Saturday, March 04, 2006

Middle East Studies Conference in Madison

New York-based Egyptian commentator Mona Eltahawy will deliver the keynote address at the Middle East Studies Program’s “Change in the Middle East” conference on Sunday, March 26 at the Pyle Center. Eltahawy writes a weekly column for the influential Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, and has also contributed to the pages of American newspapers such as The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune, as well as television and radio programs such as ABC’s Nightline, BBC Newsnight, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

This conference marks the debut of what the Center intends to become an annual event, highlighting its role as both a regional networking hub for scholars working on the Middle East and an institution producing cutting-edge scholarship involving the region. In particular, this year’s conference will bring to the forefront UW-Madison’s unusual strength in science and technology fields while examining different aspects of the region in the context of issues related to globalization and modernity. It is conveniently scheduled the day following the International Conference on Islam, a two-day event co-sponsored by Global Studies and Dialogue International.

Following the keynote address, Ellen Amster of UW-Milwaukee, Nathan Godley of UW-Parkside, and Ma’ati Monjib of Moulay Ismail University in Meknes, Morocco will serve as panelists for a roundtable discussion entitled “North Africa: Social and Political Change in Historical Perspective.” All three are historians specializing in the history of Morocco and Algeria, including the history of medicine, Jewish history in the region, and contemporary political developments.

Thereafter will be a session on “Globalization and Modernity” in which a trio of scholars will present work on different topics falling under that broad heading. Jaafar Akiskas of Columbia College will examine distinctly Middle Eastern and North African trajectories to global modernity while critiquing the very concepts of both “globalization” and “modernity.” Joseph Lawrence of the College of the Holy Cross will examine the place of religion in an emerging global order, with special respect to whether it can be distinguished from its divisive elements. Finally, Satoshi Abe of the University of Arizona will examine the relationship of the individual to modernity in the works of two politically influential Iranian philosophers.

During the afternoon, Leila Harris and Samer Alatout, both of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, will lead a roundtable discussion of issues related to “Water Security and the Environment.” Alatout’s research interests primarily involve public and technocratic perceptions of environmental issues in the West Bank, while Harris focuses on the relationship between waterscape changes and gender in Turkey. Both are part of a campus research group on “Environmental Change, Security, and Well-Being,” out of which this session will primarily arise.

Finally, the program will conclude with a session entitled “Science and Technology: The Middle East in a Globalized World.” Hsain Ilahaine of Iowa State University will present his research on the social and economic effects of the spread of cell phones in Moroccan cities. Ece Algan of the University of Iowa will give a paper focused on globalization, the media, and popular culture in Turkey. Finally, the UW-Madison’s own Amy Charkowski will give a presentation on collaborative efforts between faculty from the Department of Plant Pathology and Middle Eastern scientists and businessmen to improve agricultural production in the region.

Although there is no registration fee for this conference, we ask that participants register by March 20 to aid in planning. To register, just send an e-mail to with the word “conference” in the subject line. Please include your name and institutional affiliation, if applicable. A complete program will soon be available at the Middle East Studies web site. This event is organized with the support of the International Institute and Dialogue International.


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