing feminist discourses and activisms in most Western Asian and North African countries. Can we talk about a regional feminist Spring versus Winter, an ongoing revolution for women’s rights, or diverse dynamics/processes with continuities and discontinuities related to gender issues and specifically to women?

My paper introduces to the current debate between scholars and activists over the issue and examines the particular case of what seems to be ‘new’ feminisms in Lebanon, using an interdisciplinary approach – including the religious, social-economic, political and historical.

Are we indeed witnessing the development of a new phenomenon/reality comprised of movements/organizations and individuals such as Kafa, Nasawiya, Abaad, Women in Front, Lebanese Women’s Right to Nationality and Full Citizenship, True Lebanese Feminist, Red Lips High Heels, and so many other online/ offline feminist discourses and initiatives? Or, is this reality linked to the past with its ‘unfinished business’ and a heritage of misconceptions, thinkable and unthinkable? Is ‘new’ linked to the causes, the worldviews, the tools, the channels or platforms? Does ‘new’ mean the possibility of democratization, women’s empowerment, gender equality, awakening, or the proliferation of ivory towers, secular-religious clashes, inexistence of dialogue and disempowerment? Or both?

Pamela Chrabieh has been Assistant-Professor in Middle Eastern Studies at AUD since August 2014. She holds a PhD in Sciences of Religions (University of Montreal). She taught undergraduate and graduate courses from 2004 till 2014 in Canada and Lebanon. Academic researcher since 2001, visual artist since 1995, activist for Peace and Women’s Rights since 1995.

Arab Women’s Activism: Intersecting History and Poetry

Ms Nathalie HONEIN
University of Bristol

This research paper offers a brief history of Arab women’s activism in the Arab world, and incorporates poetic inquiry to help make meaning of that history. The paper offers an overview of the challenges that Arab women faced in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, particularly in Lebanon and Egypt where women were most vocal and engaged in writing and activism. The author considers the place of Arab feminism and activism, their challenges, obstacles and roles in society, and inquires into portrayals, dichotomies and differences within women’s activism.

Throughout this inquiry, the author uses poetry to explore, question, and engage with the history. This process demonstrates how poetic inquiry can be constructed and used to interrupt knowledge taken for granted. This form of research enables writers to explore and embrace their research inquiry with depth of experience and expression; it allows them to make sense of their observations, raising questions that could help fill in inevitable cracks of misunderstandings when reading history. Poetry allows researchers to be transparent and reflexive, able to reach readers in a way that traditional social science research would not allow.

The research paper is part of a continual process of reformulation of the role and place of Arab feminist activism; it neither seeks nor claims definitive answers regarding women’s place in society today. Rather, by inquiring poetically into the history, the research contributes to a more rounded and grounded understanding of Arab women’s position in society.

Natalie Honein is a writer and part-time poet. She is expected to receive her Doctorate in Education in July 2015 from the University of Bristol, UK. Her research explores the voices of Arab women activists of the 19th century in light of women’s position in Arab society today.

Pushing the Agenda: Cultivating Research Capacity in the Sultanate of Oman

Dr Sameera AHMED
Sohar University

The Sultanate of Oman recently established The Research Council of Oman (TRC) to further its objective of encouraging and establishing research for academic and policy purposes. This paper uses the example of a research project funded by TRC, Veiling Practices in Oman, to highlight the findings of the research; outline the research experience in Oman, and; show how research capacity is being built for the future.

The ‘hijab debate’ presents a clear example of how facets of Middle Eastern studies resonate with global debates and how making connections between these will enrich our knowledge through comparative studies and enable cross fertilization of methodologies. As recent events continue to politicise women’s choices about veiling, debates often occur without reference to the attitudes and beliefs of the women who themselves veil. In an effort to redress that imbalance this paper presents findings from research undertaken in Oman, examining the meanings of veiling practices (including use of the hijab, niqab and burqa) as understood by Omani women. Preliminary findings will be reported from a survey-based study (N= 400) exploring attitudes towards veiling as seen within and across different regions (e.g. interior vs. coastal), localities (e.g. city, village, rural), age, marital status and educational background. To supplement this data, narratives from focus group discussions will be presented to give voice to Omani women’s opinions on this topic. The research points towards variations in attitude and reported practice amongst women, as well as changes in trends and expectations, with for example, the burqa not only varying by region but also being seen as something the younger generation may abandon altogether.

The paper will draw attention to Oman both in terms of the discourses on veiling as well as putting Omani research on the map.

Dr Sameera Ahmed has conducted research on socio-economic issues at the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham and Warwick. Her research interests include media representations and social media consumption. She is currently lecturing at Sohar University (Oman) and working on a TRC funded project on veiling in Oman.

