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Inaugural MENA Conference Features 18 Leading Scholars

International gathering discusses major changes in Middle East and North Africa

EVANSTON, Ill.  – Northwestern University’s Middle East and North African Studies Program (MENA) hosts a major international conference this week on the Evanston campus, from Wednesday, Oct. 21 through Saturday, Oct. 24. 

The conference, titled “Theorizing Transformations in the Middle East and North Africa,” brings 18 leading scholars from fields of political science, anthropology, media studies, history, sociology, gender studies and religion to campus to discuss and debate some of the major changes in the region and their historical precedents. 

The conference also serves as an inaugural event for Northwestern’s MENA Program, which has emerged as a leading center focusing on the modern and contemporary Middle East and North Africa.  The MENA program, now in its third year of full operation, offers an undergraduate major and minor and a Ph.D. certificate, and features 25 faculty members from a range of disciplines and three of Northwestern’s schools.  

Sessions will feature discussions of the Middle East and North Africa’s ever-evolving political, cultural and social landscapes, with panels focusing on “Neoliberalism and Political Action,” “Media and Politics” and “Margins and the Marginalized,” among others.

The opening session takes place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 21, in Harris Hall 108.  A full day of panels will be Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Guild Lounge in Scott Hall.  The events move to the McCormick Tribune Forum on Friday, Oct. 23.

A methodologies workshop takes place Saturday, Oct. 24, in University Hall.

The four-day conference will be highlighted by four plenary speakers.  Asef Bayat, the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, will speak on  “Revolutions of Neoliberal Times” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 in the Guild Lounge at Scott Hall. Bayat is the author of the widely noted book "Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East.”

Marwan Kraidy, the Anthony Shadid Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, will discuss “Burning Man and Laughing Cow: Theorizing the Arab Uprisings Through the Body” at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23. Kraidy is the author of several books, including “Reality Television and Arab Politics.”

Judith Tucker, a widely noted professor of history at Georgetown University, will address “Pirates and Power: Transformations on the Middle East Margins” at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.

In the 4 p.m. closing session, introduced by Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer and Northwestern President Emeritus Henry Bienen, Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah of Morocco, an internationally renowned figure, will speak on  “Gone with the Wind? Four Years After the Arab Spring.”  

Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah of Morocco is a widely-published author who has sat on the MENA Advisory Committee for Human Rights Watch, worked with the Carter Center and served as a consulting professor at the Center for Democracy.

MENA is hosting the conference in partnership with the Moulay Hicham Foundation, a foundation for social science research on North Africa and the Middle East. 

All events are free and open to the public.  No registration is required. A reception celebrating the conference and the MENA program follows the closing session.

For full schedule and detail, go to the MENA website.

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