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Full Abstracts 

Please find below a list of conference participants in alphabetical order following the family name. Some names appear more than once indicating participation in more than one session. Clicking on a name will take you to the abstract or brief description of the session.

  1. Altan-Olcay, Özlem; Session 14     
  2. Al-Ghafari, Iman; Session 3
  3. Alhomoudi, Fahad A.; Session 2
  4. Al-Khanji, Rajai Rashead; Session 6                                                           
  5. Ameli, Saied Reza; Session 16
  6. Anderson, Betty; Session 14
  7. Asmussen, Jan; Session 16
  8. Barakat, Zeina Mounir; Session 9
  9. Bartholomew, Amy; Session 10
  10. Browers, Michaelle; Session 2
  11. Chakaki, Omar; Session 11
  12. Cobban, Helena; Session 18
  13. Dajani Daoudi, Mohammed S.; Session 2
  14. Dajani Daoudi, Mohammed S.; Session 20
  15. Dajani, Munther; Session 2
  16. Dimerdji, Ali Hocine; Session 12
  17. Edwards, Brian T.; Session 1
  18. El Alaoui, Khadija Fritsch; Session 15
  19. Elayyan, Hani Ismaeal; Session 3
  20. Elayyan, Hani Ismaeal; Session 20
  21. El-Shorbagy, Manar; Session 16
  22. Fakhry, Pascale; Session 17
  23. Falah, Ghazi-Walid; Session 13
  24. Feghali, Zalfa; Session 7
  25. Feldman, Keith P.; Session 8
  26. Finkelstein, Norman G.; Session 10
  27. Ghahghaei, Azadeh; Session 19
  28. Gonzales, Mark; Session 11
  29. Guzik, Keith; Session 8
  30. Hall, Jonathan; Session 3
  31. Hamill, Kathleen; Session 5
  32. Hanafi, Sari; Session 19
  33. Harb, Sirene; Session 20
  34. Hazbun, Waleed; Session 16
  35. Hibbard, Allen; Session 6
  36. Hillis, John; Session 20
  37. Jahshan, Paul; Session 12
  38. Jahshan, Paul; Session 20
  39. Kadir, Djelal; Opening Session
  40. Kaplan, Amy; Closing Session
  41. Katz, Stanely N.; Opening Session
  42. Katz, Stanely N.; Session 4
  43. Kennedy, Liam; Session 20
  44. Kharazmi, Zohreh Nosrat; Session 2
  45. Khatib, Lina; Session 19
  46. Khouri, Rami; Opening Session
  47. Khouri, Rami; Session 1
  48. Kolesas, Mara; Session 12
  49. Kraidy, Marwan; Session 17
  50. Lubin, Alex; Session 7
  51. Lucas, Scott; Opening Session
  52. Lucas, Scott; Session 15
  53. Lundy, Edward; Session 6
  54. Lundy, Eileen T.; Session 5
  55. Madany, Osama Abd El-Fattah; Session 3
  56. Madany, Osama Abd El-Fattah; Session 20
  57. Marandi, Seyed Mohammad; Session 9
  58. Marandi, Seyed Mohammad; Session 20
  59. Marr, Timothy; Session 7
  60. McAlister, Melani; Opening Session
  61. McAlister, Melani; Session 10
  62. McClenahan, William; Session 1
  63. McGreevy, Patrick; Opening Session
  64. McGreevy, Patrick; Session 20
  65. McGreevy, Patrick; Closing Session
  66. Montgomery, Evan; Session 18
  67. Mousavi, Mohammad; Session 13
  68. Mousavi,  Mohammad; Session 15
  69. Naeimi, Mitra; Session 15
  70. Newman, Marcy; Session 13
  71. Norton, Anne; Session 10
  72. Pederson, Patricia Velde; Session 13
  73. Pettyjohn, Stacie; Session 18
  74. Preradovic, Bojan; Session 19
  75. Quandt, William; Session 18
  76. Rad, Javad Asghari; Session 14
  77. Roberts, Blain; Session 1
  78. Saldin, Robert P.; Session 18
  79. Slocum, David; Session 17
  80. Soliman, Mounira; Session 17
  81. Soliman, Mounira; Session 20
  82. Valenta, Markha; Session 15
  83. Vincent, Andrew; Session 4
  84. Wattad, Nizar; Session 11
  85. Wiedemann, Susanne; Session 14
  86. Yousef, Tawfiq; Session 9

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Özlem Altan

Koc University, Turkey

ozaltan@ku.edu.tr

 

Locating the Cosmopolitan:

Meanings of American Education in Beirut, Cairo, and Istanbul

 

This paper analyzes the discourses of a particular variant of elite networks in three countries of the Middle East –the graduates and students of the first three American universities established in Istanbul, Beirut, and Cairo to explore the following questions: How do these social groups articulate their socialization in American educational institutions in the contemporary context? What do these tell us about the multiple ways of defining the “American”? What kinds of potential do these multiple definitions have for reevaluating the values they entail?

The paper is based on field research among graduates and students of Boğaziçi University (Robert College), the American University of Beirut, and the American University in Cairo. Historically, these institutions have been educating the regional elite in English, relying on curricula outside the national education systems. Consequently, the graduates distinguish their identities based on this legacy: they define themselves as the cosmopolitans who have sufficient knowledge of their societies and the world outside because of their socialization in local institutions of American education. I argue this cultural distinction, based on an intimate understanding of values such as freedom, justice, democracy, and capabilities for personal achievement, is experiencing a profound change. Maintaining this distinction used to be made possible by constant guarding of the boundaries of this cultural capital. These practices of boundary drawing, however, are becoming harder.

I plan to analyze the contradictory potentials this tension carries. First, I outline challenges to their claims: in the contemporary production of racialized bodies in global socio-political circuits, these groups find themselves denigrated as ‘the others’ of ‘global citizens.’ This challenge is coupled with another: the increasing availability of their education. Second, I follow their attempts to continue defending their distinctions. Through a number of sites, I document how multiple representations of the idea of the ‘American’ are created; benign and cosmopolitan on the one hand; unipolar and alienating on the other. Third, I explore the repercussions of these negotiations. I discuss whether these attempts can produce a more humble and/or a more exclusive definition for cosmopolitan values with which this education has historically distinguished itself.

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Iman Al-Ghafari

Tishreen University, Syria

imam.gh@scs-net.org

 

Queering the Migrant Female Body

in Etel Adnan’s In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country

 

 

This paper exposes the process of queering the migrant female body as developed by Etel Adnan, an Arab-American writer whose perspective cuts across several modes of social, sexual, ethnic, religious, cultural and political relations. In this study, I concentrate on Adnan’s In The Heart of the Heart of Another Country, a gendered memoir that reflects the conflicting body politics, which invade the migrant woman’s consciousness in Diaspora. Using queer, gender, and postcolonial theory, as well as recent historical and cultural studies, I will investigate how Adnan re-imagines relations between the body, the place and the community. Besides, I will discuss the self-Other problematic within intersectional theories using the body as an analytical tool. In this context, I intend to expose the ambivalent relation between the migrant female body and the place of migration, and the dichotomy between ‘Coming Out of the closet of one country’ and ‘Living in the closet of another country’. My main purpose is to show the dilemma of the Arab-American woman writer in the twenty-first century, and to reveal the queer position of the Arab-American lesbian self as undergoing a more complicated type of exile from a former exile. The interaction between the personal and the political is a major issue that needs to be studied in depth to expose how the body becomes the bearer of the culture and the maker of the identity. The questions that need to be answered within the context of this paper are: Can identities and sexual minorities exist apart from relationships in a community? How can the mind-body-heart and body-time-place continuums enable the marginalized migrant self to cross different types of borders?

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Fahad A. Alhomoudi

Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, Saudi Arabia

Homoudi@hotmail.com

 

Islamic Law and the Modern State: Conflict or Co-existence?

 

Can Islamic Law and the Modern State peacefully co-exist or are these institutions inherently contradictory?  Ever since legal and political reforms began in the 19 th century, when the Nation-State emerged in the Near and Middle East and the Shari'a was largely supplanted by its law, this has been a perennial issue of intellectuals and statesmen; from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to American hegemony, the problem of negotiating religious and legal authority with the State has been of dominant concern.  This paper will broadly identify and evaluate how a spectrum of political and religious leaders have attempted to settle this relationship until the present., from the radical rejection of Western legal and political forms, to the outright abandonment of Islamic Law.  Moving towards a greater consensus, this paper also offers a nascent solution to the impasse between Shari'a and the Modern State, based upon a new reading of Prophetic tradition, which promises an evolutionary approach to Islamic statecraft; attention will be paid to such concepts as civil society, International law and human rights, especially as they relate to developments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Rajai Rashead AL-Khanji

University of Jordan, Jordan
drkhanji@hotmail.com

 

How Three Moral Problems in Anglo-American Literature Enter into Teaching American Studies to Arab Students
Although Arab students look upon specializing/majoring in American studies and English/American literature as an exposure to the world, yet deep inside each one of them there is the feeling that such literature represents a culture hostile to Arab causes. Racial remarks as well as a prejudiced spirit against Moslems in some literary works, among other moral problems, present a serious impediment confronting both Arab instructors and students.

Two different views are usually expressed towards sensitive situation: First, those who emphasize the value of teaching any literary work even if it is in conflict with Arab learners' morality. The other view opposes such an approach assuming that this type of literature evokes negative values, and ethical standards that create moral barriers and thus impede cross-cultural understanding as well as appreciative reading.
The aim of this proposed study is to address this problem which creates anti-Anglo/Americanism when teaching hostile literature to Arab students majoring in American studies. The study also aims at suggesting some solutions to face such moral problems.

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Saied Reza Ameli

University of Tehran, Iran

ssameli@ut.ac.ir

 

American New Middle East Policy and Islamophobia

 

American State Policy in the Middle East in relation to regional Muslim countries is highly Islamophobiacally oriented. On the one hand “Bad Muslim” or “fundamental Islam” represents as a dominant face of Islam and Muslims in the region. On the other hand the official declaration instrumented by American Liberal Language in the form of  ‘human rights’, freedom and  ‘democracy’ are displayed as the backbone for all political statements and even war policy in the region. The gap between “Good Liberal American Values”  and ‘Bad Islamic Values’ presented in the form of ‘Islamophobia’, legitimize any type of violent policy against Muslim Countries.

American policy plays the political game by presenting minor Islamic countries as a ‘good country’ allied to ‘American liberal values’ whilst labeling many as a ‘bad country’. However, it seems part of the post-September 11 th policy, that Islam and Muslims in general are interlinked to terror, violence and fundamentalism.

To explain why this policy has been initiated, one can argue that Islamophobia is used as a policy of ‘war legitimating’ when necessary. Islamophobia is also a ‘demonization policy’ to create wide opportunities for ‘new Middle East Policy’ of the United States.

This paper is an attempt to examine such a policy in official US declarations and amongst US media and it explains how and why such policies have been constructed.

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Betty Anderson

Boston University, USA

banderso@bu.edu

 

The Influence of Liberal Education on the Intellectual and Political Movements at the American University of Beirut (AUB)

 

In the beginning of the 1897-1898 academic year, the Syrian Protestant College (SPC) formally instituted the American liberal educational structure; its successor, the American University of Beirut (AUB), has maintained this program since 1920.  In the 2003-2004 academic year, an AUB Task Force found that, at AUB and back in America, “The expressions ‘liberal education’ and ‘general education’ are often used interchangeably.  The adjective ‘liberal’ places the emphasis on freedom of choice and expression, critical analysis and critical thinking, and the exercise of independent judgment.  The adjective ‘general’ places the emphasis on acquiring a broad base of knowledge in a wide range of subjects, in contrast to knowledge that is confined to a narrow or specialty domain.”  The Task Force recommended that AUB maintain its commitment to this American liberal educational system despite pressures to focus more exclusively on professional training, a model used more frequently in Europe and in the majority of the universities in the Middle East.