Gender or Class? Theorizing Women’s Emancipation in Egypt

Ms Liina MUSTONEN
European University Institute

In this paper I question the feasibility of both the Islamic feminism approach and the agency-driven Western liberal feminism as tools for understanding women’s emancipation in the Egyptian society. I do this by looking at the debates and discourses that involved a gender dimension between the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and the President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow in 2013. It is clear that the campaign against the rule of Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohammed Morsi (June 2012 – July 2013), and the following military-backed-popular-revolution (as its advocates called it) had a gender dimension. However, despite the fierce discussion on women’s role in the post-2011-Revolution Egypt I argue that theorizing about women’s role either in terms of Islamic feminism (Badran 2001) or in light of Western agency-driven feminism as advocated by Moghissi (2011) does not help us to comprehend the whole picture. Although both theoretical approaches provide interesting insights into the lived realities of specific groups of women in Egypt, in light of my research material collected in Egypt between 2011 and 2013 I illustrate how narratives are used to construct binary categories of (Egyptian) women precisely along these theoretical lines. On the one hand we see how the traditional role that the Muslim Brotherhood supposedly advocated for women was frightening to some, while on the other hand these (real or imagined) gender roles were used to defame the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence, and more importantly, I am interested in showing how the discourses on women’s emancipation would profit from a class-based analysis.

Liina Mustonen is a PhD researcher at the department of political and social sciences at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Her PhD research discusses the interlinkage of cosmopolitanism and secularism in the Middle Eastern context with a particular focus on Egypt.


Religion Challenged by Feminism in the MENA region

Ms Malika HAMIDI

Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales

Women in several Muslim countries and in the Arab region (Morocco, Egypt, Kuwait…) are engaged in various forms of Islamic-based women’s rights advocacy. Mainly through the re-interpretation of the Islamic scriptures based on a gender-sensitive approach, women are redefining their relationship to Islam and the application of its principle tenants and values. Both in universities and in mosques, considerable work has been done to separate culture from religion in order to arrive at more Islamically-authentic roles for women in the public and private sphere. Indeed, what is sometimes referred to as “Islamic feminism” has become an important vehicle through which women are claiming a more equal and equitable place for themselves within the Arab societies.

Arab Muslim feminist activists and intellectuals have adopted a two-pronged strategy of “Textual and contextual activism” by developing a feminist Islamic hermeneutics allowing for an interpretative and contextualized approach to Islamic sources. Indeed, the use of the religious referential has invigorated the feminist movement in the MENA Region and helped to transform it into a key player within religious, political and intellectual spheres of the Arab societies for the last 2 decades.

As a case study, we’d like to present International Groups of Muslim feminists as examples of such initiatives. They serve as excellent case study of how different currents within the Islamic framework, from formal Islamic sciences to grassroots organizing, are merging to shape a new kind of feminist movement. Arab Muslim women are taking back the right to speak in their own name so that they may define the terms of their own emancipation in the public and private sphere bridging gaps between female religious and secular voices especially in the MENA region.

Malika HAMIDI is Doctor in Sociology (Summa Cum Laude) from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She has lectured internationally on topics ranging from European Islam and citizenship to Islamic feminism and European female Muslim identity. As a specialist on Islamic feminism, she has written numerous articles and contributed to many collective books (see a selected biography below).

Malika Hamidi is a well-known expert on topics related to the challenges of the Muslim presence in Europe for the European Institutions in Brussels/Strasbourg; her innovative insight alongside the fresh glance she brings on these challenges are essential to deal with such complex issues and she often takes part in high level meetings with presidents of EU institutions.

Malika Hamidi is active at an academic level, but she also does an important work with individuals and communities. She is part of a surge of women’s leadership toward the changing of Islam and therefore she plays a model role on issues related to women in Islam.

Malika Hamidi has recently been selected as one of the New Leaders of Tomorrow 2013 by the Crans Montana Forum. She had also been short listed in 2010 for the CEDAR European Muslim Women of Influence award and Women Inspiring Europe weekly 2012 Award organized by the European Institution for Gender Equality and supported by the European Commission.

Panel 5

Youth Culture Activating New Geographies, Art Forms and Social Media

The new and innovative force challenging and changing both the cultural and political landscape in West Asia is youth culture. From calligraphity to hip-hop/rap music and social media, this session will consider how these artistic forms have been crafted by youth culture to activate new cultural geographies.

Chair: Dr. Woodman Taylor

Transformation of Turkish Youth in Changing Middle East: Between Gezi Park Movement and Conservatism

Dr Erhan AYAZ
Near East University

The massive uprising of June 2013 in Turkey showed how the Turkish young population became polarized. The socio-cultural dissociation between the secular-liberals and traditionalist-conservatives has become the most crucial issue in Turkish political life. After 2007 general elections, Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) pressure on young generations have risen to very risky levels. Additionally, emergence of Arab Spring and some kind of social transformation movements had shaken all general truths of the Middle East and Turkey as well. The effects of 2008 economic crisis were probably one of the main reasons behind paralysis of the young generations. Also, increasing level of Islamic hegemony and authoritarian governing style are two other important reasons behind the Gezi Park movement. However, these demonstrations could be an opportunity to end AKP’s authoritarianism and chance for a re-start to form closer relations with the European Union. In this respect, the making sense of the EU-Turkey relations in the aftermath of the Gezi Park Movement and Arab Spring is so crucial for Turkey and its neighbors. Turkey’s role model effect to Middle Eastern countries relates with its Europeanization level in the aspect of democratization. This paper focuses on the AKP’s drift towards an oppressive Islamism with authoritarian character and its effects on Turkish young generation in the framework of the Gezi Park Movement and the Arab Spring. The discussion will conclude with how Gezi Park Movement has affected Turkey’s choices in the Middle East because the “Gezi Process” did not reach the end of its capacity to effect Turkish political life. In many cases, Gezi has become a common “spirit” for Turkish youths.

