Middle East studies in the News
Panel Discusses Recent Middle Eastern, African Revolutions [incl. Golbarg Bashi, Taoufik Ben-Amor, Samah Selim, Hamid Dabashi, Ousseina Alidou]
by Natalie Flynn
The University Center for Middle Eastern Studies hosted a panel discussion Tuesday evening, entitled "Jasmine Revolution and its Green Branches," to discuss the current upheaval spreading through the Middle East.
The panel, held in the Art History building on Douglass campus, featured professors from the University and Columbia University and explored the interconnectedness of the revolutions that have been developing in several Middle Eastern and African nations.
Although the event was named after the Green Revolution that took place in Iran, the panel focused on revolution as a global phenomenon, said Golbarg Bashi, a University professor of Middle Eastern studies.
"[These events] are interrelated because citizens across the world are related," Bashi said. "Issues today are poverty and labor relations, and people are better able to communicate with one another, so they are inspired by one another's uprisings. But what ignites the initial rites to protest are those domestic problems."
Bashi, who organized the panel, said he was inspired to create the event after revolutions across the world began to unfold.
"People are after dignity not because they are Arabs or Iranians but because they are human beings," Bashi said. "How wary should we be of Pan-Arabism? It's a global moment — we can learn something from it, and we can celebrate it."
Taoufik Ben-Amor, a Columbia Arab language and linguistics professor, dispelled several myths surrounding the revolutions taking place abroad, emphasizing that the uprising was not about Islam, nor should it be viewed in that way.
"The Tunisians raised flags, [they were] mixed in age, gender and their views, and none of the symbols used had anything to do with religion," said Ben-Amor, speaking about the myth of the Islamic threat.
Ben-Amor also wanted to dispel the myth of a clash of civilizations.
"The myth that Muslims are subservient by culture and not capable of a revolution is a very dangerous discourse," he said.
Samah Selim, a University assistant professor of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian language and literature, spoke about the culture of the people in Egypt and expressed her excitement to see what sort of work will be produced from the revolution.
"This revolution is about culture being born, all about the people, being alive and awake to their own creativity," Selim said.
Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, spoke about the ways in which every revolution is interconnected.
"We have to look for the underlying factors and forces that unite us all," Dabashi said. "We need to abandon colonial boundaries. The world is changing. With what imaginative geography are we going to face the world?"
Ousseina Alidou, University associate professor of Africana Studies, discussed Niger and how countries in Africa have a story that is tied to Middle Eastern countries.
Alidou expressed her views on the human cost of mining ore in the Congo to be comparable to the events that happened at Hiroshima.
Najia Tameez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she attended the event because she knew Dabashi, and she was really interested to hear him speak.
"I have family in the Middle East, and the topic of social reform is something I am really interested in," she said.
Farzad Ramin, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he saw the event on Facebook and was interested in what is happening in the Middle East.
"The most important thing I learned was from Dr. Dabashi, when he said democracy cannot be given by the barrel of a gun," Ramin said.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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