My paper examines the influence this liberal educational structure has had on the students who passed through the Main Gate of the university.  I will analyze some of the major intellectual currents that emerged at different junctures in AUB’s history as a way to examine how the students themselves articulated the benefits and limitations of the liberal educational space they found at AUB.  By studying the movements of pacifism and internationalism in the 1920s, Arab nationalism in the 1940s and 1950s, and the “New Left” of the late 1960s and 1970s, I plan to show how the students defined the role – both positively and negatively – that AUB had played in their intellectual development. 

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Jan Asmussen

Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus
Jan.asmussen@emu.edu.tr

 

Poppies, Pistols and Intelligence : US Policy towards Human Rights and Democracy in Turkey

 

Since the 1950s Turkey has played a major role in U.S. strategy both in respect to the Warsaw pact and MENA.

Especially following the declaration of the Nixon doctrine U.S. tried to transfer the responsibility for Nato’s interest in the region to local actors like Turkey and Israel. American intelligence installations in Turkey proofed vital for the validation of SALT I. Moreover, they were the only reliable installations of this kind after the U.S. had lost its facilities in Iran. Following the collapse of the Soviet Empire those installations didn’t loose their importance. Now, Turkey was seen as major western barrier against unstable and unreliable states of the MENA.

One major result of these strategic considerations was that U.S. human rights policy towards Turkey appeared most of the time, to say the least, “cautious”.

While the Council of Europe, EU’s Court of Human Rights and the EU Commission almost constantly hinted towards human rights deficiencies, U.S. Governments from Nixon to Bush avoided any antagonising statements toward this topic.

This presentation aims to analyse U.S. human rights policy towards Turkey especially during the 1970s. Based on newly released NARA files it will be seen that there was a big difference between officially proclaimed U.S. Human Rights policies of the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations and reality.

For example, the Ford administration did fail to lift arms embargoes against Turkey. Turkey was accused of human rights violations in Turkey and Cyprus. In addition, poppy production in Anatolia became a constant matter of concern for U.S. - Turkish relations.

However, the embargo was lifted under Jimmy Carter, who had a proclaimed human rights agenda. Apparently, this agenda did not include Turkey.

This and other contradictions of U.S. diplomacy towards Turkey will be explained during the presentation.

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Zeina Mouneer Barakat
Al-Quds University,Palestine
zeinabarakat_8@hotmail.com

Studying American Studies in a Hostile Environment

In October 2003, the report by the State Department's Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world offered valuable suggestions for how the United States could improve its ailing image in the Arab world, in an objective and balance manner. One of its recommendations was to establish an American–sponsored study centers or university programs or libraries. This effort receives more urgency when one considers the anti-American trend in Palestine where there is lack of trust and understanding among Palestinians of US policies. Anti-Americanism is widely spread within the Palestinian community. As a result, no other major would raise questions of identity and loyalty in Palestine as American Studies would. Like any other nation that view itself as victimized, the Palestinians have a simple view of the world; to them, it is divided into two camps; those who support their cause, and those who support Israel. The United States support Israel, thus it is perceived in the enemy camp. Thus, Palestinians look at the American Studies program at al-Quds University with suspicion and view its founder as having fallen under American spell. Under such conditions, what lures a Palestinian to study a major that would put him/her under suspicion of being unloyal to the Palestinian cause? What motivates a Palestinian join a major in which his/her peers would view him/her as having fallen under American hegemony? What job opportunity would such a major provide? Is such a program sustainable?
The question “why do we study American studies” is problematic and carries more connotations and poses more challenge to a Palestinian than it does to any student of other nationality. This paper will examine the identity crisis of the Palestinians joining American studies programs and the peer pressures they are exposed to. The methodology employed in this paper will be interviews and questionnaires.
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  Amy Bartholomew
Carleton University, Canada

Amy_Bartholomew@carleton.ca

 

Rightlessness and Legality in the Age of Empire’s Law: Toward a Neo-Conservative Globalization?

 

 

Human rights, democracy and legality are under attack in the ‘global war on terror’ that is led by the United States even as they are mobilized to justify it by neoconservatives (e.g. PNAC) and liberals (e.g. Michael Ignatieff) alike. What role does law play in the war on terror, in general, and the Bush Doctrine, in particular? This is a crucial question for humanity and especially for those who bear the most direct brunt, those in the Middle East and North Africa and Muslims across the world.  A persistent claim made by critical scholars of law ranging from Philippe Sands to Giorgio Agamben is that the primary sites in the ‘global war on terror’ have been rendered ‘legal black holes’, resulting in a ‘lawless world’ or a ‘global state of exception’.  But what is the character of this ‘state of exception’?  I will ask whether there is a more profound challenge being posed than even global illegality or lawlessness, avoidance or rejection of law. On the basis of the argument that the United States functions as the sole empire today ruling through other states, I will consider whether the American Empire’s stance signals a possible challenge to legitimate legality as a ‘medium of regulation’ at all levels – domestic, transnational and international -- and whether this may be constitutive of another form of rule, one that is divorced from legitimate legality but which threatens to constitute a different form of rule/law, one that I call ‘empire’s law’. If this is so, are we also moving from ‘neo-liberal’ globalization to a form of ‘neo-conservative’ globalization, an authoritarian form of globalization which demotes rights and the legal subjectivity which is their necessary groundwork while it transforms law? Does this indicate that the global war on terror may be a long-term trend, imbricated in a new form of rule, resistant to change?
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Michaelle Browers

Wake Forest University, USA

browerm@wfu.edu

 

Wasatiyya Notions of Justice and Liberty in the Age of American Empire

 

The Islamist movement has long been criticized for lack of specificity of political thought coming out of their movement.  However, a number of Islamic intellectuals, associated with what has come to be called the moderate or centrist ( wasatiyya) trend and consisting primarily of Egyptians, such as Muhammad al-Ghazali, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fahmi Huwaydi, Kamal Abu al-Majd, Muhammad al-‘Imara, and Muhammad Salim al-‘Awa, claims to be filling that intellectual vacuum in Islamist discourse.  While only recently garnering the attention of western scholars, the careers of these individuals span several decades and the origin of this turn to moderation dates at least to 1981, when the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat by the Islamic Jihad group led many of the leading theorists of the Islamic revival ( al-sahwa al-islamiyya) to seek to clarify their position from the political turmoil and the extremist forces that contributed to its emergence.  Historical consideration of these figures permits study of the development of such central political notions as justice and freedom in what some have termed the “American period” in the Middle East and amidst claims (chiefly by American scholars) about the global triumph of liberalism.

The aim of this paper is to critically analyze the writings of the wasatiyya trend since 1981, during a period where these individuals have had to grapple with the persistence of authoritarian regimes, lack of progress in liberating Palestine and other territories occupied by Israel, and renewed foreign military intervention in the region, undertaken by the US, purportedly in name of freedom and democracy.  What my study reveals is that wasatiyya intellectuals have developed notions of freedom and justice less tied to notions of community in an exclusively Islamic sense and, thus, created a space for accommodation of seemingly liberal notions such as democracy, pluralism, freedom of thought, and the rights of women and minorities.  But this has been done at the same time that the country many associate with liberalism has lost whatever credibility it might have once had in the region.  Thus, my study pays particular attention to the role negative constructions of American injustices, illegalities, and violations of the rights of people in the region have played in the development of these ideas.
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Omar Chakaki, Mark Gonzales, and Nizar Wattad

The Human Writes Project, USA

humanwrites@gmail.com

  

Brooklyn Beats to Beirut Streets: Hip Hop and the Language of Liberation

 

An "energetic, informative and often startling presentation" in spoken-word and rhyme by three artists (one Mexican- American and two Arab-American) that traces the artists' development alongside the birth and growth of hip-hop.  It is a reading of the world through their words.  This poetic performance is an intersection of cultures sharing space on a stage that gives voice to marginalized histories, challenges the audience to re-examine worldviews, and indicts individuals for historical atrocities committed in the name of democracy.  Following the performance the artists will invite the audience to participate in a discussion of how an art form once considered to exist on the margins of society can grow to become the most popular musical genre amongst youth around the world, what this means to hip-hoppers whose cultures remain on the margins, and what problems and concerns face the rest of society in realizing, accepting and ultimately utilizing this shift.

 

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A Panel Discussion with

 

Helena Cobban, Boston Review, USA, hcobban@gmail.com

Evan Montgomery, University of Virginia, USA, ebmontgomery@virginia.edu

Stacie Pettyjohn, US Institute of Peace, USA, spettyjohn@virginia.edu

Robert P. Saldin, John Hopkins University, USA, saldin@jhu.edu

William Quandt, University of Virginia, USA, wbq8f@virginia.edu

 

How We Got Here and Where We're Going:

 American Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East at the End of the Bush Years

 

As the Bush administration nears the end of its term, it provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of its policies in the Middle East, and to speculate about what sort of approach the next president will take towards this region.  The centerpiece of Bush’s foreign policy was a seemingly revolutionary policy of democracy promotion, which was advocated by the neoconservative movement.  Promising to break with the immoral Realpolitik tradition, Bush claimed that by spreading freedom the U.S. would create a safer and more just world.  Unfortunately, Bush’s commitment to this policy proved to be tenuous at best; he promoted democracy when it was believed to strengthen allies, rejected it when it was expected to weaken allies, and sought to overturn elections which disempowered allies.   

This roundtable seeks to place the Bush administration in the broader context of U.S. democracy promotion, and to consider if the next president will continue to emphasize this particular theme.  To do so, it will provide an overview of previous U.S. efforts to encourage the spread of liberty, background on the neoconservative movement, and an examination the Bush administration’s reaction to democratization in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.  Then turning toward the future, it will discuss the presidential candidates’ positions on foreign policy with respect to the Middle East, and ideally, what the next administration should do to truly bring liberty and justice to the region.    

  1. Evan Montgomery will discuss American exceptionalism and provide a brief overview of previous U.S. efforts to spread liberty and justice.  Although the U.S. has historically claimed to encourage self-determination for all, in practice, its actions have fallen short of these lofty goals, as pursuit of its national interests usually prevailed over moral and ideological ideals.

  1. Rob Saldin will discuss the ideological roots of the Bush Administration’s policy of democracy promotion which stems from the neoconservative movement. He will explain how a movement characterized by skepticism came to embrace the concepts of freedom, liberty, and democracy, and became a leading proponent of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

  1. Stacie Pettyjohn will discuss two recent examples in which the Bush Administration subordinated its democracy promotion agenda to other interests.  In both Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, elections empowered groups hostile to the U.S., leading the Bush Administration to attempt to reverse the electoral results.  In an effort to do so, the U.S. either contributed or acquiesced to a policy of collective punishment which was intended to generate public anger towards Hezbollah and Hamas, and eventually result in their ousting.

  1. William Quandt will provide an overview of the policies toward the Middle East each presidential candidate will likely adopt, and how much of a role the promotion of democracy will play.

  2. H elena Cobban will consider what policies the new American administration should implement in order to truly promote liberty and justice in the Middle East.

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Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi

Al-Quds University, Palestine

mohddajani@hotmail.com

 

&


Munther S. Dajani
Al-Quds University, Palestine
msdajani@art.alquds.edu

 

Western and Islamic Conceptions of Justice

 

American values of liberty and justice are strongly contested by many Islamic scholars. As the United States attempts to promote its own concepts of liberty and justice in order to create its own vision of a new Middle East, the issue raised is whether such concepts mean the same to Western and Islamic people. American political thought proclaimed that “all men are equal,” however, in practice, for quite some time in American history, all men and women were far from being equal. Similarly, Islam proclaimed that “there is no difference between men except in faith,” however, on the ground, many differences existed between men and between men and women. The question this raises is: Why? Is it that the text is not clear enough?
The classical definition of justice is formulated by Plato, Aristotle, Saint Ambrose, and Saint Augustine of Hippo, as expressed in a single phrase: “suum cuique”, or "to each his own." Aristotle has maintained that the prevalence of injustice makes clear the meaning of justice.  The word justice as explained in Scripture: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do to them." It supposes an exchange of one good deed for another good deed. Justice is described In the Romans: "Render to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor; owe no man anything but to love one another." Many verses in the Quran express its concept of justice.