Erhan Ayaz is currently lecturer at Department of International Relations in the Near East University and he is vice director of Nicosia based think tank Near East Institute. Also, he is author for several newspapers in Turkey. His main research interests include; Turkey-EU Relations, EU-Middle East and EU-Mediterranean relations.

Critical, Dissident, Unofficial: Committed Artistic Practice in Syria

Ms Charlotte BANK
University of Geneva in Switzerland

The first decade of the 21st millennium brought substantial changes to the art scene in Syria. A new generation of artists had come of age who sought to distinguish themselves from the hitherto dominant artistic media such as painting and sculpture and started to experiment with contemporary media, especially video and to re-think the role of artists in Syrian society.

While this young generation clearly wished to distance themselves from the practice of their art school teachers, their understanding of an art practice closely linked to current concerns of society shows interesting parallels to former generations of committed artists in Syria and their negotiation of artistic freedom faced with the officially sanctioned understanding of art and the artist’s role in society.

The proposed paper will examine artistic production in Syria during the decade 2000 – 2010 and discuss its links with earlier practice of committed art in the country. It will further discuss the means through which young artists sought to articulate critique and use their practice as a catalyst for social change.

Charlotte Bank, art historian and independent curator, is preparing a PhD thesis at the University of Geneva on the emerging contemporary art scene in Syria in its art historical context and member of the SNF Sinergia research project “Other Modernities: Patrimony and Practices of Visual Expression Outside the West”.

Hekayat Khaleejiya: Short Filmmaking in the Gulf

Dr Firat ORUC
Georgetown University

Gulf filmmaking represents an important case study in contemporary emergent cinemas. One of the peculiar features of filmmaking in the Gulf is the choice of short film format among the new local directors. This paper examines the current film database of short films from Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates from formal, thematic and generic perspectives. It seeks to answer the following questions: What are Khaleeji Stories about? How does Gulf short filmmaking represent contemporary social and cultural transformations in the region? In what ways does the young generation use the short filmmaking medium as a venue for participating in and critiquing social change? How do second and third generation expatriates reflect on issues such as migration, labor, and justice?

My paper demonstrates that the new generation of filmmakers (composed of a multinational and hybrid community) is trying to develop a visual language to narrate the complex interrelations between globalization and cultural heritage as well as prospects and anxieties of change. As such, short filmmaking experiments in the Gulf provide us with a compelling manifestation of what I call post-desert modernism. Equally important, these films take us to the lived experience of ordinary individuals (a barber, a Bedouin woman, a government employee, and so on), and express the shifts in cultural and social dynamics through their gaze and unconscious.

Firat Oruc is Assistant Professor of World Literature at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He received his Ph.D. in Literature from Duke University in 2010. His teaching specialties include contemporary global literature, 20th century Anglophone writing, literatures of the Middle East, and world cinema. Before joining Georgetown-Qatar, he taught in the Comparative Literary Studies program at Northwestern University (2011-2013) and the departments of English and Comparative Literature at University of California, Los Angeles (2010-2011). His scholarly interests center on the intersections of cultural globalization and transnationalism, postcolonial studies, world literature theory, and translation studies. His recent work has appeared in English Language Notes, Criticism and Postcolonial Text. He is currently working on two book projects: (1) Translation, national humanism and culture planning in Turkey from 1930-1970; (2) Arab-Turkish literary relations from the Nahda to the present

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#UAE: Do Emirati Youth Change the Cultural Game with Social Media?

Kristin KAMOY

American University in the Emirates

Social media sites open a new avenue for young Emirati people to communicate in the public sphere without conservative parental approval. The sites provide youth in a traditionalist culture with tools to communicate without being seen as communicating. The use of social media may challenge ideas about gender segregation and modesty.

The UAE has the highest fixed broadband penetration in the Arab world with 14.8 percent, and holds the number one position in Facebook penetration with 54 percent. The average time spent online is 2.17 hours per day, and with the age group 15-24 years old being the most active.

The Emirates is distinct in that the Facebook English is the most visited social networking platform in the UAE, while the Arabic interface of Facebook is popular in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Google in English is the preferred search engine with 76 percent usage while Google in Arabic claims only 39 percent use. This confirms English as the social media language in the UAE.

As an analysis of college students shows, the young Emirati claim that they do not intend to change the tradition – but promote it in a modern way.

Yet, Facebook is the most popular social media site, while Linkedin is the second choice. On Facebook young Emiratis get “informed”, as they say, showing that they belong and present themselves. LinkedIn is utilized more for their professional aspirations. Twitter is the third site of choice, sharing emotions, first and foremost with their family and close friends – not with “outsiders”.

Social media sites also open a new avenue for young people to communicate without parental approval. The sites provide youth in a conservative culture with tools to communicate without being seen as communicating, which may challenge ideas about gender segregation and modesty.

