Middle East and North Africa Working Group (MENA)
With the recent announcement of several new lines focusing on Middle East studies, it is an exciting time for those with academic interests in this dynamic region. The Buffett Center is pleased to announce the formation of a new interdisciplinary working group dedicated to the study of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Convened by Brian Edwards (English and Comparative Literary Studies) and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Political Science), the new MENA Working Group will bring together faculty from a dozen departments with interests and expertise in this region.
The group is organized around the geographical entity that stretches from Morocco in the West to Iran and Central Asia in the East, the Mediterranean in the North, and into Saharan Africa and Sudan in the South. Among the inaugural members are those with interests as well in the sizeable Arab and Muslim diaspora populations in Europe and the United States. Comprised of scholars who study this region from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, the working group draws both on Northwestern’s recognized strengths in diaspora studies and Islam in trans-Saharan Africa and its emergent ones in media studies, North African studies, and studies of Central Asia.
As much as it organizes itself around a region, however, members of the group are also interested in reconsidering the Area Studies model itself. One of the goals of the group is to understand the intellectual coherence of bringing together such a large geographic area in a period when Area Studies, traditionally understood, has been critiqued as implicated in the politics of the cold war. One of the topics aimed to be explored is how Area Studies in the 21st century might be inflected by the cultural and geopolitical conditions of globalization, including media, migration, and digital cultures.
As with other Buffett Center working groups, the primary activity of MENA is meetings of group members, two or three times per quarter. The MENA group convenes in a variety of formats, ranging from discussion of new scholarship in the field, presentations of work in progress by group members, and the planning and hosting of public speakers and symposia on MENA-related topics.
Through such meetings, the working group hopes to become a productive voice in the development of MENA-related studies across disciplines at Northwestern.
The activities of the group complement and expand upon the Buffett Center's impressive record in Middle East related programming, from the Keyman Family Program in Modern Turkish Studies, the lecture series on Islam in the World, and Buffett Center-sponsored or co-sponsored conferences such as the symposium on Middle Eastern Media, co-organized by Brian Edwards and Dilip Gaonkar this past May, which drew eight major speakers from the U.S. and the Middle East to campus. (That event was co-sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication.)
With a growing body of scholars whose research and teaching is devoted primarily to the Middle East and North Africa, and an increasing amount of programming, speakers and courses dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa, Northwestern is emerging as a leader in this field.
Faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and affiliates who are interested in joining the group, as well as advanced graduate students interested in participating in individual activities aligned with their individual interests, should contact Brian Edwards (email@example.com ) and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
PLEASE NOTE: MEETINGS ARE BY INVITATION ONLY