This paper will discuss the Western meaning of justice in the text as compared with the Moslem concept of justice. It will examine similarities and differences between Western/American and Islamic notions of justice. Does the text of the Holy Quran offer different or similar notions of justice than Western values? Why wasn’t the practice in compliance of the teachings?

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Chair

Liam Kennedy, The Clinton Institute for American Studies
University College Dublin, Ireland

Liam.kennedy@ucd.ie

 

Panelists

 John Hillis, University of Bahrain, jhillis@arts.uob.bh 

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, University of Tehran, Iran, mmarandi@ut.ac.ir

  Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, Al-Quds University, Palestine, mohddajani@hotmail.com

Patrick McGreevy, AUB, Lebanon, pm07@aub.edu.lb

Hani Ismael Elayyan, University of Jordan, hanimoh@yahoo.com

Osama Abd El-Fattah Madany, Menoufiya University, Egypt, osamamadany@yahoo.com

 Mounira Soliman, Cairo University, Egypt, mouniras@yahoo.com

Paul Jahshan, Notre Dame University, Lebanon, odin@dm.net.lb  

Sirene Harb, AUB, Lebanon, sh03@aub.edu.lb 

 

Session 20: American Studies in the Middle East: An Open Discussion

 

This session is a follow-up to a workshop on American Studies in the Middle East held at CASAR's first conference in December of 2005.  Panelists are scholars and teachers of American studies working in the Middle East.  Some represent specific American studies programs and centers in the region.  The panelists will briefly discuss the challenges and prospects they face in their work leaving most of the allotted time for open discussion with the audience.
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 Ali Hocine Dimerdji

American University of Beirut

akd03@aub.edu.lb

 

Can Islam and Democracy Work?

 

 In the post- 9/11 era, the discourse of the war on terror has hinged, for the most part, on the “dichotomy” and the possible “irreconcilability” of the worldviews of Islam and Western ideals of democracy. This position is reinforced by the fact that until very recently, no openly Islamic state has considered or named itself a democracy.

What I intend to investigate over the course of my paper are some of the underlying “causes” of such an understanding of Islam and its relationship to democracy. My work is grounded primarily in Jacques Derrida’s analysis of this issue, which he outlines in Rogues. I use Derrida’s work as a starting point to interrogate the validity of the perceived irreconcilability of Islam and democracy. To do this, I briefly define the modality of democracy that I will using, and identify it as being perceived as Judeo-Christian. This perception puts Islam and a Judeo-Christian conception of democracy on opposing sides.

The claim that Islam is the other of democracy will be the main focus of my paper. In order to critique such a claim, I first investigate its validity, and then provide my own objections to this view. These objections are grounded in the socio-historical, the theoretical, and the practical. In so objecting, I hope to shed light on the constructedness of this relationship of othering.

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Brian T. Edwards

Northwestern University, USA
bedwards@northwestern.edu

 
Moroccan Engagements with American Culture and Circulation
 

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Khadija Fritsch. El Alaoui

Technical University of Dresden, Germany

khalaoui@gmail.com

 

Encountering Liberty and Justice: The Old New Move of Constructing the MENA

 

In his speech before the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6, 2003, President George W. Bush commended the Moroccan King Mohammed VI for having “a diverse new parliament” and “extending rights to women.” On August 31, 2007, a week before the Moroccan parliamentary elections, Morocco was rewarded with a five-year $700 million grant through the Millennium Challenge Account (a development program of the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda”). In its turn, Morocco, that is the monarchy and the politico-economic elite, has proven its total conversion to the US’s particular construction of the economy: for instance, its implementation of the structural adjustment programs in the 80s and currently its highly self-conscious attempts to show the US that it is “ruling justly and pursuing sound economic policies.” This paper proposes to articulate a discursive critique of the language and assumptions that inform and frame discussion of foreign aid, development economics and the Bush administration’s revolutionary scheme of creating the conditions necessary to replicating the US’s values in the Muslim world. In fact, I will argue, by focusing on the example of Morocco, that the MENA is still being produced by a variety of discourses and practices: one can clearly see the overlap of colonial, developmentalist, and neoliberal regimes of representation, all of which, as postcolonial theory has amply demonstrated, aim at enforcing forms of governmentality that ensure domination and control. Moreover, Moroccan young people, half of whom dream of leaving their country, recognize the cost of being “citizens” in an executant state that submits to the incessantly interventionist USA. They see American power and their total lack of it as the main problem. Accordingly the latter part of the paper will be devoted to the narratives of young people with a special focus on the charismatic Nadia Yassine, representative of the popular but banned Islamic ‘Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality movement).

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Hani Ismaeal Elayyan

University of Jordan, Jordan

hanimoh@yahoo.com

 

Taha Hussein and American Literature: Culture and Justice

 

This paper is a review of an introduction to an Arabic translation of a book entitled Studies in American literature (published in Cairo, no date of publication). The importance of this introduction stems from the fact that it was written by Taha Hussein, one of the pillars of Arab culture in the 20 th century.  This review is a very early example of Arab intellectuals engaging American culture and exploring the possibility of an alliance between Arabs and America as a way of achieving justice under an unjust colonial rule. Hussein’s views express an optimistic vision of the United States as a force of justice in the world and an antidote to the colonial influences of the British and French Empires. 

Known as the “Dean of Arabic Literature,” Taha Hussein is credited for applying the principles of modern criticism to classical Arabic poetry and to Arab culture in general. The result of that transfer of knowledge was a revolution and a shock to many of his contemporaries. 

 Professor Taha Hussein was born in 1889 and died in 1973. He graduated from the Sorbonne University in Paris and was one of the major figures who absorbed French culture and used it to revive Arab culture. Thus, the introduction that is being reviewed here is a rare document in that it shows his awareness of American literature and culture at a time when they were little heard of in the Arab World. Such views would help scholars nowadays place the claims of Arab animosity towards America in a historical framework rather than seeing it as a universal fact. The Arab grievances against America started when the US supported the Belfor Declaration, and increased in the aftermath of World War II. Before that, some Arabs pinned great hopes on America’s idealism and rationalism to lend a helping hand to the Arabs in their fight for independence. In hindsight, such hope sound naïve and uninformed about the assumptions that shaped the enlightenment project which America shared with its allies across the Atlantic.

 

The United States, Great Britain, and France

Hussein argues in his introduction that the British and the French were eager to control  not only the natural resources of the Arab World but also the hearts and minds of Arab youth. As a result, these two powers promoted their literatures at the expense of local culture, but also at that of other European languages and literatures, including other literatures written in English and French. As a result, American culture was virtually unknown in the Arab World. Arabs knew the material achievement of the United States only: its cars, factories, industries, weapons, etc.  Hussein here explains that such advancement was explained by some Arab intellectuals as the result of the American obsession with materialism. However, he points out that no nation in the world could boast great achievements in the material arena without having a strong basis in ethics, culture, philosophy and literature. 

Hussein adds that he has been trying to convince his fellow citizen of the importance of familiarizing themselves with the achievements of America as a civilized nation. The example he quotes is America’s role in the two World Wars. He finds in American isolationism a good example of its disinterest in material gain:

“I have always sought to convince some educated Egyptians that North Americans have a sublime spiritual life that was behind their involvement in the Great World War. Their only motivation was to safeguard the very same values that have enlightened civilized nations since time immemorial. After the end of the war, they refused to share with Europe in the spoils, and they even detached themselves from the League of Nation, which they helped establish. All of these decisions prove beyond doubt that Americans did not put material achievements first, but their ideals which are the continuation of the best that the Old World could offer.” (p. 110, my translation). 

Hussein then discusses the American involvement in World War II and draws similar conclusions about American idealism and ethical existence. He argues again that material success is a sign for success at all levels of life, especially cultural and ethical.

It’s noteworthy that Hussein did not read English. Rather, he read French translations of American literature. But he says that he admired it a lot and noticed its influence on European literature. His studies motivated him to promote this literature and encourage Egyptian to study it as a way of combating European cultural hegemony. Hussein, however, did not call for replacing one literature for another; rather, he wanted the Egyptians and Arabs in general to be open to all kinds of world literature. From American literature, he argues, Arabs could learn a lot of great things such as seeking perfection in life and idealism. 

Hussein also encourages Americans to promote their literature and translate it into other languages. He says to them:

“You cannot make yourself known to the world through economic, political, or military power only. Nations will be known through their intellectual achievements. If you choose to impress the world with your military might only, you will cut the figure of a monster who is to be feared, not a nation to be loved, for  material power is a means of spreading fear not love, and fear calls for repugnance and doubt.” 

Hussein adds that it is incumbent upon the United Sates to understand the rest of the world to be able to sell its technology to it. Hussein in the above quotes shows great belief in America as a force for justice and peace. He believes that American literature and culture could teach the rest of the world respect for democracy. 

Thus, Arab intellectuals’ views of America underwent a sea change in the second half of the twentieth century. The beginning of American involvement in the Middle East, together with the surge in Arab Nationalism contributed to the changes.

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Manar El-Shorbagy

Arab Center for Development and Future Research, Cairo, Egypt

manash@aucegypt.edu

 

Kefaya and the Bush Democratization Efforts

 

During its first term, the Bush administration made clear it was serious about democratizing the Middle East. Strong statements critical of long-time allies like Egypt were more frequent and blunter than ever, and pressures on authoritarian Arab regimes more generally were mounting in public. However, despite the American calls for greater justice and liberty for the peoples of the region, when democratic elections brought to power Hamas in Palestine and added to the gains of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt’s parliament, the Bush administration toned down both its rhetoric and pressure.

This shift in American policy raises important questions about how the Bush administration’s stance was received by the democratic forces in the region, i.e. those forces that advocate liberty and justice for their citizens in a democratic order. And what impact, if any, did the change have on those democratic forces.  The answers to those questions are important both in terms of the prospects of democracy in the Middle East and in terms of the future relationship between the US and democratic forces in the region. 

My paper will study how the Egyptian Movement for Change- Kefaya reacted to the Bush project of democratizing the Middle East and to the collapse of that project. Kefaya’s birth, which quickly reverberated across the Arab World and beyond, coincided with the Bush administration’s initial phase of active support for democratizing the Middle East.  The heyday of the movement also occurred during the peak of that American, pro-democracy position.

The paper will argue that the Kefaya experience tells us a great deal about the potential for the United States to positively influence political developments in the Arab world.  The American policy reversal and its consequent effects also have cautionary lessons.  In its own terms, the  significance of Kefaya lies in its transformative potential as a broad political force of a new type that is uniquely suited to the needs of the moment in Egypt, including not only a critique of the existing system of rule but also progressive political and social demands for change. It is a cross-ideological force that has the potential, in the long run, and with careful nurturing of creating a new mainstream. This very nature of the movement makes Kefaya’s adamant resistance to the American empire a manifestation of a phenomenon that goes beyond the movement itself and runs deep across the political spectrum in Egypt.

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Pascale Fakhry

Paris X (Nanterre) University, France

pfakhry@googlemail.com

Religious Alienation and Salvation in Contemporary American Horror Film.

 

According to Matthew Bernstein in his Introduction to Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film (1997) “many of the American cinema’s most popular or ideologically resonant films” used North African and Asian cultures to express Otherness. In the horror film it is “Islam” as a constructed religious Other that appears at a transformative moment of the genre’s history.

The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) is a key film in the history of horror film: its unprecedented economical success introduced the use of gore elements into mainstream Hollywood cinema turning horror into one of the most important genres of the last 30 years. Yet, the opening sequence of this film takes place in Iraq, in a geographical space depicted as “ancient” and “Muslim” as opposed to “modern” and “Christian” USA. A demon that comes from the “Muslim” world will immigrate to Washington and alienate the identity of a young American girl by possessing her and thus depriving her from her liberty. It is the church and Christianity, through the figure of a priest who, by performing an exorcism, will “liberate” the young girl from the demon.

After The Exorcist, a sequence which is located in the MENA will appear in six other horror films released between 1976 and 2006. In all of these films the aim of this sequence is to explain the origins of the demon who will, in every case, try to invade the USA by possessing one of its “free” citizens. The Exorcist will thus generate a new cycle of religious horror in which “Islam” is depicted as the “evil” satanic double of Christianity.

