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Spring 2016 CMSP Events

Djingareiber cour

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, Mezzanine Room 101

Sarah Gualtieri (University of Southern California) - "Arab/American Studies: Transnationality Before the Transnational Turn"

This presentation traces a genealogy in Arab American Studies and, in particular, the novel ways that scholars/activists push against assimilation paradigms to engage questions of empire, colonization, and inter-ethnic solidarity. It focuses on critical moments of germination in the field, including 1967 (the Six Day War), the formation of the Association of Arab American University Graduates, and 1985 (the killing of Palestinian American activist Alex Odeh), to analyze the ways in which Arab American scholars, trained in a wide range of disciplines, engaged in forms of transnationalism, both in terms of theory and praxis, long before the so-called transnational turn in the social sciences. It concludes with a discussion of Arab/America within contemporary critical ethnic studies.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, Mezzanine Room 101

Rachel Fell McDermott (Columbia University) - "'Who is this Nazrul?' Cross-border Perplexities in the Study of a Bengali Literary-Cultural Hero"

Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College, Columbia University

** Co-sponsored with South Asian Studies

This talk focuses on the "rebel poet" Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), who is famed for his poems of 1920s-30s Bengal -- poetry that was fiercely anti-colonial; critical of bigotry, prejudice, communalism, and social injustice; and, by the late 1930s, expressive of devotion to Allah, Kali, and Krishna.  Both beloved and highly controversial in his own day, Nazrul is claimed by the present state of West Bengal in India and by Bangladesh, in the former as a symbol of secularism and in the latter as the National Poet.  Determining the contemporary legacy of this culturally integrated poet and personality brings us to ask an uncomfortable question: has the poet become bifurcated, along with the political and geographic divisions of formerly undivided Bengal?


Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, American Studies Wing, Mezzanine Room 101 (enter from north side of the building, between first and second floors)

Carina Ray (Brandeis University) - "Islam in Black and White: 'Mohammedanism', Progress, and Anticolonial Politics in the Early Twentieth-Century Gold Coast Press"

This paper explores how members of the Gold Coast intelligentsia wrote about and debated the merits of Islam as a religious faith capable of advancing the spiritual, political, and social aspirations of West Africans under colonial rule. The rich tradition of indigenous newspaper publishing in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, has left a corpus of print sources that shed light on how Ghanaians positioned Islam in relation to Christianity and indigenous African religions as a third route to achieving their spiritual and moral uplift in ways that circumvented the racial baggage of Christianity, while also leaving assumptions about the inferiority of "paganism" in tact. Opinion, however, was by no means uniform and other writers cautioned against the idea that Islam was a more authentically African faith and rejected the claim that Africans could only practice their Christian faith as second-class citizens.  The imperative of this paper is to use newspaper debates about Islam and religion more generally as a tool to tease out underlying assumptions about the racial appropriateness of various religious identities with a view to understanding how religion and race consciousness mutually informed one another during a time of great political and social change in colonial Ghana.


Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 5:00 to 7:15pm at Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts

CMS Film and Discussion: Standstill by Majdi El-Omari, Palestinian/Canadian Film-maker, Montreal, Canada

After the political crisis in Kanesatake’s reserve, Arihote, a Kanienkehaka "Mohawk", sometime war photographer, and his wife parted ways. While trying to help his son who has committed a misdemeanor, Arihote, whose life is in a rut, happens upon the revenge killing of a neighbor by Wedad (Meissoon Azzaria), a Palestinian refugee. Loath to get involved in a police investigation, Arihote finds himself helping Wedad to leave the crime scene. Arihote finally begins to rebuild his relationship with his son, and to focus on resolving his feelings about both his wife’s departure and his father’s suicide. The chance encounter between Arihote and Wedad sets each of them on a new course. The characters in Standstill have seen their attempts to move forward thwarted by cultural and political forces. Finding new solace in each other may be the first step to freeing themselves from their inertia.

About the filmmaker:

Majdi El-Omari is a Palestinian – Canadian filmmaker. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in filmmaking from the Cairo Institute of Cinema in Egypt, and a Master in Fine Arts in Film Production (MFA) from Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada.


Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, Mezzanine Room 101

Vanessa Ogle (University of Pennsylvania) - "How Far Is Far? The Place of the Arab-Muslim World in the Global Transformation of Time, 1870s-1930s"

In the second half of the nineteenth century, observers all across the globe noted how time (and tied to it, space) was dramatically changing in an increasingly interconnected world. They differed, however, in their interpretation as to what this transformation of time meant. This talk focuses on a set of responses and appropriations of new times by Arab reformers and Muslim scholars in the Eastern Mediterranean. Time management and the unification of Islamic calendar times became tools for interpreting an uneven, hierarchical and asymmetric world and ideally, for molding a better future in the age of empire.


Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, Mezzanine Room 101

Edmund Burke (UC Santa Cruz) - "The Mediterranean in the Cold War: A World Historical Perspective"

Was the Cold War an important point of rupture in the modern history of the Mediterranean?  How did the new Cold War conjuncture affect the old structures of the region, especially the Middle East? This seminar sees the region as a cultural fracture zone whose fate is vital to the future of the world, and whose deep history can help us to think outside of the box of cultural determinacies.


Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 4:30pm, McGraw Hall, Mezzanine Room 101

Richard Roberts (Stanford Univeristy) - "A King Along the Niger River:  French Colonialism, Bargains of Collaboration, and the Rule of Law, 1879-1918”

In 1891, in the midst of colonial conquest, the French military leader in the Soudan made his trusted interpreter king of the long-established Muslim town of Sinsani along the Niger River.  In making Mademba Seye king, Lt-Colonel Louis Archinard pursued his model of resurrecting African kingship that had been eroded by thirty years of militant Islamic rule under al hajj Umar and his heirs.  Mademba had little claim to the legitimacy of kingship in Sinsani, nor did Sinsani have a tradition of kingship.  Mademba was born in the French colonial town of St Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River, which gave him the rights of French citizenship.  He attended the School for Hostages (designed for sons of chiefs or their substitutes) that Governor Faidherbe had established as part of his effort to accommodate Islam and Muslims in the new colony.  Mademba joined the nascent colonial post and telegraph service and rose through the ranks to become a trusted intermediary.  Archinard rewarded him by making him king in a town along the recently conquered Middle Niger valley.  After being made king, Mademba subtly changed his patronym from Seye to Sy, perhaps to link his ancestry to the famous clerical lineage of Senegal.  This talk is part of an on-going micro-social history of Faama Mademba that explores the complex interactions between Africans and colonial officials as they implement the French model of indirect rule, tensions surrounding the invention of tradition and its bargains of collaboration, and tensions in colonial rule in French colonial Soudan as ideas of empire and imperial rule changed.