Kristin Kamøy, a doctoral student in law at University of Toulon France, teaches media and communication at the American University in the Emirates. She has degrees in Social Anthropology (MSc) and Management (BSc) from the LSE. Kamoy was a staff reporter at a national daily in Oslo, Norway, for many years.

Panel 6
Fluctuating Geopolitics of West Asia

In this past decade West Asia has been the site of extreme geopolitical challenges, from major external invasions, a global financial meltdown, to internal fissures and revolts. Increasingly it is apparent that the old ‘Middle East’ is being transformed into new geopolities. What new and innovative strategies are available for us to understand the rapid and varied pace of change in West Asia?

Chair: Dr. Magdy El-Shamma

Fluctuating Geopolitics of West Asia and North Africa: A Historical Understanding of the “New Middle East”

Dr Magdi EL-SHAMMA
American University in Dubai

The tectonic shifts that have shaken the Middle East in the first decade and a half of the Twenty First Century have been long in the making. Attempts to understand and narrate the recent past without this historical perspective are prone to misunderstanding as the rapidly changing developments take seemingly unforeseen trajectories. The countries experiencing the upsurge of revolts since 2010/11 were set on this course three or four decades earlier – since the 1970s – as previously revolutionary governments receded from their populist programs and underwent deeper structural transformation that enhanced the coercive capacity of the state while curtailing the spending necessary to maintain the cooptation of its citizenry. This occurred earliest and most demonstrably in the case of Egypt since the rule of Sadat. It likewise occurred in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Algeria. Since the 1970s there have been protest, Islamist, and freedom rights movements that have simmered below the surface with occasional outbursts – the most momentous being the revolts of 2010-11. That the outcomes have been different is also accountable by a similarly long historical understanding of state institutionalization, capacity, adaption and reaction. Deep historical developments since the 1970s also help explain why other countries in the region have not experienced a similar outburst of revolt. The upsurge of oil wealth since that time period has altered the regional balance of power. It has also expanded the capacities of these states to deepen their authority, hegemony, and legitimacy. This occurs simultaneously in a time period when the increasing militarization of the region has deepened Super Power involvement and increased the capacities of these states to project their power beyond their borders. In sum, the fluctuating geopolitical fortunes of the new Middle East of the recent past are easier and more clearly understood when situated within a deeper historical understanding of the region and its players.

Dr Magdy El-Shamma has a Ph.D. from UCLA focusing on modern Middle East history. Major research interests revolve around issues of nationalism, revolutions, and popular (film) culture – especially during the mid-twentieth century period. He currently teaches classes on Middle East history, politics, political Islam, and conflicts in the Middle East.

Wither the Central State? Framing the Relationship between Power and Territory in post-2011 Libya

Mr Timothy POIRSON
University of St Andrews

Since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime after 42 years of authoritarian rule, the ensuing power vacuum in Libya has been filled by disputing factions with different conceptions of state structure. How can the central authority retain such a tight grip on such a large country? Should Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya be deconstructed into a federalist system? How does a state recover from many decades of “organised chaos”? (van Genugten, 2011). For Libyans, the issue of federalism, though hotly debated, remains highly confused. Proponents of federalism, mainly based in eastern and southern Libya, often call for returning to the 1951 constitution, which organised Libya into three self-governing regions (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan) while omitting that this constitution was discontinued in 1963. Opponents of federalism, based largely in western Libya, tend to view it as a byword for state disintegration (Author Interviews in Tunisia, December 2014). For Libyans, federalism seems to have become a polarising, largely symbolic term that confuses more than it clarifies. This paper firstly aims to frame the Libyan state structure debates, and resituate them in their historical narratives. Approaching these debates from a political geography perspective, this paper will then argue that a purely centralised state will likely not become fully legitimised. Indeed, with a territory of 1.8 million square kilometre – of which 1.1 million is desert land – for a total population smaller than that of New York City, the urban centres are very far from one another. Its geography makes governing all of Libya from the capital city of Tripoli very difficult, and likely unpopular particularly amongst those who need to travel at length to obtain government-issued paperwork. This paper will thus finish on an analysis of prospects for a decentralised state by arguing the case of local municipal councils as instruments of decentralisation in towns and villages.

Timothy M. Poirson is a PhD candidate at the University of Saint Andrews’ School of International Relations. His work examines state-building, local governance, and the structure of bureaucracies in North Africa and the Middle East, focusing specifically on the evolution of state centralisation and municipal governance in Libya from the Italian colonial period up through today.