Through analysis of the recurrent iconographical and narrative elements that depict “Islam” as a stereotypical constructed Other, this paper examines the discourse around the notion of “liberty” in contemporary horror film. A discourse underpinned by evangelist-fundamentalist Christianity and its belief in the alienating nature of Islam.

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Ghazi-Walid Falah

University of Akron ,USA

falah@uakron.edu

 

“Vying for America?” Perceptions of American Lifestyle and Democracy among Kuwaiti and Lebanese University Students

 

This paper is based on a questionnaire survey distributed among two university campuses in Kuwait and six in Lebanon. A total of 866 students, male and female, were asked inter alia to answer a set of questions pertaining to the way in which American democracy and culture – represented by a wide range of lifestyles – are acquiring legitimacy (or not) in the repective students’ countries.
The paper argues that differences among Kuwaiti and Lebanese students are less about differences between Kuwait and Lebanon and more about diversity among the student population specifically within Lebanon. This demonstrates that intra-state cultural, religious, and gender differences, as well as students’ experiences and knowledge about America, are key to understanding the diversity of opinions among Arabs pertaining to the US. Based on statistical analyses of the survey, for example, students of the Lebanese University in the two campuses of Al-Sanayia’, Beirut, and Tripoli, have more in common and perhaps share cultural values with their Kuwaiti counterparts where issues related to American lifestyle and democracy are considered.  Religion appears to be the unifying factor among these students, even across national boundaries. At same time, these same students’ opinions are markedly different from students at other Lebanese universities that were surveyed (namely AUB, NDU, and the Lebanese University campus in Jel ad-Dib). Interestingly, students’ responses at Saint Joseph University (SJU), the sixth Lebanese university surveyed and which has historical ties both linguistically and culturally to France, appear to share certain values with Kuwaiti students rather than with their peers in Lebanon. This finding suggests that although religion as a cultural identity is recognized as a traditional factor in shaping perceptions, cultural and linguistic factors are equally significant and can dilute the importance of the religious component.

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Zalfa Feghali

American University of Beirut

znf02@aub.edu.lb

 

 “Another Brick in the Wall”: The US-Mexico and Israel-West Bank Borders

 

Much controversy has arisen over the (border) walls erected along the United States-Mexico and Israel-West Bank “borders”. According to both the United States and Israel, their respective walls are coming up in an effort to “protect” themselves: in one case from the influx of “illegal” immigrants, and in the other from the threat of “terrorism”. Interestingly enough, while both states are trying to keep “the wrong sort of people” from getting on their “right” side of the border, the arguments in favor of the respective wall(s) operate using broad, over-arching terms like liberty, justice, and freedom.

This paper operates on two levels: first, it briefly explores the specific contexts in which these walls are being built, showing they have much in common. Second, it identifies the metaphors of borders inherent in the language and discourse used to defend the existence of these walls. Finally, it suggests that while these walls may help serve the US and Israel’s purposes, they will ultimately play a major part in interrogating the very borders they were meant to protect.

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Keith P. Feldman

University of Washington, USA

feldmank@u.washington.edu

  

America’s Last Taboo: Rethinking Orientalism and the End(s) of Civil Rights

 

The upcoming thirtieth anniversary of Edward W. Said’s path-breaking Orientalism and the recently-passed fortieth anniversaries of both the June War and the widespread legibility of U.S.-based race-conscious anti-colonial movements mark an opportune moment to reconsider the constitutive relation between the two.  In the aftermath of the so-called “civil rights revolution” in the U.S., ethnic studies scholars agree that worldly movements for universal substantive social and political equality and an end to structural racisms were in great part eclipsed by the celebration of the liberal legal discourse of individual rights, precisely at the time when the emergent prison-industrial complex on the one hand and the dominant support for Israel’s post-June War occupation on the other revealed such celebrations to be a ruse. 

An excerpt of my doctoral dissertation, entitled “Racing the Question: Israel/Palestine and U.S. Imperial Culture,” this paper constructs a genealogy of Orientalism shaped by a post-civil rights critique of liberalism, particularly in response to an emergent shift in U.S. imperial formation after the June War .  Orientalism, I argue, is crucially framed not only by Said’s deployment of Foucault’s concept of “discourse” and Gramsci’s “hegemony,” but also by Said’s own self-described “contrapuntal” public intellectual and political forays in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.  These forays offer a prescient critique of liberal rights discourse as they recast social struggle through the rubric of war and occupation, a rubric whose intellectual lineage returns us, albeit in a radically different way, to Orientalism’s far more inchoate Gramscian and Foucauldian imprint.  In this way, I argue that if Orientalism is to be understood as a central text for critical empire studies, then we must account for its historical emergence as part of broader Arab exilic social movement and cultural production, and in counterpoint to U.S. and Israeli settler-colonial exceptionalisms and shifts in post-civil rights anti-colonial practice.
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Norman G. Finkelstein

Independent Scholar, USA

NormanGF@hotmail.com

 

The Real Roots of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East

 

A recurrent theme in debates on U.S. foreign policy is the impact and influence of the Israel lobby.  It is often maintained that were it not for the lobby U.S. policy in the Middle East would be governed by traditional American values such as liberty and justice.  The salience of this debate has become more pronounced in the wake of the U.S.’s illegal attack on Iraq and the ensuing debacle, blame for which has been pinned on the Israel lobby.

In this paper I will propose a distinction between on the one hand broad U.S. policy in the Middle East, which bears on fundamental U.S. concerns such as oil and accordingly is shaped by elite calculations of the “national interest,” and on the other hand U.S. policy specifically on the Israel-Palestine conflict, where no fundamental U.S. concerns are at stake and accordingly U.S. policy would probably favor a just settlement were it not for the Israel lobby.

To argue my case I will use as a foil John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: 2007).  This controversial study consists of a series of interconnected theses going to prove that the Israel lobby has distorted U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East generally and was responsible for the Iraq debacle in particular.  The components of their argument are:

  • There is an objective American national interest
  • Supporting Israel doesn’t serve the U.S. national interest and in fact undermines it
  • The U.S. supports Israel despite its detrimental impact due to the Israel lobby
  • The Israel lobby supports Israel against U.S. national interests due to tribal loyalty
  • The lobby was behind the U.S. attack on Iraq 

 I will demonstrate that whether taken separately or together, these theses do not withstand close scrutiny.  Nonetheless I will concur with Mearsheimer and Walt that the lobby blocks rational debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict and concomitantly U.S. support for a just settlement of it.

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Azadeh Ghahghaei

University of Tehran, Iran

Ghahghaei@ut.ac.ir

 

US Cultural war in Iraq: Case of Educational  Reforms

 

Thinking of war in Iraq in the current situation, the first things that spring to the mind are military invasion, US troops in Iraq, bloodshed, and civil conflicts. Here among, US “cultural war” is not obviously visible and is hardly perceived. The deeper aspect of US strategy in Iraq or generally in Middle East focuses on the process of culture construction or cultural regime change that has mostly targeted culture, value and religion transformation and modernization.  This is considered to be the greatest thread to the Middle Eastern identity.  

United States has designed various short-term and long-term plans such as curriculum reforms in schools and universities, establishment of new radio and television channels with liberal thoughts, financial support for feminist movements and controlling school teachers and activities. The concept of “preemption” in the US cultural war resembles its military policies; therefore the best solution to wage the cultural war is to commence the task from schools and textbooks. 

To carry out the cultural war and the imperceptible exercise of these policies to diverge the religious and ideological tendencies in Iraq, US administration has no other choice but to plea for assistance from civic organizations that seem independent while the US federal government allots a mount of money to each and they do the groundwork of their major policies with the consultation and advise of the different section in US government. 

This paper studies the US objectives and cultural efforts in Iraq in the post- Saddam era in the realms of civil rights, media and specifically education reforms. This will be conducted by an overview of the concept of cultural war, institutions nourishing it and an analysis of education reforms and media innovations in Iraq in post-Saddam period.

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Keith Guzik

Bloomfield College, USA

Keith_guzik@bloomfield.edu

 

Discrimination by Design: Data Mining in the US Government’s ‘War on Terror’

 

In December 2005, The New York Times exposed a secret governmental program designed to wiretap telephone and email communications of people living in this country in an effort to track individuals affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In May of the following year, The USA Today reported that the government was actively collecting, with the cooperation of major telephone companies, the call records of millions of US citizens and residents in an effort to detect patterns of terrorist behavior. These stories highlight the central role that surveillance, and a particular type of surveillance named data mining, is playing in the United States government’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The revelation of these clandestine programs sparked outrage throughout the country, as well as anxiety that the government was violating individuals’ privacy, a central element of liberty in US political life. Relatively absent in the discussion of these programs however has been justice, namely the possibility that the government’s surveillance programs will affect certain groups more than others. The concern is hardly unfounded. From the police sweeps that rounded up over twelve hundred noncitizens following September 11 to the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required visitors from certain countries (most of them Middle Eastern and Northern African) to register with the Department of Homeland Security upon their arrival to the country, profiling on the basis of ethnic and national categories has been central to the federal government’s response to the September 11 attacks. Drawing upon surveillance studies, law and society research, and science and technology studies (STS), this paper attempts to de-center the privacy-focused debate on the government’s use of surveillance technologies by considering its justice. Specifically, the paper raises questions concerning the ways in which data mining technologies code the social to discriminate between different groups, the different uses of racial profiling by the US government in the context of counterterrorism over the last 5 years, the legal status of racial profiling in the United States, and the potential for a new politics by MENA immigrants in the country to resist government surveillance.

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Jonathan Hall

University of Balamand, Lebanon

jonathan.hall@balamand.edu.lb

 

Infinite Justice: Ethics, Politics, and Transcendence in Post-9/11 Novels

 

Operation Infinite Justice, the term chosen for the official military response to 9/11, was hastily changed on 25 September 2001 to Operation Enduring Freedom. The irony of responding to Islamist terrorism with such theological rhetoric was obvious, but what happens to that rhetoric when it is downgraded into more material terms? Is it severed from its theological origins? Or does it remain theologically rooted, putting at risk the political achievements of secular modernity? Must we carefully excise such theological language from our politico-juridical procedures? Or do those procedures depend on notions of infinity and transcendence? Indeed, does such language crucially denote an ethics that exceeds our politics? To complicate these questions, this Pentagon-speak bears strange echoes of Derrida’s quasi-transcendental concepts, which point in the direction of a justice that lies beyond the reach of deconstruction. 

In this paper, I explore the way in which contemporary US novelists have understood justice in (non)relation to the politico-juridical procedures of the nation state. Through brief readings of three post-9/11 books, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, and John Barth’s The Book of Ten Nights and a Night, I will explore how these writers disfigure and dissolve national borders at a time when those borders are being violently reconstituted to create a ‘homeland.’ In doing so they ask: what lies beyond the borders of the nation? And what forms of connection are possible with what may lie beyond? A precursor to Operation Infinite Justice was 1998’s Operation Infinite Reach, in which Arab and Muslim nations were put on notice that they lay within striking distance. As a literary response to 9/11, Barth’s appropriation of A Thousand Nights and a Night, in particular, figures a very different form of relation to Arab and Muslim worlds. What kind of infinite justice does such literary worldliness evoke?

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Kathleen Hamill

Tufts University, USA

kathleen.hamill@tufts.edu

   

Cluster Munitions, International law, and Perceptions of Justice

 

US based arms manufacturers supplied the vast bulk of cluster bombs fired into Lebanon during the July 2006 War. Approximately 90% of these 4 million cluster sub-munitions were used during the last 72 hours of the war - between August 11 and August 14, 2007. This came after United Nations Security Council resolution 1701 announced the formal “cessation of hostilities” but before the resolution entered into effect. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had already termed the violence in Lebanon “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” and had rejected calls for a quick ceasefire.  

