Call for Papers: The Relevance of Race in Middle Eastern Contexts
AAA Annual Mtg. November 20-24, 2002 (www.aaanet.org)
Abstracts Due: March 10
This session of the American Anthropological Association annual meeting will present current ethnography with basis in historical consideration of concepts of race in the Arab and Muslim Worlds including Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia. Apart from some scant attention to slave descendants as a social category, the salience of the category of race as a form of social classification and/or self-identification remains largely unexamined in Middle East anthropology. Wide denials of the existence of "racism" in Middle Eastern societies belie the impact of nineteenth and twentieth century racialist discourses from the biological and social sciences leading to the equation of biological race with culture and social status along with standards of beauty valuing lightness. While everyday evaluations of beauty often hinge on racialized preferences for lightness against darkness in appearance, popular music of the Arab World for example at the same time extols samara, or the dark beauty.
Approaching how Middle East ethnography has dealt with discourses of race and ethnicity, three main issues emerge. First, the problematic relationship between social science categories applied by scholars in the region and indigenous forms of social and cultural identification; second, defining the relationship between terms such as race and ethnicity and the multiplicity of referents attached to them such as language, religion, region, sect, etc., along with variables of number, power, and status (majority vs. minority); and third, how the colonial and national contexts within which such contested categories are situated affect both self-identification and research.
The impact of colonialism and European racialist systems provides the most fertile grounds for examining colonial categories and their interaction with local categories of stratification and nationalists struggles, influenced by religion and class structures and hierarchies. This session invites submissions examining such issues and more. Questions may include for example:
How have earlier twentieth-century Western racial typologies' attempts to position Middle Eastern peoples in racial schema (as “brown”, Hamitic, Semitic, African, etc.,) impacted local conceptions and identities?
How does race interact with other contested categories of identification, especially gender, sexuality, language, religion, ethnicity? What are the histories of local terminologies of difference and of mixture or miscegenation?
How have the experiences of migrants in Europe and the West or the Gulf countries with racism and racialization as immigrants impacted on self identification in homelands? What is the impact of the racialization of Islam worldwide on home communities? How have other migrant populations within the Middle East been racialized within certain national contexts?
How are accusations of racism mobilized within Middle Eastern societies, as either foreign imports with little or no relevance for example, identified with histories of slavery and oppression in the Americas and South Africa, or as condemnation of ethnic minority efforts to preserve cultural specificity? How may the equation of racism with Zionism and vice versa preclude recognition of other forms of oppression based on racialist discourses?
What perspectives from other regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean offer fruitful comparison?
What difficulties do social science researchers face in addressing these topics under regimes unwilling to recognize identity in such terms?
Both specific case studies, wider considerations, and primarily historical pieces are welcome. Topics may include for example popular culture, music, marriage practices, tourism, colonial histories, relations with Africa and Europe that address the above concepts.
Interested parties should email me (Elizabeth Smith email@example.com) with a 250 word max. abstract, title of paper, name, e-mail address, and affiliation by March 10, 2002.
A PhD student in Sociocultural Anthropology from New York University, I am currently finishing my fieldwork on the Nubia Museum of Aswan in Egypt. If you know of any published works on any of the above issues I would be interested in citations and/or contact info.
Please forward this CFP to any relevant listserves or interested individuals.
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