Rejecting the State as a Foreign Construct: The Appeal of the Caliphate in the 21st Century

Dr Nassima NEGGAZ
National University of Singapore, currently based in Oxford

This paper examines the latest developments in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, and the construction of a so-called “caliphate” structure across the borders of Iraq and Syria; this new “caliphate” not only undermines the regional borders, but it also contests the legitimacy of the national state structures in the region. If the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is the only political group which has succeeded in establishing some form of political structure in the region, the appeal of the idea of a caliphate is not new. Since the downfall of the Ottoman caliphate in the early 20th century, the project of a caliphate revival has been maintained and used by various religious and political groups who saw it as an ideal to head towards, one that would bound the Muslim umma together. What these various groups have in common is an outright rejection of a structure seen as foreign and imposed on the region by European powers after World War I. Historically, and according to their narrative, the peoples in the region lived harmoniously under this overarching caliphal structure, which allowed for enough decentralization and was ruled by the laws of the Shari’a. These socio-political movements have often been vocal in condemning the politics of the states in which they were living (Egypt, Algeria, Syria, etc.), deconstructing their myths, and challenging the need for their very existence. In this process of deconstruction of the nation-state in the Middle East, these groups have also created their own myths about an imagined Caliphate, which they allegedly seek to emulate. The current political structure existing across Iraq and Syria, however, is the antithesis of the early Islamic Caliphate, or its later Abbasid and Ottoman emulations.

NASSIMA NEGGAZ is an Early Career Fellow in Islamic History at Oxford University. Before joining Oxford, she was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. She works on Sunni-Shi‘i relations, both historically and in the modern period. She completed her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She also holds two MA degrees, one in Political Science from Sciences Po Paris, and one in Arab Politics from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Washington.

Re-approaching the Ruling Discourse: Using Nouri al-Maliki’s National Role Conceptions to Assess his Impact on Iraqi Foreign Policy

Ms Laura KANDLE
University of Edinburgh

The foreign policy produced under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was shaped though his perception of Iraq’s role in the world. Despite Maliki’s centralization of power and highly contested foreign policy during his rule, our understanding of his foreign policy approach and what shaped it remains nebulous. What constituted Maliki’s conception of Iraq’s role in the international system, and how can it lead to an explanation of Iraq’s foreign policy under his leadership?

My research identifies the national role conceptions that Maliki developed, and provides a framework to unpack their formation and their impact on Iraq’s foreign policy. Identifying Maliki’s role conceptions requires tools developed in role theory, an approach that has been overwhelmingly neglected in Middle East foreign policy analysis. Role theory supplies a fresh, comprehensive approach to foreign policy analysis that dominant realist and constructivist literature does not provide.

I argue that Maliki developed a set of identifiable national role conceptions while in power. I then explain how these conceptions can be used to identify what drove his foreign policy decision-making process, as well as his attempt to centralize foreign policy decision-making power. Maliki’s national role conceptions are defined through analysing his political discourse, and are compared with his foreign policy decisions as prime minister. National role conceptions are defined through the criteria developed by Holsti (1970), and modified by Chafetz, Abramson and Grillot (1996). This modified typology was used to successfully connect foreign policy shifts in Turkey to the AKP party’s foreign policy approach (Aras and Gorener, 2010). By applying this typology to Maliki, a clearer picture emerges of how he viewed Iraq’s new role in the international system, and how his conceptions shaped Iraqi foreign policy.

Laura Kandle is a PhD researcher at The University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on comparative foreign policy analysis of Middle East states and decision-making with regard to foreign policy roles. She earned her BA from University of Texas at Austin and her MSc in International Relations of the Middle East at the University of Edinburgh.

Panel 7

New Dynamics in the Economies of West Asia

Over the last three decades, West Asia has seen the rise of Islamic capitalism, which often is considered key to undermining extremism in the region. This new position of Muslims in neo-liberal market economies will be the main focus of the panel. It will investigate how Muslims integrate themselves into global markets while maintaining their religious identity.

Chair: Dr. Basak Ozoral

Multidimensional Analysis of Malaysia’s Relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dr Mohd Fauzi Bin ABU-HUSSIN
Universiti Malaysia Sabah

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is regarded as one of Malaysia’s most important partners in the Middle East in addition to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Whereas Saudi Arabia is significant for its religious center and Egypt is well known for its al-Azhar University, the UAE is becoming more visible for its contribution towards the Malaysian economy. Despite the fact that the religious affiliation of these countries is always associated with their closed attitudes toward engagement, other factors could also contribute to the relationship. This study examines several determinant factors responsible for the paradigm shift in Malaysia’s engagement with the Sheikhdom. It endeavors to evaluate multidimensional roles played by various Malaysian actors in capturing their interest in the Emirates. This assessment also aims to identify viable means for mutual cooperation and benefit with the UAE. Although the current relationship between Malaysia and the UAE appears to be aimed at reaping economic benefits, religious values also constitute an important foundation for the relationship. The role of non-state actors has also contributed to Malaysia’s interest in gaining the UAE’s financial support. This paper recommends a future direction for engagement between Malaysia and the UAE.

Mohd Fauzi Abu-Hussin is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Civilisation, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Malaysia. He is a PhD holder from Durham University with specialisation in Islamic Political Economy. He earned his Master degree in Economics and Bachelor of Syariah Economics from University of Malaya. His main research interests include political economy of the Arab gulf and Middle East countries’ relation with South East Asian, Islamic Political Economy and Islamic Finance. He has contributed and presented numbers of articles, essays, chapters in book, conferences, and seminars at both local and international levels.

