We are living in a moment of global change that requires new academic questions. For example, the so-called “Arab Spring” invites more complex understandings of East/West binaries, more nuanced analyses of the Arab and Islamic worlds, and more sophisticated readings of religious, ethnic, and national identities. Moreover, in the United States, fierce battles over the social contract enacted during the New Deal, intense struggles over immigration and ethnic studies, and organized protest movements to resist neoliberal labor and social relations focus attention on new social subjects and new geographic imaginaries.
Within a context of profound political, environmental, and social transformations in America and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA), this international conference invites scholarly papers on the theme, “shifting borders.” With this provocative title we aim to think of shifting borders in two primary ways. First, we want to conceive of scholarship that “shifts” the borders of scholarly and disciplinary ways of thinking; and second, we want to think about the ways that borders of all kinds are malleable, socially constructed, and historically contingent. “Shifting borders” addresses scholarly and political interventions articulated by Edward Said, Gloria Anzaldua, Walter Mignolo and others.
The subjects of the conference, America and the MENA, are themselves shifting imaginaries. America is in the MENA and the MENA is in America. Moreover, social movements and battles animating America and the MENA are taking place globally; therefore, it may be necessary to shift the borders of America and the MENA with analyses that integrate the “Americas” or the Islamic “worlds” which would include Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
The Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at American University of Beirut was launched in 2003 with a major gift from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud. It is an independent academic center that seeks to promote better understanding between the people of United States and those of the Arab world through teaching, research and outreach efforts.