What impact have US-made cluster munitions had on the ground in Lebanon? What arguments/counterarguments have been put forth to justify/condemn their use? How have US-made cluster munitions informed perceptions of US hegemony in the region? How does this encounter between America and the Middle East square with international standards of justice and humanitarian law? What legal regulations – if any - restrict the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions? Domestically? Internationally? What prospects for accountability might be found in each of the following: the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, the Cluster Victims Civilian Protection Act, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, The Geneva Conventions, The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, The Cluster Munition Convention? What legal channels or advocacy avenues might lead to corporate accountability for US based cluster bomb manufacturers? What are the primary challenges to such efforts? Which human rights organizations have addressed the threat of cluster munitions, and how have they prioritized their work in this area?  

These and other questions will be explored in a paper (perhaps presented in a non-traditional format/workshop) developed for AUB/CASAR’s interdisciplinary conference, Liberty and Justice: America and the Middle East.

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Sari Hanafi

American University of Beirut

Sh41@aub.edu.lb

 

Human Right Watch

Critical Assessment of Discourse and Agenda in the Middle East

 

This paper will examine the human right discourse and agenda adopted by Human Right Watch (HRW) and its implication on the context of the Arab Israeli conflict. Then I will compare this agenda with that of the Amnesty International. Two aspects HRW agenda will be assessed: the politicization of the agenda although its using to legal-bureaucratic language, and its disregard to the collective rights.
While the different categories of rights emerged successively in a historical sequence, the problem of rights is often posed in international discourses as series of oppositional dichotomies: universalism vs. cultural relativism; individual vs. collective; civil and political rights vs, economic social and cultural rights; North vs. South.
Concerning the dichotomy between individual and collective rights, the body of formal human rights law deals primarily with the relationship between individual citizens and their governments. Its initial doctrinal inspiration is the concept of civil liberties founded, as Freedman argues, in the Western legal system, which, in turn, is derived largely from liberal political and economic theory. This theory, in its classical formulations, embraces an ideology of individualism that has been the lightning rod for much of the criticism of rights discourse. By privileging the political and civil rights over other rights, its conception is closely associated with the theory and operation of a capitalist free market economic system: liberal individualism views people abstractly, as self-made, self-contained, separate individuals, isolated from others, pitted against the collective, pursing their economic self-interest without a reliance on the state. 
The dichotomy universalism vs. cultural relativism raises other relevant issues. The global agenda on human rights presents itself as universalistic, timeless truths blurring the social and political construction of this agenda.

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Waleed Hazbun

Johns Hopkins University, USA

Wh20@aub.edu.lb

The Middle East, American Interests, and the Disappearing Frontier of Modernity

 

The essay presents a critique of American post-9/11 efforts to promote political and economic reform  (through trade, aid, and war) across the Middle East by contrasting recent US policy to a selected set of approaches and attitudes towards modernizing the Middle East articulated in the early Cold War era.  It argues that the recent American efforts followed from the view that the peoples and states of the Middle East have failed to embrace globalization and modernity. I refer to this view as the notion of Arab exceptionalism. The paper then traces how and why the US abandoned its initial post World War II strategy of promoting the modernization of the region's economies and supporting Arab claims for decolonization and independence.

In the 1950s, guided by modernization theory and seeking to distance itself from colonial European approaches to geopolitics, many American policy makers sought to advance socioeconomic development and political decolonization within the region with the expectation that the rise of a new middle class would bring political stability and foster societies with interests that were closely aligned with those of the United States, which would be viewed as vehicle for helping them attain liberty, justice, and modernity. While these attitudes did not usually determine the course of American policy, they found expression in many programs and have been recorded in memoirs, archives, and declassified government documents.

Such approaches were eventually marginalized and abandoned in the face of Cold War geopolitics, regional conflicts and the rise of nationalist movements that viewed the American presences as a threat to their security and challenge to their national interests. American strategy in the Middle East soon shifted towards bilateral ties driven by realpolitik balancing and containment through the projection of power. The result has been to perpetuate authoritarian regimes and economic systems that have since produced the effect of Arab exceptioanlism.

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Allen Hibbard

Middle Tennessee State University, USA

ahibbard@mtsu.edu

 

  Our Ideals/Their Ideals, Our Realities/Their Realities: U.S. and Arab Writers Confront Injustice

 

At a talk on “Islam and the West” delivered this past spring at Middle Tennessee State University, John Esposito submitted that many misunderstandings between the U.S. and the Arab world have resulted from a tendency for cultures to compare their ideals with others’ realities. Certainly this has been the case as the U.S. looks at the Middle East.  Instances of political violence, gender inequalities, or authoritarianism in the Middle East are rarely seen in relation to prevalent social or religious ideals of justice in the region.  What is more, we in the U.S. all too often fail to acknowledge or appreciate forces of moderation or resistance to injustice in Middle Eastern societies.    Both Arab and U.S. writers have unmasked injustices within their own societies, and decried moral outrages in the conduct of foreign policy.  The purpose of this paper is to bring Arab and U.S. writers concerned with political, social, and economic justice into dialogue with one another.  In so doing, I will point to explicit and implicit notions of justice while being attentive to particular instances of injustice addressed by specific writers (e.g., poverty, war, women’s rights, occupation, racial discrimination).  Among writers whose works and ideas I will discuss are Henry David Thoreau, Nawal Al-Saadawi, Toni Morrison, Adonis, Leslie Silko, Haydar Haydar, Upton Sinclair, and Ghassan Kanifani.  

Studies and discussions of Arabic and American literature have, for the most part, remained insulated from one another.  When they have intersected, discussion has most often centered around questions of influence, travel literature, Orientalism, imperialism, or the development of genres.  A focus on how writers from both regions have addressed manifestations of injustice will allow a productive, comparative approach that underscores a strong fundamental common current:  a concern for justice.  It will also, I hope, promote a movement toward what many recently have termed “global civil society.”

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Paul Jahshan

Notre Dame University,Lebanon

odin@dm.net.lb

 

Secularism and Freethought in the Middle East: The American Model

 

Despite the state- and self-enforced ban on freethinking in the Middle Eastern world, scholars, philosophers, and lay people alike have fought a mainly underground battle to erect humanistic/secular/atheist barriers against what they perceived as the encroachment of religion on reason, and the interference of the former in the day-to-day affairs of the polis. 

This paper traces the influence of American models of freethought, of church and state separation, and of humanism from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, to what has been called by Susan Jacoby the “Golden Age of Freethought,” to the contemporary period, on Middle Eastern intellectuals from the turn of the twentieth century until the present. Figures such as Ameen Rihani, Ibn Warraq, Edward Said, Ziauddin Sardar, As’ad Abu Khalil, and other “dissident” voices in exile, will be put in the context of American secularist movements. 

Yet it is with the internet revolution that old and new—as well as private and public—voices have been allowed to be heard on web sites such as the Arab Non-Religious Network, the Institution for the Secularization of Islamic Society, the Rational Revolution Net, the Arab Atheists Network, Faith Freedom International, the Secular Islam Summit,  Muslims for Secular Democracy, and the numerous concomitant blogs, and to engage, from the relatively safe haven of cyberspace, in an ongoing attempt to secularize the Arab mind.

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Chair

Patrick McGreevy, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, pm07@aub.edu.lb

 

Panelists

Djelal Kadir, Pennsylvania State University, USA, kadir@psu.edu

Stanley Katz, Princeton University, USA, snkatz@princeton.edu

Khouri, Rami, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, rk62@aub.edu.lb

Scott Lucas, Birmingham University, UK, w.s.lucas@bham.ac.uk 

 Melani McAlister, George Washington University, USA, mmc@gwu.edu

 

 

Opening Session: America and the Middle East: Where Are We Now?

 

This session, part of the Opening Ceremony, will introduce some of the issues the conference will examine.  Panelists from CASAR's International Advisory Board will discuss the opportunities and burdens of the present moment with regard to the multidimensional connections between America and the Middle East.  Where are we now in terms of politics, the media, American studies, economics, religion and justice? 

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Introduction by
Patrick McGreevy
AUB, Lebanon, pm07@aub.edu.lb

Amy Kaplan
The University of Pennsylvania, USA
amkaplan@sas.upenn.edu

Closing Session: In the Name of Homeland Security

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Stanely N.Katz

Princeton University, USA
snkatz@princeton.edu

 

Constitution Day and the Uses of American History

 

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Zohreh Nosrat Kharazmi

University of Tehran, Iran

zkharazmi@ut.ac.ir

 

Discursive Differences in Defining the Humanitarian Concept of Liberty: American and Shiite Define Liberty

  

No one may deny that humans have so many common points that on which they can lean and live peacefully together. Simultaneously there are huge gaps root in different languages in which meanings are constructed. Considering US on one side and the Middle East on the other side, it seems very complicated to explain the gaps and interrelations between them. But historically it's crystal clear that the very deep misunderstandings took place between US and Shiites. As Iran, Hezbollah and the majority of Iraq population are Shiites, so it includes a great population of US announced enemies and on the other hand Shiites are not satisfied with US global policies and count US as an aggressive country in many respects.

Here I'm going to have a comparative study to examine how the concept of liberty is defined in these two discourses and what results in misunderstandings between these two. I also will give a content analysis with concrete examples of both American and Shiite leaders` lectures in terms of liberty.

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Lina Khatib

Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

lina.khatib@rhul.ac.uk

 

Mediating Liberty and Justice in the Middle East: Competing Frameworks of Legitimacy

 

This presentation discusses the religious, cultural and political frameworks of legitimacy used by political actors in the Arab world and the United States in their processes of communication about issues of liberty and justice in the context of politics in the Middle East. Drawing on public diplomacy as well as the creation of “resistant” images and discourses in the media, the presentation will assess how different political actors (whether the state, political parties or Islamist groups) engage in processes of presenting the “self” as a valid political agent. Television broadcasts, internet content and political posters will all be examined to arrive at this assessment. The presentation will draw on American public diplomacy attempts through the media (for example, al-Hurra Television), Hizbullah’s political campaigns using billboards, and Iraqi insurgency videos. Those three political actors have been chosen as they offer competing frameworks of legitimacy in their construction of issues of liberty and justice. The presentation probes the political, religious and cultural contexts used by those actors in presenting their mediated selves to arrive at a multidisciplinary assessment of the way such actors communicate with their audiences, and the wider implications of their competing frameworks for political conflict in the Middle East.

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Rami Khouri

American University of Beirut
rk62@aub.edu.lb

 

Free at Last,Free at Last, Allahu Akbar,We’re free at Last

 

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Mara Kolesas

University of California, Davis, USA

mara@ipsiad.com

 

Possibilities, Obstacles and Paradoxes of Hannah Arendt’s Notion of Political Freedom: From the American revolution to Post-Colonial Middle East

 

Grounded in her experience in Europe, Hannah Arendt uncovered the fallacy built in the Universal declaration of the rights of man by showing that far from being universal, men (and women) don’t have any rights as such but only insofar as they belong to a political community, i.e., they are citizens. Looking at American Revolution, Arendt singled out the foundation of a political community for freedom, where the power resided on the people. Human being are not born free, but for freedom. Here, constitution-making is crucial to grant the conditions of freedom and power, understood as men acting together ? and not against each other. Only in this context, so her argument goes, are the conditions given for the enjoyment of rights, the exercise of liberties and the pursuit of justice. As insightful as her ?discovery? that ?humanity? lies only in citizenship is, her particular notion of freedom as constitutive of politics becomes quite problematic for post-colonial societies with confessional and ethnic communal ties, such as the Middle East.

My aim is to explore meanings, possibilities and conundrums of political freedom looking at both contexts. What is freedom, how does it relate to other political values (equality, justice, community, constitution-making), how is it legitimately attained in the context of the Middle East? What are the political implications of criticizing individual (liberal) freedom when extrapolating from the U.S. to this context? How is the understanding of political community to be redefined in view of the relative gain of positive freedom and negative freedom? And finally, is Arendt?s idea altogether inadequate or does it helps to illuminate issues of wide significance in the Middle East? In appreciating historical and sociological differences, tensions, paradoxes and possibilities will be highlighted.