Political Economy in Iraqi Kurdistan: Between Traditional Tribal Structures and Modern Capitalist Features

Mr Dimitri DESCHAMPS
Institut
Français du Proche-Orient / French Institute for the Near East

While Iraqi Kurdistan has recently emerged internationally at the heart of the news media for its fight against the so-called “Islamic State”, it had already been well known by foreign businessmen for the last ten years. Indeed, since the fall of the Baath regime in 2003 and its consecutive recognition by the new Iraqi Constitution, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region enjoyed strong economic growth and offered numerous investment opportunities. Its regime evolves in a political-economic system at the crossroads between modern capitalism and traditional tribal structures, gradually set up in the 1970s and 1980s, institutionalized in the 1990s and eventually turned to a successful model of governance after the third Gulf War.

Kurdish political power is organized according to a patronage system, with the local government providing jobs and pensions to a substantial majority of the population. The networks that have been set up by the ruling parties have managed to overcome the tribal dynamics, without totally dismantling them; the traditional tribal loyalties have gradually shifted towards a new “clients-patrons” social framework.

As for foreign investors, whose purpose is purely mercantile but whose presence is a crucial asset for regional economic development, they have not been exempted from dealing with the remnants of the traditional tribal social order: although it is not de jure mandatory to be associated with a Kurdish partner to penetrate the local market, it has become de facto essential for them to use the services of a “facilitator”, i.e. a Kurd from a powerful family, to ensure a successful integration.

In this context, this paper aims to quickly review the mechanisms that have led to the subversion of the society’s traditional tribal morphology, mostly for political and financial gains, before addressing the current local political economy and its consequences on the wealth flow in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Dimitri Deschamps is a PhD candidate at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris) and at the French Institute for the Near East (Ifpo). He is based in Erbil and conducts research on Iraqi Kurdistan political economy and on Lebanese entrepreneurs operating in the Kurdish region.

An Analysis of Factors Responsible for Lowering the Oil Prices and its Impact on the Middle East with Special Reference to the Gulf

Dr Anand BAJPAI
Al Sharq Studies Institute, Sharjah, UAE

Mr. Prakash Balchandra

Government of Dubai

The steady decline in Oil prices is the major threat for the economy of Middle East. If we look back at oil prices in 2008, the prices were reached their peak. As to the best of my knowledge, the prices were $147 per barrel and maintained for subsequent years above $100 per barrel. By the last couple of months, the oil prices are coming down and sold a little more than$ 80 per barrel. The economy of Middle East is being impacted due to growth in US energy production, where gas and oil is extracted from Shale formations using hydraulic fracturing or fracking that has been one of the main drivers of lower oil prices. Now Middle East needs to revise and re-adjust their economic policies and Strategies in order to come out of this pressure and respond to these key changes. Now it is the need of the hour for Saudi Arabia (World’s Largest Oil Exporter) to come with some short term wins over the shale oil with long term strategy. This time, it is likely that prices will remain low for a prolonged period of time.

The paper will discuss about the factors impacting the developing economy of Middle East.

Formulated Research Questions:

Q.1 What are the key factors lowering the oil prices hence affecting the middle east economy?

Q.2 What leadership strategy should be adopted by Saudi Arabia in order to gain the competitive advantage?

Q.4 What should be the pricing parameters or strategy for oil to be set by Saudi Arabia in order to compete the shale oil in the market?

Q.5 How Gulf should target, position & segment their market in order to compete Shale oil?

Q.6 What would be the implications of declining oil prices on Gulf?

Anand Bajpai is a Lecturer at Al Sharq Studies Institute, Sharjah and Adjunct Faculty at Akamai University, USA & Internal Verifier at Edexcel, UK. He is a Member of Doctoral Research Council in an University & for an international conference in Geneva, Switzerland & all AIRCC conferences 2015. http://cosit2015.org/committee.html

Mr. Prakash Bhalchandra is Director and Employer’s Representative Assistant with the Government of Dubai. He has 24 years of experience working on construction projects including Infrastructure Works Formula 1 Racing Stadium, Bahrain, Dry Berth facility and Shiplifts in Dubai Maritime City as well as the Hospitality Project for Jumeirah Golf Estates

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Panel 8
Re-readings / Re-takes; Narratives in Literature and Media

Developments in information technology and social media have transformed forms and formats of both literature and traditional media. This panel will focus on new forms of literary narrative and media. This includes, but is not limited to, various genres such as the novel and short stories. In addition, the panel will address transformations in the realms of film, TV and web content, as new platforms for media, especially in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Chairs: Prof. Fadi Haddad and Dr. Nadia Wardeh

“Oh sms enter the phone of my soulmate!”: Love, Mobile Phones and the Codification of Intimacy in Contemporary Yemen

Dr Luca NEVOLA
University of Milano-Biocca

This paper investigates the articulation of two communication mediapoetry and the mobile phone – and the way they influence the codification of intimacy in contemporary Yemen. Scholars have devoted great attention to poetry as a cultural practice, to its political meanings, and to the way it constructs the worldviews of particular groups. In this paper I consider how emotion discourses and artworks, being part of a wider system of knowledge / power, contribute to craft anthropological subjects organising their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions. From this standpoint, the political is coterminous with the interpersonal.

