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Middle East and Arab American Gender Studies
Standing, left to right, Dina Al-Kassim, Sondra Hale, Lara Deeb, Zeina Zaatari, Nada Elia and Nadine Naber.

Middle East and Arab American Gender Studies

First in a series of Arab Women's Research and Activist Network (AWRAN) research meetings.

The workshop was designed for participants to showcase their latest work and their work in progress, both diasporic research and research in the Middle East and North African region (MENA)

The Center for Near Eastern Studies and the Center for the Study of Women co-sponsored a two-day workshop January 27-29 on Linking Middle East and Arab American Gender Studies. The transnational gender studies workshop was organized by Sondra Hale, Lara Deeb, and the Arab Women's Research and Activist Network (AWRAN), an internet organization that holds occasional in-person workshops. With the exception of one senior organizer, the eight workshop participants represent a new generation of gender studies scholars in Middle East and Arab American Studies. This was the first in a series of AWRAN research meetings.

Sondra Hale

The workshop was designed for participants to showcase their latest work and their work in progress, both diasporic research and research in the Middle East and North African region (MENA), with an emphasis on transnational approaches. Participants spanned the humanities and social sciences, with three in the former, four in the latter, and one in the interdisciplinary field of Women's Studies. In fact, all of the participants are interdisciplinary and work or teach in more than one academic unit.

By sharing the new directions in their research and their latest ideas, theories and methods, the participants are moving toward a reconstruction of the field of Gender Studies in the MENA region and forging closer connections to Arab America and Middle Eastern America.

Nada Elia, Professor of Liberal Studies, Antioch University, Seattle, is the author of Trances, Dances and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives. She presented a paper titled When Land Came before Honor: Responses to State Sexual Violence in Palestinian Households, which shows how pervasive and unrelenting state violence translated into domestic violence in Palestine.

Sondra Hale, Professor of Anthropology and Women's Studies, UCLA, is the author of Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism and the State. Her paper on The Sudanese Political "Brain Drain": Women Organizing in Diaspora and the Postwar Return of Diasporan Politicos explores the future relationship between exiled political activists and those who organized underground in Sudan.

Nadine Naber, Assistant Professor of Arab American Studies and Gender Studies in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, presented a paper on De-Orientalizing Diaspora: Race, Gender and Cultural Identity among Arab American Youth in San Francisco, California. The paper is part of a book in progress on youth caught between two hegemonic nationalisms, Arab and American.

Lara Deeb

Lara Deeb, a cultural anthropologist, is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at UC Irvine and the author of An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi`i Lebanon in which she combines portions of previous work on women and public piety and ideas about multiple notions of temporality.

Zeina Zaatari has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis in Feminist Theory from UC Davis, and is a Program Officer at the Global Fund for Women. She is developing her dissertation into a book titled Women'sActivism in Southern Lebanon. Based on her fieldwork with women's groups and activists in South Lebanon, it details their life histories and how they negotiated their work in civil society in a post-war environment.

Amira Jarmakani, an anthropologist, is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at Georgia State University. Her presen- tation on Disorienting America: Inadvertent Repercussions of the "War on Terror" is part of a book in progress in which she examines layers of American history and anxiety. She published "Mobilizing the Politics of Invisibility in Arab American Feminist Discourse" in Gender, Nation and Belonging: Arab and Arab-American Feminist Perspectives, the Spring 2005 edition of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies.

Azza Basruddin

Azza Basarudin is a doctoral candidate in the Women's Studies Program at UCLA where she is working on a comparative study of the cultural meaning of Islam in Muslim women's lives. Her presentation on Imagining Alliances and Forming Linkages: Preliminary Thoughts on Gender, Religion and Feminism in the Middle East and Southeast Asia examines the Sisters in Islam (Malaysia) and the Women and Memory Forum (Egypt) and their cultural negotiations with Islam. She recently published "Dismantling Bridges, Building Solidarity: Reconciling Arab and Western Feminisms" in Al-Raida (Beirut).

Dina Al-Kassim teaches postcolonial studies in Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. Her paper on Women at the Boundary of the Legal: Comparative Studies of North and South Africa is part of a book project in which she hypothesizes that at the threshold of a new nation women are called upon to embody the violence of the state, i.e., they are called on to suture the past. Using Truth and Reconciliation testimonies from Algeria, Morocco and South Africa, she examines the ideology of healing. Her forthcoming publications include On Pain of Speech, which addresses the problem of subjection in modernist literature, and Repudiating the Law.

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