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Marwan Kraidy

University of Pennsylvania, USA

kraidy@asc.upenn.edu

 

Liberty and Justice in the Pan-Arab Reality Television Controversies

  

The recent pan-Arab controversies over reality television are an important space for the exploration of notions of liberty and justice in the encounter between America and the MENA. Though British and Dutch companies lead the production of reality TV— ostensibly unscripted and dependent on viewers’ votes—U.S. popular culture and culture were repeatedly invoked in the Arab reality controversies—in op-eds, columns, talk-shows, fatwas … 

Reality TV is controversial for various reasons in the Arab world. Local adaptations of foreign formats, reality shows are hybrid texts that subvert boundaries of identity and authenticity. Shows like Al-Ra‘is, Star Academy, and Superstar were also embroiled in national politics in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, in addition to transnational media wars between Lebanon and Syria. In the context of the Bush Administration’s Greater Middle East strategy, public debate surrounding these events indicates that reality TV shows are perceived to carry American values, including the affirmation of individualism, the celebration of competition, decision-making by voting, informal gender relations, and consumerism. The U.S. thus functions as a dialogical counterpoint in the controversies. 

Based on extensive fieldwork conducted in Beirut, Dubai, Kuwait, London and Paris over the last four years, in addition to a large collection of print and audio-visual primary Arabic sources, my paper will explore how the reality television controversies gave rise to rival rhetorics of freedom and justice, in the context of heated debates about gender relations, the role of Islam in public life, political participation, and more broadly, what it means to be modern in the contemporary Arab world. Themes to be addressed critically in the context of the broad tropes of liberty and justice include individualism, opportunity, meritocracy, nepotism, democracy, and public accountability. 

The presentation may feature brief excerpts from various Arab reality TV shows.
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Alex Lubin

University of New Mexico,USA

alubin@unm.edu

Colonial Comparisons: Internal Colonies and America’s “Empire of Liberty”

 

While scholarship on cultures of American Orientalism is expanding, very little has been said about the ways anxiety about the United States’ internal colonies shapes its understanding of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  As Americans traveled abroad, reported on MENA, or produced motion pictures set in the region, they frequently compared MENA to a familiar colonial geography: the U.S. Southwest with its particular history of settler colonialism over indigenous and Mexican peoples.  Moreover, as America attempts to spread what Thomas Jefferson termed “an Empire of liberty” throughout the contemporary Middle East we might consider how the United States’ historical practice of domestic settler colonialism haunts its colonial present. 

This paper analyzes a particular problematic: Why did Gilded Age travelers, WWII war correspondents, and postwar film-makers return to America’s internal colonies when representing “the Orient”?  How does America’s settler colonial past shape the colonial present in MENA? 

I address this problematic by analyzing three important moments when U.S. expansion in MENA was made legible to American audiences through comparison to the U.S. Southwest.  First, I explore Gilded Age travel writing and exploration about MENA.  Next I look at journalistic reporting about the United States’ North African front during WWII.  Finally, I consider postwar filmic representations.  In each example, the orient is viewed as similar to the U.S. Southwest, or Arabs are compared to American Indians.  Moreover, the violence and incompleteness of settler colonial pasts haunt the United States’ imperial present.   

An understanding of how domestic “colonial comparisons” animates contemporary U.S. imperialism helps link U.S. settler colonialism in the past to imperial expansion in the present.  Indeed, I will argue that America’s “empire of liberty” is rooted in a settler colonial imaginary that renders conquest through Enlightenment principals of modernity and progress.

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Scott Lucas

Birmingham University,UK
w.s.lucas@bham.ac.uk

 

Illusions of Coherence, Illusions of Preponderence:

The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy Before And After 11 September 2001

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Edward Lundy

American Center for oriental research,Jordan

Edlundy2002@yahoo.com

 

Hector Saint John de Crevecoeur: Liberty and Justice?

 

The essayist, Hector Saint John de Crevecoeur, lived on borders, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and between Europe and colonial America.  What is infrequently noted is how he straddled the border between belief and doubt about America as a haven for those who seek justice and liberty.

In “Letters from an American Farmer” Crevecoeur wrote about his successful life as a New York farmer, attributing his good fortune, and that of his community, to the liberty and justice which enriched their lives as emphatically different from their European experiences.  His famous Fifth Letter clearly celebrates the American farmer and sharply condemns the European Church and Hierarchical systems which prevented the poor from holding land, from enjoying equal rights in the courts, and from all the economic, political, religious and social ways in which the American farmer prospers

For at least the last fifty years anthologies of American literature and of American history have contained accepts from Crevecoeur, high-lighting the Fifth Letter.  These anthologies, as I have used them in America, Turkey and the Middle East, seem to give a simplistic assessment of the liberty and justice values of the American farmer.  They clearly praise America and encourage students to simplify the reality of American liberty and justice.

 A more complete reading of Crevecoeur will expose his strong doubts about America.  He clearly sees injustices suffered by Native Americans, African Americans, and poor frontiersmen.  Guns, violence, alcohol, gambling, land speculation, and material greed cast dark shadows.  When Crevecoeur allows us to see the darkness as well as the light, he can still be an important commentator on American liberty and justice.  Reading a complete Crevecoeur is important to students in the Americas as well as those in the Middle East.

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Eileen T. Lundy

American Center for Oriental Research, Jordan

eileenlundy@yahoo.com

 

The Power of the People, By the People and For the People:

Transnational Grassroots Movements for Justice

 

The recent publication of BLESSED UNREST by Paul Hawken, environmentalist and journalist; sets forth an astonishing claim in its subtitle:  “How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.”  This “largest movement in the world” is the result of the convergence of grassroots groups in pursuit of justice related to environmental issues, human and civil rights and the resistance movements of indigenous groups.  A perusal of these groups shows the transnational quality of many of them, connected via internet, blogs, cell phones, etc., crossing national and cultural boundaries in the pursuit of common values.  Hawken estimates that there may be as many as 2 million such groups operating in the world, without a united idealogy, without single charismatic leaders such as a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, Jr., flexibly and effectively  operating in cyberspace, surfacing at times for a public demonstration but not disbanding or disappearing at the end of the march..

I propose, then, an exploration of three questions:

1.  Which groups connect US America and regions of the Middle East in a nonviolent pursuit of causes of justice?

2.  How do the tools of technology and the rise of “citizen journalism” aid the transnational growth of these groups?

3.  How do counter-movement compare with this “largest movement” in size, effectiveness and strategies?

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Osama Abd El-Fattah Madany

Menoufiya University, Egypt

osamamadany@yahoo.com

 

Collision or Coalition: Cultural Indeterminacy in Diana Abu Jaber's Arabian Jazz (1993) and Crescent (2003)

 

Dubbed by Joanna Kadi as "the Most Invisible of the Invisibles," The Arab-American community is viewed as an isolated enclave that separates itself from other ethnic groups and from the dominant, white mainstream center. Initially considered "not white," then "not quite white," then legally "white," then "somewhere outside the limits of racial categories," Arab-Americans have been vexed and perplexed with notions of "blackness," "whiteness," and "in-betweeness" that has often seen them both collide and coalesce with the American values of liberty and justice. How this community engages with this "borderless Arabness" is a quest that both negotiates and recreates the Arab-American experience within the privileges and inequalities of the American cultural and racial hierarchy.

Arab-American novelist, Diana Abu Jaber (b.1960) explores in her novels, Arabian Jazz and Crescent the vortex of "not belonging" which makes her characters (first and second generation Arab-Americans) repeatedly clash head on with white hegemony while simultaneously assuming a semblance of "whiteness." Equally, they tend to employ a strategy of identity building that aligns them with other ethnic minorities as a substitute for the failure to carve out a space within the dominant white community.  In Arabian Jazz, the characters' measures to blend in mainstream "whiteness" point to an awkward relationship with American society; a sense of displacement articulated in a daughter's raging at her father: "There's only so much you can do to become American." Yet the daughter, herself, is a trapped animal; bound by contradictory cultural perceptions, at times viewed as "a wild-American girl" and at other times as "a boring Arab." Plagued by whiteness, characters attempt to find a way out by affiliating themselves, consciously or unconsciously, with other ethnic minorities like African Americans and Latinos. In Crescent, Abu Jaber concocts a medley of characters, members from a wide selection of Arab (and other Middle Eastern) backgrounds that negate simplistic representations of Arab identity. Yet, in defiance of American racial injustice, they manage to negotiate their cultural barriers by partaking in an Arab communion provided by the protagonist's café-shop; thus constructing boundaries between the various ethnicities.

This paper, as such, explores the doubleness of signification which highlights the spaces between Arab and American, propelling Diana Abu Jaber towards a strategy of negotiation. Collisions with mainstream American culture engender coalitions across ethnic boundaries which calls for the cultural indeterminacy of both Arabian Jazz and Crescent. This need, if not compulsion, to forge connections beyond the insular boundaries of group identity; to articulate identity within and across cultural lines lies at the heart of the discourse on liberty and justice in the U.S.  
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Seyed Mohammad Marandi

University of Tehran, Iran

mmarandi@ut.ac.ir

 

Iranian Perspectives and American Studies

 

During the last few decades, attitudes towards the United States in Iran have been highly influenced by US policies towards the country before the Revolution as well as by the conflicting and sometimes incompatible worldviews of successive Iranian and American governments after the Revolution. However, the current situation in the region, following the September 11 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, the situation in Palestine, and the US military buildup near Iranian territory, has created even greater complexity in the multidimensional encounters between Iranians and the United States. The results of a poll, jointly carried out by three American organizations (A WorldPublicOpinion.org, Search for Common Ground, and Knowledge Networks), which were released on January 24, 2007 under the title Public Opinion in Iran and America on Key international Issues, reflect this complex view towards the US in Iran today.  

The North American Studies department at the University of Tehran was established less than three years ago. However, as visiting professors have discovered, attitudes towards the United States are extremely complex and diverse among our MA students. While almost all students are critical of the current US government, their views towards the United States as a country vary from issue to issue.

This paper attempts to discuss the significance of the North American Studies program at the University of Tehran during these interesting and dangerous times. Not only does it have the potential to create a better understanding in Iran of the US, but it also provides an opportunity for a distinctive understanding of the United States that is relevant to American Studies in general. The paper also hopes to explore the predominant ideas towards the US among our students in comparison to those existent in Iranian society at large as portrayed by the January 24, 2007 poll.

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Timothy Marr
University of North Carolina, USA

marr@unc.edu

The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania

Pensylvania…open thy arms to receive Mehemet the Algerine, who, formerly a mahometan, and thy foe, has renounced his enmity, his country and his religion, and hopes, protected by thy laws, to enjoy, in the evening of his days, the united blessings of Freedom and Christianity.”

This multiple conversion ends a largely-unknown epistolary work of twenty-four letters called The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania, one of the earliest examples of American fiction which has not been printed for 220 years. I am working on an editorial introduction to this work and would like to present my findings at the upcoming conference on “Liberty and Justice” because they offer a view of American engagement with MENA at an original moment when the power of US federal nationalism was first being debated and established.  It features an Algerian named Mehemet who seeks honor through an official commission of espionage by assessing the strength of the new nation during the time of the constitutional crisis in 1787. Peter Markoe, the anonymous author, publishes this secret intelligence of the Muslim spy to dramatize the critical power of the American press, itself one of the stays against domestic despotism, to expose the dangers of a hypocritical citizenry and thereby remind readers of the vigilance necessary to maintain liberty. My inquiry into this work will examine, from the perspective of its republication in 2008, the ways that the Algerine interloper is symbolically deployed and converted to offer globalized commentary on the dynamics of American politics, religion, gender relations, and ethnic inclusion, and what this process reveals about early American anxieties about excessively centralized power.
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Melani McAlister
George Washington University, USA
mmc@gwu.edu

Chair and Commentator
Session 10: The Engine of Empire

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William McClenahan

American University of Beirut

wkm05@aub.edu.lb

 

An American Sport in Lebanon: From Play to Politics

 

What is remarkable about basketball is that, until very recently in basketball’s 109 year history in Lebanon, it was one of the few Western imports that didn’t provoke a debate about liberty or justice.  Unlike the practices and ideologies of, for example, nationalism, secularism and feminism, which arrived from the West around the same time as modern sports and gave rise to intense debates over national self-determination, religious liberty and women’s rights, the practice and ideology of basketball, and modern sports in general, proved remarkably uncontroversial.

