Minorities in the Middle East and North Africa

Minorities in the Middle East and North Africa
A shrine in the Draa region of Morocco visited by Jews and Muslims (Photo Aomar Boum, July 2021; cropped). Used under license: CC BY 3.




FALL 2020

Rethinking the Dhimma System: Comparative Perspectives in Legal History
John Tolan (Université de Nantes) – October 9, 2020

Medieval minorities: the example of Muslims in the Kingdom of Hungary
Nora Berend (University of Cambridge) – October 16, 2020


The Making of Minorities in the MENA: Objects, Images, Spaces, Part 1A
Ruba Kana'an (University of Toronto, Mississauga) and Lamia Balafrej (UCLA) – March 5, 2021

The Making of Minorities in the MENA: Objects, Images, Spaces, Part 1B
Amy Landau (UCLA) and Sussan Babaie (The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London) – March 5, 2021

The Making of Minorities in the MENA: Objects, Images, Spaces, Part 2
Ethel Wolper (University of New Hampshire) and Aomar Boum (UCLA) – March 12, 2021


Zaydi Adaptations of the Sunni Tradition in Yemen: The Case of Qur'an Commentaries
Scott Lucas (University of Arizona) – April 15, 2021

Berbers, Blacks, Jews: The Colonial Legacies and Racial Politics of the Amazigh Revival
Paul Silverstein (Reed College) – April 29, 2021

Khatibi & His Jews: Constructions of the Figure of the Jew in Abdelkébir Khatibi’s Writings
Brahim El Guabli (Williams College) – May 4, 2021


Conference - Minoritization in Middle Eastern Geopolitics: Histories and Theoretical Approaches
January 6, 2022

About the Program

The pilot program on “Minorities in the Middle East,” funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, examined the question of how the concept of minority (religious and ethnic) has emerged as a key factor in the cultural, economic, political, religious, and educational lives of modern Middle East and North African nation-states. During 2019-2021, faculty and graduate students from across the humanities and social sciences successfully implemented the first phase of a larger curricular project with the aim of transforming Middle Eastern Studies at UCLA, building towards designing a new blueprint for pedagogy about the region.

Through a series of talks, workshops, and faculty-graduate student research groups, faculty and graduate students who participated in the project explored the historical dynamics of inter-communal conflict and contacts with the goal to further curricular development at UCLA and beyond. These programmatic initiatives, which considered histories, ethnographies, biographies, and works of fiction, also addressed some of the indigenous local Islamic theories of ethnicity and minority as an introduction to the understanding of the policies adopted by states towards minorities and the influence of Western discourses on minorities.

The talks and workshops organized as part of the program are available through the CNES website. We have also created a list of bibliographic sources, modules and teaching materials, including a syllabus on minorities in the MENA region which we hope will be useful as pedagogical sources for schools and university in California and beyond. We are currently organizing a culminating international conference on January 6-7, 2022 that will bring together a host of experts to address the question of minoritization in the MENA region.

Faculty & Student Participants:

Ali Behdad, Lamia Balafrej, Aomar Boum, Kevan Harris, Asma Sayeed, Susan Slyomovics, Luke Yarbrough, Wisam Alshaibi, Izem Aral, Jesse Arlen, Burcu Buğu, Robert Farley, Timothy Garrett, Ava Hess, Rachel Smith, Jessie Stoolman, Atiyeh Taghiei.


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Mellon Foundation awards grant to CNES