Middle East Studies Symposium

California State University, Chico’s Middle East Studies Symposium is hosted by the University’s Middle Eastern Studies Minor and Political Equilibrium in the Middle East and North Africa (PEMENA). Students from universities and colleges from around the US and overseas present papers on a variety of topics related to the history and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. The symposium also features Middle Eastern food and music.

The CSU, Chico Department of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures offers the Middle Eastern Studies Minor. The symposium is co-sponsored by the History Department and the Multicultural Affairs Council.

Uncertain Status: Migrant Labor in Morocco and Spain

Alexander D. Ryll
Graduate Student, California State University Chico

Video: Migrant labor in Morocco and SpainMigration, the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions. Much of this process is overlooked or ignored in our society, however Alexander Ryll explores the populations heavily effected, focusing on migrating patterns in Morocco and Spain. By contacting an interviewing various migrants and refugees, Ryll uncovers theories and processes of migration. He explains the main methods of crossing borders, in foot, talking boats, airfare, etc, and the difficulties with each. Along with this, Ryll shows us how enslavement, economics, politics, and racism each play an important role in the process of migration in our society. Presentation time: 16 minutes | View Now

Temür, Painter of Politics

Levon Ghanimian
Undergraduate History, California State University Northridge

Video: Temur, painter of politics Levon Ghanimian explores art in the Middle East. He talks about the dark history of many of these areas, including war, pillage, and murder. However he explains how these have blinded us from seeing the cultural and artistic sides to the culture. He explores the political history and the geography of the Timurid Empire. By observing a few major art pieces in particular, it is easy to understand how the colors, shapes, and moods to these paintings have a particular identity. From showing the different target groups of art, to the messages behind Timurid art, Ghanimian shows the influence and importance of art in the Middle East. Presentation Time: 21 minutes | View Now

Folktales of the Afghani Jews

Audrey Armstrong
Undergraduate Anthropology, California State University Chico

Video: Folktales of the Afghani Jews Audrey Armstrong presents her findings from an interview with the son of an Afghani Jew. She explains how the common Afghani folk tales started as an oral tradition, slowly becoming a written tradition spreading through Israel. She explains the influence this transition has on the tales themselves, as well as the identity and memory of this culture. She shows how folktales were often used as a way to cope with tragedy and difficulty for the population. By explaining some of the history of Afghani Jews, cultural violence and habitus, and the folktales themselves, Armstrong shows us the importance of these folktales to the Afghani Jewish culture.
Presentation Time: 12 minutes | View Now

Auto-Orientalism and Trauma: Shirin Neshat, Snake Charmer

Alexandre Dorriz
Master of Fine Arts Candidate, University of Southern California

Video: Auto-Orientalism and traumaAlexandre Dorriz explains the psychological effects of Iranian violence and war. He explores latent orientalism and the Occidental Vacuum, as well as the role of American newspapers in Berkeley covering Iran. He also explains PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and re-enactments through Exilic lenses. By sharing quotes and symptoms from Iranians themselves, he shows the reality of surviving a traumatic event, others have not experienced. Presentation Time: 17 minutes | View Now

Representations of Female Homosexuality in Middle Eastern Contemporary Literature: Strategies and Critics

Zayer Baazaoui
Ph.D. candidate in Literary, Cultural and Linguistic Studies of University of Miami, Florida

Video: Representation of female homosexuality in Middle Eastern contemporary timesZayer Baazaoui explains the connection between the development of society and the development of acceptance of sexualities. He explains references to female homosexuality in early literature and how it was challenged. The development of this idea was influenced by culture, technology, and wars. He explores the resistance over time to the socially acceptable stigma against lesbians throughout Middle Eastern history and how it has changed. Presentation Time: 30 minutes | View Now

Women and World War I in the Middle East

Dr. Serpil Atamaz
Assistant Professor of History, California State University Sacramento

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationDr. Serpil Atamaz reveals the truths behind gender separation during World War I. She reveals how studies of history are written by men, based around men, and told by men. She explains the basics around the causes and history of World War I, and the involvement from the Middle East. The war impacted Middle Eastern Women terribly, causing death, disease, rape, poverty, changes in employment and more. They started to volunteer, becoming nurses and working in factories, still without basic human rights. Atamaz shows how these women reacted and stayed strong through one of the hardest and most deadly parts of their history. Presentation Time: 1 hour 3 minutes | View Now

Narrative and Agency: Beyond the "Invention" of the Middle East

Mehdi Beyad
Student, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Video Still Image - Decorative Only“The Middle East,” as a region and as a concept, is a relatively modern invention, according to the presenter. The first known use of the term to describe that large, multi-national region of the world is attributed to a US Naval Officer in an article published in 1902. Mr. Beyad asserts that the term has its roots in the security concerns of the United States and England. The delineation of which countries are considered as part of The Middle East have changed over time – some countries have been included in the definition, then excluded, and then included again. Mr. Beyard delves into some of the reasons this has happened. Presentation time: 28 minutes | View Now