In fact modern sports were viewed as a salve for feeling of injustice.  Faced with increasingly divisive debates over the extent of religious liberty in schools and colleges, justice for the Armenian and Palestinian refugees settled in Lebanon, and national liberty from Ottoman and French rulers, the missionaries who introduced basketball and the modern sports ethic, and later the Lebanese themselves, turned to sports as a catharsis and a means of promoting ‘good character’.  Under this pretext sports spread rapidly: first through private religiously funded schools, then private clubs, and finally through the efforts of the Lebanese government.

In recent years, however, basketball, like football before it, has fallen from this position of relative disconnectedness into the realm of political gamesmanship, which, as elsewhere around the world, is all about liberty and justice.  The assumption that sports, politics and violence go hand-in-hand – the notion that, in the words of George Orwell, sport is simply ‘war minus the shooting’ – is called into question by Lebanese perceptions of liberty and justice.  At times perceived injustice led to war in the streets but not on the courts, while at other times the war raged in the stands even as the streets remain eerily quiet.   This paper examines the history of basketball in Lebanon from the perspective of liberty and justice – how these values converged and diverged from basketball.

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Mohammad Mousavi

University of Tehran, Iran

mamousavi@ut.ac.ir

 

American Liberty and Justice:

A Perspective from Students of American Studies in Middle East

 

While perceiving liberty and justice as cherished values in the United States of America, it seems that American administration has tried extensively to promote such values as American Exceptionalism in other societies such as Middle Eastern countries.

Clearly, there is a demarcation between what is perceived, practiced and cherished as American values such as Liberty and Justice in USA on the one hand, and promoted in the Middle East by USA on the other. It seems that for US administration, such value, even coming from the same location, have different connotation for different geographical locations. Hence, this has become a juxtaposition of contradictory observations of same single values.

This paper tries to examine this demarcation using a questionnaire among the students of American Studies in Middle East countries. The result shows that for Middle Easterners, values such as Liberty and Justus are of high significance and in their view; it has been institutionalized in USA. However, when it comes to the Middle Eastern countries, the US government’s policy of promotion of such exceptionalist values is merely nothing more than a tool for justification of its expansionist policy.

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Mohammad Mousavi

Tehran University, Iran

mamousavi@ut.ac.ir

&

Mitra Naeimi

Tehran University, Iran

mitranaeimi@ut.ac.ir

 

Clash of Exceptionalisms : How American Neo-Conservatives and Alqaeda Terrorists Interpret Liberty

 

Samuel Huntington believes that "[…] the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”  

Regarding Huntington’ claim, Iraq War examination reflects that current conflicts lie more on the imposition of the exceptional values or policies by one or either sides of conflict. In fact this war reveals that  some of the battle lines of current and future occur because of clash of Exceptionalisms rather than clash of civilizations or a mere political objectives.

We name some Exceptioinalisms. For instance, as we face Americas not one America, we have different American Exceptionalisms. Hence among all American Exceptionalisms, Neo-Conservative one is underlined in this paper as it is current dominant narration of America and has had the major role in Iraq War which is the case study here.

On the other hand, the group of Alqaeda, who fights Americans in Iraq, and as the other partial side of this conflict, has claimed its objectives in its terrorist acts as a set of values that it perceives to prevail. Hence they can be treated as Alqaede Exceptionalism. 

Therefore, it is argued that we would compare American Neo-Conservative Exceptionalism with Alqaeda Exceptionalism, as one major source of conflict in Iraq. Thus, this Article explains how different Exceptionalisms affect on interpretation of human values dissimilarly.

Hence, how the notion of liberty motivates both American Neo-Cons statesmen and Alqaeda leaders. Consequently how value of liberty has entered discussion of war and terrorism and which rhetoric Neo-Conservatives and Alqaeda terrorists use against each other.

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Marcy Newman

Boise State University,USA
marcynewman@gmail.com

 

‘I Want to go Back’: Educating American Children about Al Awda
 

In an interview with the New York Post, Debbie Almontaser founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in New York responded to a question about the definition of the word “intifada” as it appeared on t-shirts created by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. She responded to the reporter: “The word [intifada] basically means 'shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic.” This response contributed to her resignation although she previously collaborated with Jewish and Zionist organizations including the Anti-Defamation League. The school which offers instruction in Arabic language and culture, has been under attack for months by organizations like Stop the Madrassas: Protecting Our Public Schools from Islamist Curricula, though as a public school it includes no religious instruction. While the creation of a school teaching Arabic language and culture in New York is long overdue, such a curriculum is needed nationwide. I would argue that much of the outrage directed at the academy originates from Zionist organizations fearing that greater understanding emerging from graduates might contribute to a questioning or a lessening of support for the Zionist lobby in the U.S.

One factor playing into American support of the Israeli lobby is related to the twenty-one states that have enacted legislation mandating that instruction about the Nazi Holocaust be embedded into public school curricula. This subject, I argue, is often taught to elicit support for Israel, creates misunderstanding about events surrounding the World War II in relation to the Middle East. My paper explores the implications of including Middle East cultural texts into American curriculum in general, with an emphasis on educating American children about al nakba and al awda.  Focusing on materials created by and about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon—Mai Masri’s film Frontiers of Dreams and Fears and children’s narratives and artwork produced in the Ghassan Kanafani kindergartens—I offer a framework for rethinking American education in a transnational framework.
 

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Anne Norton

The University of Pennsylvania , USA

anorton@sas.upenn.edu

 

“The Imperial Individual: Individualism as the Engine of Empire”

 

In this paper I argue that the engine of American imperialism has not been the desire for glory, national security, or corporate profit.  The individualism of the Enlightenment has been the engine of American imperialism.  The assumption of a common humanity, a world of individuals endowed with common human rights,  overcame the consent of the governed and served as an apology for the abandonment of democracy.  The language of rights that once fueled a revolution became the engine of empire. 

The idea of an individual endowed with rights before culture, before politics, in nature had set Europe and America ablaze with revolutionary fervor.  Those who claimed to secure these rights could claim priority over all other authorities.  Their work was the work of “Nature’s God” and whether that was read as Nature or God, it was given and unchallengeable.  It was not, however, unchanging or consistent in its effects.  The ideology that ended empires could impel them.  The ideology that founded democracies could undermine them.  The fire that once spread the rights of man from Europe to America and back again, would be transformed to an ideology that vitiated those rights: spreading with European and American imperialism to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa -and back again.

I will first examine the historical process that made individualism the engine of empire in the United States.  I will then show how this imperial individualism finds expression in discourses of human rights, poetry and popular culture; and is made material in state policy and military action.

The transformation of individualism from a revolutionary to an imperial ideology is effected as a range of theoretical possibilities is narrowed by and in historical conditions.  I will argue that the political requirements of conditions in the wake of the American Civil War narrowed and directed conceptions of individualism, individual rights, national license and national obligation.  These altered conceptions impelled the drive to an American imperialism still active in the Middle East and North Africa.
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Patricia Velde Pederson

American University of Beirut

pp02@aub.edu.lb

 

Views on United States Culture and Foreign Policy:

Lebanese Adolescents Speak Out

 

This paper shares the findings of a focus group research study conducted in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007.  Participants were male and female adolescents attending the final year of secondary school in five private educational institutions across Lebanon.  Purposive sampling was employed to insure that the views of students representing various religions (i.e., Maronite and other Christian groups, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Druze) and geographic regions across Lebanon (i.e., urban Beirut and Sidon, the Chouf Mountains, and a village on the Israeli border) were captured.  Schema theory and in-group out-group theory provided the theoretical framework that guided the analysis.  Two themes emerged about American culture.  First, America has a very diverse culture, and second, Americans are very open-minded.  This attribute, however, was not always viewed as positive.  Four themes about United States (U.S.) foreign policy emerged: first, the U.S. government holds different countries to different standards; second, the U.S. foreign policy has had a negative impact on these students’ lives; third, U.S. foreign policy does not always reflect the views of the American people; and fourth, the U.S. government encourages negative views of Arab­s—especially Muslims.  The findings of this study generally support previous studies conducted with college-age students and adults throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

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Bojan Preradovic

American University of Beirut

blp00@aub.edu.lb

                                                                                               

U.S., the MENA, the Refugee, and the Radical Crisis of Universal Human Rights and International Law

 

As a starting point, one must recognize that the application of universal human rights is indelibly linked to the concept of universal political equality. As Hannah Arendt had pointed out in ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ (1951), in order to have rights, one must have the fundamental right to have rights, or in other words, one must legally be a citizen of a nation-state to enjoy any of the fundamental human rights, as envisioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such mechanisms which are, in effect, concerned with the notion of justice. Moreover, before even considering rhetoric and actions of U.S. leaders on this topic, one must take into account America’s unconditional support of the State of Israel, and hence the latter’s refusal to endorse the right of return and reversal of the condition of millions of Palestinian refugees. The mere existence of refugees embodies the radical crisis of the concept of universal human rights (as stipulated not only by the abovementioned declaration, but also by the Declaration des droits de I'homme et du citoyen of 1789) as well as the idea of democracy, which is central to any such rhetoric or action by a U.S. leader. Both lose any hint of importance if they are not applied or contained within the context of citizenship, and offered by the nation-state, which serves as the forum for the application and provision of universal human rights, and without which any discussion of the latter is practically meaningless.  

The paper therefore aspires to examine the encounter between the U.S. and the MENA region espoused by the significance of the relationship between justice and international law, which is defined in the abovementioned terms of universal rights of human beings vis-à-vis rights of citizens. Most importantly, the paper aims to, through engaging some ideas of contemporary political theorists such as Arendt, Carl Schmitt, and Giorgio Agamben, establish the complicity of the U.S. in the disparity between the abovementioned notions of justice and international law, and the resulting schism between rhetoric and the actual application of rights.

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Javad Asghari Rad

University of Tehran, Iran

Javadrad@ut.ac.ir

 

US Public Diplomacy: The Case Towards Iran From The Cold War th the Presnt

 

This essay would cover a preliminary discussion around the topic of Public Diplomacy. There would also be a brief historical approach towards American public diplomacy.

Next, the case of US public diplomacy towards Iran in the early years of cold war up to the present time would be discussed. The writer hopes the past experiences, which would be clarified using present disclosed information about US policies towards the region and especially Iran, plus the contemporary public diplomacy, could help broaden the horizon of understanding US.

Finally, the essay would provide a review of how concepts like liberty, freedom of speech, democracy, women’s rights, and justice are reinforced through the means of US public diplomacy towards Iranian nation.

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Blain Roberts

California State University, Fresno, USA

broberts@csufresno.edu

 

The New Face of American Imperialism? Politics, Power, and the Female Beauty Parlor

 

In 2002 after the fall of the Taliban, a group of American women spearheaded the founding of the Kabul Beauty School, envisioning instruction in hairdressing and cosmetics as a way to boost Afghan women’s self-esteem and provide them a route to financial independence. The first class of beauticians graduated a year later.

This grass-roots American campaign presents intriguing questions.  Could an American effort to establish beauty schools and beauty parlors raise women’s economic and political status in the Muslim World? Or, would such a program actually reinforce women’s subordinate position while simultaneously glorifying American aesthetic standards?  Is the pursuit of beauty a possible road to liberty for women in the Muslim World, or is it a potential obstacle?  This paper will examine the history of beauty salons in African American communities of the American South in an effort to shed light on these questions. 

From the early twentieth century through the 1960s, beauty parlors were crucial—and complex—institutions in the lives of southern black women.  On the one hand, black beauticians’ most popular service was pressing hair to make it look straighter or, as many critics contended, to make black women look more like white women.  Beauticians maintained they were not acquiescing to white aesthetic standards, a claim did not always bear the test of scrutiny.  On the other hand, these salons and the beauticians who ran them did provide black women the power to achieve self-esteem in a society loath to concede it.  Women who worked as beauticians were also self-employed businesswomen who controlled their own money and their own work spaces.  By the 1950s, these facts had produced a noteworthy development:  beauty parlors served as hotbeds of potentially risky civil rights activities.

