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Beirut's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR)

Events during the Spring 2017 semester:


Title: "Toward Cross-Cultural Studies 2.0"

Lecturer: Ken Seigneurie

Affiliation: Simon Fraser University
Date: Wednesday, 22 March 2017 

Place: conf. A, bldg. 37 (behind the old Lee observatory)
Time: 5:00-6:30 pm

The 19th century rise of academic literary studies was coterminous with the habit of linking literature to the nation. Two centuries later, globalization exposed the extent of the cross-cultural borrowing that human societies had always done, which brought into question the autonomy of national literature. While few outside academia care whether literature is construed according to a national paradigm, to consider literature as a cross-cultural practice is to unhinge it from its link to national identity, which then floats unanchored. And when one considers that national identity itself had been something of a stop-gap solution to the problem of human identity, the stakes in world literature become clear. 

This paper will lay out two transnational responses to the problem of human identity today: the movement toward revalidating national culture, and the movement toward embracing identities of choice. The introduction will seek to demonstrate that neither option responds adequately to the problem of human identity in the 21st century. Instead, this paper will call for a shift in literary studies away from reified national literature and rudderless world literature alike, and toward the search for transcultural literary value that may eventually be invoked to subtend a vision of human identity for the 21st century.  

Ken Seigneurie is Professor and former Director (2009-15) of World Literature at Simon Fraser University. He researches modern Arabic, French and British fiction, literary theory and the history of humanist thought. He has written five articles since 2014 on Arabic literature and humanism in a world literature paradigm and is currently busy as General Editor of the five-volume Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature. His translation (from Arabic) of 'Awdat al-almānī ila rushdih by Rashid al-Daif appeared in: What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin (University of Texas Press, 2015) His monograph, Standing by the Ruins: Elegiac Humanism in Wartime and Postwar Lebanon, was named an “Outstanding Academic Title" of 2012 by Choice magazine (Fordham University Press). 

Title: "Legacies of the US-Tripoli War"

Lecturer: Eric Covey

Affiliation: Miami University
Date: Monday, 27 March 2017

Place: conf. A, bldg. 37 (behind the old Lee observatory)
Time: 5:00-6:30 pm

The origins of US power in the Middle East are often located in the post-World War II moment. Yet in 1801, the United States abandoned diplomacy and went to war in North Africa to secure free access to Mediterranean shipping for American commercial vessels. In 1805, shortly before the conclusion of its war with Tripoli, the United States recruited a mercenary army in Egypt that it used to attack and subsequently occupy the Tripolitan city of Derna for almost two months. The events of the US-Tripoli war, ranging from naval operations to the nation's first overseas ground campaign, have been rendered in cultural and historical memory as an Orientalist trope against which to contrast American military exceptionalism. This talk interrogates that narrative, which has produced disastrous consequences for peoples in Asia and Africa, and seeks to illuminate the ways in which mercenary force and victims of violence are frequently overlooked in popular representations of war that circulate in the United States. 

Eric Covey received his PhD in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies in the Department of Global & Intercultural Studies at Miami University in Ohio. His research and teaching interests include Americans in Africa and the Middle East, the landscape of food and foodways in the Americas, and care for the elderly and infirm. In 2007, he collected local food histories for “The Southern BBQ Trail," a Southern Foodways Alliance documentary project, and was part of the collective responsible for Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket, which was published by the University of Texas Press in 2009. His current manuscript project examines the historic contours of US mercenary force in the Ottoman world and will be published by I.B.Tauris as Americans at War in the Ottoman Empire: US Mercenary Force in the Middle East. In other publications, including a forthcoming article in American Quarterly, he has explored the role of mercenary force in Cold War memory, international law, and Sino-American relations. He has also begun work on two new projects. The first considers a range of legal and cultural responses to mercenary force produced by the Third World project, broadly construed, in the period 1960 to 1989. The second examines care for the elderly and infirm in institutional settings across the long nineteenth century.

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