The Truth Behind Argo: Iranian Hostage Crisis and Its Impact on Iranian-American Relations

Casey Benson, Thomas Giles, and Eric Lefevers
Students, California State University, Chico

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyThe speakers use the results of their research to assert that the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, when Iranian students stormed the US embassy, was mishandled by the US government.  The students took 60 people as hostages, of whom 52 were American citizens, and presented a list of demands for their release. Most of the Americans were detained for 14 months. The speakers provide historical background on the circumstances that led to this pivotal event in the history of U.S.-Iran relations. “Argo” is the title of a 2012 movie that was roughly based on the hostage incident. Presentation time: 34 minutes | View Now

Obstacles to Democratic Goals of Social Movements: A Case Study of Egypt's Post Arab Spring

Lila Wael Raouf
Student, Indiana University

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyMs. Raouf starts out by posing the question, “Why do social movements sometimes not reach their original goals of democracy?” She notes that her review of existing literature highlights the military and the political culture of a state as two major obstacles of social movements in reaching their democratic goals.  Ms. Raouf chooses to focus on events in Egypt in the past several years, starting with the 2011 Egyptian revolution, as Egypt is country in which the military has played, and continues to play, an important role. She puts that uprising in a historical context, going back to the Free Officer’s Movement of 1952. Presentation time: 26 minutes | View Now

Islam, Feminism, and Western Assumptions: Early 20th Century Women's Activism in Iran and Turkey

Zavier Christian Wingham
Student, University of Texas, Austin

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyMr. Wingham asserts that the Western news media portray all Muslim women as being the same, and also in a stereotypical, patriarchal way. He also believes that, as a result, cases of activism by Muslim women are not accurately reported. Mr. Wingham maintains that feminist thought and movements vary in each Muslim country, as they each take place in a different cultural context. He uses Turkey and Iran as examples. Presentation time: 33 minutes | View Now

A Percolation of Culture: The Ottoman Coffee House in European Society

Kristin Feay
Student, California State University, Northridge

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyMs. Feay’s focus is on the historical role of coffee houses as “vessels of cultural exchange” between Middle Eastern and European societies. Specifically, she explains how coffee houses spread Middle Eastern culture to European society. She discusses reasons why coffee houses overcame cultural barriers, what aspects of culture were exported from the Middle East to Europe through coffee houses, and the social function of the coffee house. Presentation time: 29 minutes | View Now

The Influence of Sustainable Action on Cultural Conflicts in the Middle East

Brandon Michael Smith
Student, Wichita State University

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyThe valleys formed by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are among the most fertile areas in the entire Middle East. To explore his topic, Mr. Smith focuses on one example: the current construction of a dam on the Tigris River in Southeastern Turkey in a regional called Hasankeyf. This area of the world is sometimes referred to as “the cradle of civilization.” It is the location of numerous archaeological sites that reveal a rich cultural heritage. Mr. Smith explains the expected effects of the dam on the region – politically, educationally, culturally, and environmentally. Presentation time: 29 minutes | View Now

Islam and Fashion in a Transnational Context

Allison Brooke Yates
Student, Indiana University

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyMs. Yates explains how a group of Muslim women living in the United States interpret Muslim fashion. She interviewed those women, as well as Muslim women who are active bloggers in the fashion world. They call themselves “Hijabistas” rather than “Fashionistas” – this is in reference to the hijab, the scarf or veil that covers the head, and sometimes the chest, that Muslin women wear to conform to an Islamic standard of modesty for post-puberty women. Ms. Yates studied how the women discussed modesty, fashion, and Islam; style, empowerment, and identity; and being an American. Presentation time: 28 minutes | View Now

Longevity of the Ottoman "Imaret"

Rod Thomson
Student, California State University, Chico

Video Still Image - Decorative OnlyIn the Ottoman Empire, social welfare and humanitarian relief was provided by the institution known as Waaf. Rod Thomson examines this centuries-old tradition, which is still in existence today in parts of the Middle East. Waaf is defined in Islamic law as a good deed that goes on into perpetuity. The Imaret is a soup kitchen that is part of a larger complex to provide humanitarian aid to those in need. Presentation time: 27 minutes | View Now

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood

Jonathan Miller & Seth Thomas
Students, Portland State University

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The presenters give a history of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, from its roots in the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century to the organization as it exists today. Mr. Miller provides a history lesson, including a description of the French occupation from 1920-1943, which resulted in 10 Syrian revolts. This spurred the rise of nationalistic and anti-colonial groups; the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was founded in the mid-1930s. Mr. Thomas discusses the changes in the Brotherhood’s politics and image during the past three decades, during most of which the organization has been banished from Syria. Presentation time: 41 minutes | View Now