In short, the history of beauty salons in southern black communities provides useful lessons.  It challenges the charge of American feminists that the pursuit of beauty is nothing more than a vehicle of women’s oppression.  At the same time, it suggests that any initiative to export American beauty practices to the Muslim World must be subjected to serious examination lest it narrow the definition of what qualifies as beautiful.

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J. David Slocum

New York University, USA

david.slocum@nyu.edu

 

“A Quality of Vengeance:

Retribution as Justice in Cinematic Treatments

of the U.S. War on Terror”

 

The U.S. cultural imaginary since September 11, 2001, has been consistently marked by fantasies of violent retribution.  Cinema, in particular, has been shaped by narratives of revenge and related preoccupations with destabilized masculinity and gender roles.  Consider popular productions as varied as Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2002), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003, 2004), Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2004), Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005), and V for Vendetta (Wachowski Brothers, 2006). 

Such a dependence of revenge narratives and associated preoccupations with gender has often emerged during periods of political crisis and anxiety as means of consolidation and incorporation of social bodies in reaction to perceived or imagined threats.  In the American experience, analysts have tracked the recurrence of brutality in the name of civilization, community-building, and the establishment or preservation of core family, legal, democratic, and religious values.  Perhaps most familiarly, Slotkin’s magisterial study of the national mythology of the frontier relies on a logic of reaction against the imagined savagery of racialized others and a resulting “regeneration through violence.”  The race-based demonization of others (Native Americans, Asians, Arabs) as savages relies, in turn, upon what Cawelti identified as an insistent “escalation of [the] villain’s acts of violence” and concomitant diminution of one’s own brutal response.  Besides its social functions, the logic of violence and counter-violence is also framed religiously.  Christianity, as a missionary religion and one itself grounded in brutal sacrifice, has often been used to justify the righteousness of U.S. retributive action in the establishment of Christian societies and assaults on the non-Christian.  That justification – often couched as God’s vengeance or justice – contributes to the complex economies of violence and vengeance that operate in symbolic narratives and political life alike.  Even in putatively secular contemporary society, these economies propagate defense mechanisms against annihilation anxieties and concerns over apocalypse that are fed by crises of the state and of processes of legitimation. 

The proposed presentation will survey recent U.S. cinema and its visual presentation of these economies of violence, increasingly cast as retribution against the savagery of Islamic terrorism, are developed to legitimate the “assumed agreements” that constitute the social.  Examples will range from early, Iraq War-based productions, including Gunner Palace (Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker, 2004), The War Tapes (Deborah Scranton, 2006), and Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, 2006, through the exceptional mass-market productions, Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005) and Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005) to more recent and overtly critical titles like The Kingdom (Peter Berg, 2007), In the Valley of Elah (Paul Haggis, 2007), Rendition (Gavin Hood, 2007), and Redacted (Brian DePalma, 2007).  In tracking this evolution, the analysis will focus on the escalating if shifting use of revenge narratives of bloodletting and the pleasure, or at least reassurance, they afford viewers.  At the same time, the U.S. government’s deployment of what Sorel called a “morality of violence” will be seen as legitimating retributive acts while also reaffirming the increasingly transcendent power of political violence, and the ability to employ it in the first place, as justice in the contemporary world.

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Mounira Soliman

Cairo University, Egypt

mouniras@yahoo.com

 

America in Egyptian Cinema: A Socio-Political Reading

 

Despite the visualization of America in Arab consciousness as the land of liberty, justice and opportunity, its depiction in Arabic cinema has almost always been negative. Up until the sixties America, alongside Northern Europe and the USSR, features as the West, with little emphasis paid particularly to it. In the seventies, however, with the decline of the USSR and the rising power of American foreign policy in the Middle East, the image of America as the land of dreams finds its way slowly but surely into Egyptian cinema. In Youssef Chahine’s Alexandria … Why? Yehia, the protagonist, does his utmost to travel to America to study cinema. And when he finally does so, the audience is left wondering why it is that the film ends with a garish and slatternly representation of the statue of liberty, beckoning the youngster to his dreamland!

In the eighties and nineties, we witness a less subtle form of disillusionment as Egyptian directors, mostly leftists, openly question American values of justice and liberty. Khairy Bishara’s America Abracadabra and Dawood Abdel Sayed’s The Land of Dreams are ironic representations of a place that has elusively for such a long time held the promise of wealth, success and a better life style, but apparently no more so. Both films end with aborted attempts of immigration to the US.  Significantly in these and other films, America remains an idea, a place devoid of the warmth of human contact. It remains even more so dehumanized in recent films like Hello America and The Night Baghdad Fell. The anti-American message is bluntly stated, undoubtedly a response to the post 9/11 anti-Arab sentiments, projecting not only hatred of the Other but also feelings of impotence and frustration at the high price paid for a dream that was never attained.

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Markha Valenta
 Free University, Netherlands

mg.valenta@let.vu.nl

 

Can There Be a Just Form of Global Americanism


Even as America sees itself (officially) as the great embodiment of justice for all, much of the world associates it with injustice. Most directly, today, this arises from US intervention in the Middle East, and in particular, the hypocritical nature of that intervention in which whole societies are destroyed, autocratic governments sustained, and prisoners of war graphically tortured and degraded in the name of freedom and democracy. While this seems a straightforward matter of cause and effect, for much of public, official America, it appears difficult to understand the sources of global and, more specifically, Middle Eastern and Muslim anger. Instead, this anger is variously psychologized (as envy or alienation), criminalized, culturalized (as inherently Middle Eastern or Islamic) or simply repressed. This is more than simply a matter of hypocrisy. Instead it is a matter of politics: a politics in which Middle Eastern anger is specifically de-politicized in the interests of also de-politicizing Americanism itself. As long as anti-American anger is understood as anything but political, the politics of Americanism can also remain invisible, naturalized and unanswerable to any external checks and balances. This is to say, un-democratic. In this paper, I will trace this process as it develops in recent public hearings of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and on Homeland Security regarding issues of terrorism and Islamic radicalism.These hearings foreground the relative impotence of American democratic institutions seeking to engage highly undemocratic international relations in the Middle East, particular given the many (political and corporate) interests that such impotence serves. At the same time, these hearings reveal the extent to which the global intentions of liberal Americanism have become politically unspeakable in America precisely because such Americanism necessarily entails measures of "un-American" and "un-liberal" violation and injustice. The question is: can there be a just form of global Americanism?
Finally, these hearings reveal the extent to which modern political institutions structured around a separation of religion and politics - in the name of peace and freedom of conscience - have yet to discover a means of addressing the return of religion to politics (notably Middle Eastern Islamism), as this has happened in the face of democratic failure, and in the name of justice.

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Andrew Vincent

American University of Beirut

av01@aub.edu.lb

 

A hidden agenda behind the War Against Terrorism?
 

The paper examines the role of government in the war against terrorism, with particular emphasis on anti-terrorist legislation, which is being proposed in a number of Western countries.  It suggests that rather than providing for enhanced security as claimed, such legislation is more designed to appeal to the rising tide of xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment which many western countries are experiencing.  The legislation is also designed to enhance government control powers, at a time when the more traditional powers of government are receding in the face of global change.
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Susanne Wiedemann

Saint Louis University, USA

swiedema@SLU.edu

 

 “‘You can’t beat a man walking on air’:

USIS Beirut Propaganda and the Emergence of a Science-Based Value Rhetoric, 1960-1965”

 

This paper examines Lebanon in the early1960s as a strategic site of Beirut USIS activities aimed at achieving two intertwined “country objectives” as defined in the USIA-issued country plans for Lebanon: “US promotion of peace and stability” and “exposure of and resistance to communism.” In order to counter the Soviet “penetration and subversion of Lebanon,” USIS public programming in the early 1960s focused primarily on two sets of concerns: cultural activities that revolved around U.S. scientific achievements and containment of what was perceived a communist threat to Lebanon and the region at large. One the one hand, the USIS promoted educational science materials, such as popular science book distributions and film series, science fairs, and science exhibits explaining technical properties of spacecraft models, solar devices, satellite launches, and atomic energy. On the other, the discourse generated by the USIS Beirut on U.S. superiority in scientific achievements integrated a global rhetoric of containment that defined strategies to “creat[e] an inhospitable atmosphere for communist messages” in Lebanon. 

This paper claims that similar to the rhetorical use of U.S. core values such as liberty and justice, the USIS discourse on science and progress, located on the fringes of the cultural and political spheres of Lebanon, the Middle East, the U.S., but also East Asia and Central America, produced a geopolitical ideology of global containment and U.S. expansionism in the name of protecting the “free world” from communism and of “building a new and brighter tomorrow.” By identifying the United States with scientific advancement for “peaceful use of space” and research that “benefited all mankind” through cooperation with other nations, the merging of technology, culture, and science generated a new national “value rhetoric” that responded to both a domestic and a global security crisis and to fears of national decline. The national anxiety about falling behind in the space race following the launching of Sputnik in 1957, thus preempting the concept of the “American Century,” finds its parallel in the Beirut USIS report rhetoric that interpreted events such as the launching of Gemini as “trailing in the shadow of the Soviet space feat.” As USIS propaganda campaigns and internal debates explicitly show, the Cuban missile crisis, Nikita Khrushchev’s 1964 visit to the U.A.R., the Berlin Wall, the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, the Congo crisis, Sino-Soviet relations, and “Red China” were central not only to the cold war logic, but to its local manifestations in Lebanon, the site of ideological competition for Lebanese “target audiences” susceptible to the “special effort of the Soviet” (especially the Armenian population and the cities of Tripoli and Zahle). The emergence of Vietnam as an anti-communist propaganda tool in particular prompted an USIS effort to distribute materials on Vietnam in the Lebanese press, thus supporting the major thrust of this paper’s argument: the USIS Cold War rhetoric articulated in the specific political context of Lebanon in the early 1960s shows that American interests in the Middle East must be understood within a broadened geopolitical map and U.S. policies that included Europe, East Asia, Central America, and Africa.

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Tawfiq Yousef

University of Jordan,Jordan

drtawfiq@ju.edu.jo

 

Freedom and Justice and the Teaching of American Studies in the Middle East

 

As an academic discipline in its own right American studies is now taught in many countries all over the world, particularly in the Middle East, an area that has over the past few years witnessed the establishment of a good number of American studies centers and programs. One of the main objectives of such centers and programs is to teach American culture and American values such as freedom, justice, democracy, equality, etc.On the face of it, the task may look easy but in reality, it is fraught with difficulties and contradictions, as this paper will try to explain. The paper deals with the subject from three main perspectives: the political, the social and the educational levels. Discussion will be made with reference to such highlights in American history as the Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the American Civil War, the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. The paper will also discuss some of America’s wars before and after September 11, particularly the war on Iraq with a view to showing how this war violates the American ideals of freedom and justice though it serves America’s political and strategic interests. In addition, the paper will deal with gender equality in America and in the Middle East and with the question of equal opportunities in education and employment for blacks and whites in America. The discussion will highlight the discrepancy and the conflict between proclaimed ideals and actual realities in U. S. history and the problems that such contradictions pose to both the instructor and the students of American studies. The discussion aims at showing how these contradictions can be dealt with for teaching purposes. Such contradictions should be pointed out and explained rather than glossed over, avoided, hidden or denied. They should be used to explain the multiplicity and the complexity of American life and culture and how American history has been a gradual development resulting from strife and conflict and finding solutions to the always cropping problems though these solutions may be far from perfect. They should also be used to show how such contradictions between the ideal and the actual exist in every culture and how the demands of pragmatism and practicality may justify such cases. Finally, the discussion will also be comparative trying to draw parallels between American culture and Arabic/Islamic culture and how they differ and interact with the view of showing how students of American studies can benefit from such contrasts and similarities.

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