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Northwestern, Evanston Public Library Partner on Mideast Lectures

Talks to enhance community’s understanding of the region start Monday

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Nabeel Khoury, Northwestern University visiting associate professor in the Middle East and North African Studies program, will discuss “Diplomacy on the Front Lines in the Middle East” Monday in the first lecture in a series about the region presented by the University and Evanston Public Library.

The hourlong lecture will focus on American diplomats on the front lines and how they share in the difficult tasks and risks of protecting the national interest. The lecture will focus on using diplomacy as “soft power,” showcasing a part of the U.S. arsenal that, if used early and well, can help offset the need for the use of force.

Khoury served for a quarter of a century as a U.S. Foreign Service officer in posts all over the Middle East. His talk will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in the Evanston Public Library community meeting room in downtown Evanston.

Northwestern's Program in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) and Evanston Public Library will present the series of public lectures at the Evanston Public Library in 2015.

The effort seeks to offer the community a greater understanding of the region that stretches from Morocco to the Arab Gulf States and Iran, and from the Mediterranean Sea into the Sahara and beyond.

"Northwestern's MENA program is dedicated to expanding knowledge about and facilitating discussion of a complex and frequently misunderstood region of the world,” observed Brian Edwards, MENA’s director. “We are delighted to collaborate with the Evanston Public Library in our shared commitment to public engagement and outreach."

For the rest of the year, the two Evanston institutions will be holding monthly lectures at the library for the general public, addressing popular issues and promoting discussions about the complicated and controversial region.

“Evanston residents are interested in the world and in exploring and interpreting that world through a wide lens,” said Karen Danczak Lyons, director of Evanston Public Library. “The expertise and quality of Northwestern's MENA faculty and visiting faculty allow us to provide access to renowned academics exploring this region from a great variety of perspectives."

Khoury will share stories from his tours of duty -- ranging from relatively benign environments such as Casablanca, London and Washington, D.C., to war zones in Riyadh, Kuwait and Baghdad, and finally, to his posting as deputy chief of mission in Sana'a, Yemen.

A second lecture in the series is planned for Monday, March 2, and will feature Ussama Makdisi, a prominent professor of modern Middle East history visiting Northwestern from Rice University.

In May, the MENA lecture will be delivered by Ali Behdad, the John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature and chair of the English department at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a leading figure in the field of comparative literature and will be speaking at the library on the history of photography in Iran, the topic of his forthcoming book.

The MENA April speaker is yet to be announced.

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