Connections and Ruptures: America and the Middle East
The Third International Conference
The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR)
American University of Beirut
6-9 January 2010
The Middle East and America are connected in many ways, yet present in each of these connections are potential or actual ruptures. In some cases, the connections themselves are built upon ruptures; in others, ruptures can be read as the result of connections. Violent conflicts and economic upheavals, for example, have driven many people from the Middle East to the United States. This movement, in turn, has created the possibility for establishing different connections but also new types of rupture. Adding to the intricacies of these interactions, the very conflicts and upheavals that dispersed people have sometimes been impelled by the economic and political presence of the U.S. in the Middle East. Although the encounters between America and the Middle East have often been asymmetrical, there has always been a relational dynamic between the two. Today there is a kaleidoscope of narratives and theories that vie to define these encounters, but those that move beyond simplistic notions of polarization begin with the realization that neither America nor the Middle East can be fully understood apart from the other. CASAR's third international conference seeks to examine the ruptures and connections created by current and past encounters between America and the Middle East—whether economic, political, or cultural—as they have been narrated and as they have been experienced.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the ways that connections and ruptures have arisen with regard to the following subjects:
• Knowledge (the spread of “American-style” higher education in the Middle East; attempts to create sustainable “knowledge economies,” public diplomacy and soft power)
• American studies in the Middle East and Middle Eastern studies in the United States
• Belief (Barack Obama has described America as a nation of “Christians and Muslims, Jews and non-believers.” How do beliefs in America and the Middle East create ties and divides?)
• Capitalism (How American is “globalization” in the Middle East? U.S.-Middle East connections and the economic crisis. Urban, national, and academic entrepreneurialism and branding. Are there alternatives to capitalism emerging in the Middle East?)
• Race and gender (their role in American-Middle Eastern encounters)
• Literature, film, music, and other art forms (How do they reflect and negotiate encounters?)
• Popular culture (fashion, food, sport)
• Media (print, broadcast, and digital)
• Language (the spread of English in the Middle East; the more moderate growth of Arabic in the U.S.; the U.S. and the non-Arabic Middle East)
• The United States and Israel
• The United States and the Gulf Kingdoms
• Political Islam and America (What role has the American presence in the Middle East had in the development of Hamas, Hizbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic Republic of Iran? Is there a potential for dialogue?)
• Borders, walls, frontiers, gates
• Cities (points of connection or rupture?)
• The transformation of landscapes
• New beginnings (notions of temporal rupture, such as Condoleeza Rice’s “New Middle East” and Barack Obama’s “Change we need”)
• Social movements in the Middle East and America
• Narratives and theories of American-Middle Eastern encounters
We use the words “America” and “Middle East” as part of an evocative shorthand, rather than as an attempt to exclude non-USAmericans or the people of the Maghreb (who do not see their region as part of the Middle East). We welcome explorations of such connections and ruptures.
Potential participants should consult the CASAR website for submission guidelines and a downloadable submission form (http://staff.aub.edu.lb/~webcasar/index.html). Please send abstracts of proposed papers (300 words or less), along with the submission form and a short CV, via electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1, 2009. In addition to individual paper and pre-organized session proposals, we invite the submission of proposals that follow non-traditional formats such as workshops or performances (see website for details). CASAR will partially subsidize the travel of all presenters who do not reside in Lebanon. Because of this, it should be noted that full sessions may be less--rather than more--likely to be accepted. We will notify authors of accepted papers by July 1, 2009. Approximately one month after the conference, presenters will have the opportunity to submit their papers for inclusion in a proceedings volume that will be internally refereed.
The conference will bring together scholars from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and other regions in a place deeply affected by the connections and ruptures between America and the Middle East. The American University of Beirut, the City of Beirut, and Lebanon itself, have all been described as meeting places between the Middle East (or the “East”) and America (or the “West”), yet through the center of each runs a fault line created in part by that meeting.
In an attempt to engender new insights and perspectives, the conference will provide considerable time for free interaction. As in CASAR’s previous conferences, a working session will explore the dynamics affecting American studies programs in the region, their problems and prospects.
Further information about the conference, including submission guidelines, is available on the CASAR website (http://staff.aub.edu.lb/~webcasar/index.html).
The Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at American University of Beirut was launched in 2003 with a major gift from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud. It is an independent academic center that seeks to promote better understanding between the people of United States and those of the Middle East through teaching, research and outreach efforts.
Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR)
452 College Hall
American University Of Beirut
P.O. Box 11-0236
Riad El Solh,
Beirut 1107 2020 Lebanon
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