Grounded on these theoretical assumptions, this paper explores the poetic genre of the risālah, a short text message transmitted through mobile phone. As M. McLuhan has made clear, the medium is the message and the message «is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs». Combining poetry and mobile phone, the risālah genre is potentially disruptive of power relations as codified by the language of honour and modesty which in Yemen, as in many other Middle Eastern contexts, is linked with control and display of passion. Setting up a new communicative channel, socially and ritually disembedded, mobile phones and the risālah restructure the social actor’s subjective relationship to objective space and time. How are these new possibilities of communication interpreted through the language of honour and modesty? How are they informed by “traditional” semantics of love and emerging Western imaginaries? How does the unfolding of intimate spaces influence marriage practices? This paper addresses these questions drawing on extensive field-work in the Old City of Ṣanʿāʾ and in the Yemeni countryside, in-depth interviews, and analysis of traditional Yemeni songs and modern popular poetry.

Caton Steven C. 1990. ““Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe”. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Foucault, Michel 1978. “The history of sexuality”. New York: Pantheon Books.

Luhmann, Niklas 1986. “Love as passion : the codification of intimacy”. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress;

Abu-Lughod, Lila 1990. “Introduction: emotion, discourse, and the politics of everyday life” in Abu-Lughod, Lila; Lutz, Catherine 1990. “Language and the politics of emotion”. Cambridge [England] and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Abu-Lughod, Lila 1986. “Modest Women, Subversive Poems: The Politics of Love in an Egyptian Bedouin Society” in Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), Vol. 13, No. 2 (1986):159-168.

McLuhan, Marshall [1964] 1994. “Understanding Media : The Extensions of Man”. Cambridge Mass. and London: The MIT Press, p. 8.

Luca Nevola is a PhD candidate in social and cultural anthropology at the University of Milano Bicocca. Since 2009 he has undertaken several periods of fieldwork research in northern Yemen, especially in the old city of San’a and in Beni Matar. His current doctoral research focuses on the ‘genealogical construction’ of anthropological subjectivities.

Social and Cultural Factors in the Success of Turkish Drama Series Among Arab Audiences in Qatar

Ms Miriam BERG
Northwestern University in Qatar

Over the last six years a new trend has arisen in the Middle East. Turkish television series dubbed into Arabic are now being watched by millions worldwide. My research explores the social and cultural factors contributing to the success of Turkish programs, as well as investigate why Arab audiences, specifically those in Qatar, choose to watch Turkish programs and what their viewing motivations are. The research primarily centers on University students (male and female) from various Arab backgrounds who are being educated at elite American Universities within Qatar’s Education City Campus. At the same time the study explore the significance of cultural proximity in relation to the success of Turkish media for Arab audiences in Qatar and attempts to identify if the perception of Turkey has changed in the eyes of Arab audiences in the recent years.

Background to the Research

Drama series have been a popular television format in Turkey for many decades. Today it seems they are not only popular in their country of origin, but have gained a more global appeal with around 70 different programs now being aired in 40 countries around the world, half of which are from the Arab League (Yanardagoglu and Karam, 2012, p. 561). Arab channels started broadcasting Turkish series as early as 2006, however viewership figures across the Arab World shifted when the Saudi-owned and Dubai based MBC satellite network started broadcasting Noor (Gumus) in 2008. According to figures released by the New York Times and MBC’s own marketing department, the show attracted in excess of 80 million viewers over the age of 15, of which 50 million were women (Yanardagoglu and Karam, 2012, p. 561). Even the most conservative of Gulf countries weren’t immune to this phenomenon. Today however, following on from this clear demand, almost all Arab channels were quick to follow suit; stations from the right across the Gulf region and up to North Africa are now broadcasting Turkish programs on a regular basis.

Conclusion

The main focus of my research centered around Media Audiences, exploring the social and cultural factors contributing to the success of Turkish Television dramas in the Middle East. The study didn’t exclusively focus on female Arab audiences, nor was it conducted under the assumption that Turkish television programs predominantly appealed to female viewers, as Turkish programs are primetime shows. However, the data gathered clearly demonstrates that it is a format that appeals to women in the Arab world due to the cultural and social limitations women face in this part of the world. The fact that these shows originate from Turkey, a nation that is similar in many aspects to the Arab culture but yet is somewhat more westernized, enables Arab women in particular to experience an alternative modernity of a Muslim society where females are leaders and have more control over their lives within a culturally similar context that they can identify with and relate to. For the majority of Arab males in this study however, Turkish dramas are seen as overly dramatic with too strong a focus on romance and personal relations. Male viewers expressed a much greater interest in American comedy and action genres.

Miriam Berg is a Lecturer in the journalism program at Northwestern University in Qatar. She holds a BA (Hons) in Communication and Audio Visual Production Studies, an MA in Communication Management and a M.Phil in Media Studies. She is also presently a PhD candidate in her final year at the University of Westminster where her research focuses on the growing influence of Turkish media in the Arab world. Prior to her time at Northwestern she held positions as Studio News Director Al Jazeera English in Doha and Bloomberg News in London.

Towards the “social media generation:” Rethinking Traditional Instructional Classroom Sources

Dr Nadia WARDEH
American University in Dubai

Prof. Fadi HADDAD

American University in Dubai

As the 21 first century brought with it fundamental transformation in the field of communication and information technology, both teens and youths today– including university students– are coming of age in an environment saturated with social and digital media. Therefore, this paper investigates selected new content and forms in the realms of social media, news, film, TV, music and web content as they emerged and developed in the wake of the contemporary phenomenon of the “Arab Spring.” The importance of this research lays on its attempt to rethink both, the methods adopted and the content used in the fields of humanities and social sciences, arguing that the established programs or fields of studies have not even started to recognize the power of the ongoing shift from the “traditional book, news, media, culture” towards a “networked society,” or the `’social media generation.” In an attempt to investigate this urgent issue, this paper will examine a selection of representative cases of study, such as Russia Today– a news channel that started using 3D interactive animation in a sort of storytelling narrative, Abla Fahita that started as a web show in 2010 but became popular in 2011, and Lebanese rock bands like Mashrou’ Laila. Finally, this paper will question the possibility of accepting particular new literary and media platforms as alternative or additional primary and secondary instructional and pedagogical sources to be used in the class room.

Dr. Nadia M. Wardeh, Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Ph.D. Islamic Studies: Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University.

Dr. Wardeh’s research interests include culture, religion, literature, Islamic & Qur’anic studies, post-colonial studies, modern & contemporary intellectual trends and Arabic language. She teaches various subjects and ia very passionate about teaching.  Her courses are among the most popular courses at AUD. In 2013, Professor Wardeh was awarded the President ‘s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Fadi Haddad holds an MFA in Film Directing and Editing from the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, Jordan.  He is the writer and director of the award-winning feature film When Monaliza Smiled (2012). Professor Haddad joined the Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication at the American University in Dubai in 2012 as an Assistant Professor of Digital Production and Storytelling.

Graphic Novels, Web Comics, and New Narrative Forms in the Middle East

Dr Micah ROBBINS
American University in Dubai

In his introduction to graphic novelist Joe Sacco’s comic-book series Palestine (1993-1995), Edward Said recalls how “liberated and subversive” he felt upon first encountering the comics medium, with its extravagant illustrations and fantastic, unconstrained narratives of conflict and adventure. He attributes his initial enthusiasm to adolescence, but he also admits how, after reading Sacco’s graphic narrative, he was “plunged directly back into the world of the first great intifada and, with even greater effect, back into the animated, enlivening world of the comics I had read so long ago.” The graphic novel’s subversive, liberating potential to tell the sorts of stories that are largely ignored by the popular media and literary fiction alike has not been lost on a new generation of storytellers who are working within the comics medium to re-read the contemporary sociopolitical realities of life in the Middle East. Indeed, the past decade has seen a remarkable proliferation of graphic narratives produced and distributed throughout the MENA region. This paper will examine how writer-illustrators such as Mazen Kerbaj (Lebenon), Magdy El-Shafee (Egypt), and Leila Abdul Razzaq (Palestine) have seized on the comic form’s radical heteroglossia to interrogate topics ranging from religion to politics to sexuality in increasingly novel and challenging ways. By manipulating spatio-temporal dynamics to present multiple, simultaneous contexts within a single narrative, these graphic storytellers practice a sophisticated narratological approach to what has always been a popular medium, thus transforming a traditionally juvenile and ephemeral mode of pop-art into mature texts that capture aspects of life too often relegated to the margins of representation. Working from within their own independent publishing collectives and often adapting their work for online platforms, these young artists are producing an emerging body of literature that is re-shaping how contemporary readers perceive the challenges and triumphs of twenty-first century life in the Middle East.

Micah Robbins is Assistant Professor of English at the American University in Dubai, where he teaches literature and composition. His research interests include contemporary fiction, radical satire, and alternative print culture. He is currently revising his book manuscript: Total Assault on the Culture! Cold War American Satire and the Fight for Free Speech Rights.?

Program for AUD/BRISMES Conference Banquet

Address Hotel, Dubai Marina

Thursday, April 16th

6 PM – Networking Reception

7 PM – Introductory Welcome

Dr. Woodman Taylor – Conference Academic Director, AUD

Professor Paul Starkey – Vice-President, BRISMES

Dr. Nadia Wardeh – Conference Program Director, AUD

7:15 – Provost’s Message

Dr. Jihad Nader, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, AUD

7:30 – Keynote Address

‘How Not to Study Women and Gender in the Muslim World’

Dr. Joseph Massad, Columbia University

8:30 – Dinner

Program for AUD/BRISMES Second Plenary Session

AUD – Room C-227 and Majlis al-Areej, al-Fahidi Neighborhood

Friday, April 17th

5:30 PM – Networking Reception – Outside Room C-227, AUD

6:00 – Introductory Welcome

Dr. Woodman Taylor – Conference Academic Director, AUD

Professor Paul Starkey – Vice-President, BRISMES

Dr. Nadia Wardeh – Conference Program Director, AUD

6:15- Keynote Address

‘Interpreting Cyber Islamic Environments’

Dr. Gary R. Bunt, University of Wales Trinity St. David

7:15 – Buses depart for Majlis al-Areej, al Fahidi Neighborhood, Old Dubai

8:30 – Dinner and Tour of al-Fahidi Historic Neighborhood

Guests of the Majlis al-Areej

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