Skip to main content

A Time of Crisis: An International Conference

Middle East and North African Migration Studies in a Time of Crisis

The Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies will host an international scholarly conference on Middle East and North African migration on April 21 & 22, 2017. The conference will be held at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, North Carolina, USA) in Withers Hall, Room 331.

This conference will consider the problematics of studying human movement to, from, and within the Middle East and North Africa in a time of mass displacement and multiple refugee “crises.” The region has long been defined by conflict and danger; conceived of as a place of flight and exile and expulsion, it has been imagined as the distorted obverse of a “Europe” or “America” imagined as spaces of refuge and safety. It is clear, then, that scholars working on Middle Eastern and North African migrations have much to contribute to discussions prompted by the wave of displacements the region is currently witnessing, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and Libya.

Panelists will focus on three axes. The first considers contemporary flows of refugees, displaced peoples and migrants, and the varying responses that states and non-governmental organizations have developed to deal with people in movement. The second examines past patterns of Middle Eastern and North African movement (forced or voluntary), and the ways in which studying these may aid our understanding of the current moment. Conversely, the last of these axes concentrates on the ways in which the crisis in movement we are currently witnessing may pose new questions and methodological and theoretical challenges for scholars interested in mobility, compelling us to revise our understanding of Middle Eastern and North African migrations and to refashion the tools we use to examine these flows. 

Conference Program

Friday, April 21

8-8:45 a.m. – Coffee & Pastries

8:45-9 a.m. – Opening Remarks ~ Dean Jeff Braden, Humanities and Social Sciences & Akram Khater, Director of the Khayrallah Center

9-11 a.m. – Ottoman Precedents

  • Beth Baron (CUNY, Graduate Center), Circassian Concubines: Migrations from the Caucasus to Cairo
  • Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky (Stanford University), Crafting the Russo-Ottoman Muslim Space: Refugee Ties Across the Imperial Frontier, 1860-1914
  • Rebecca Gould (Bristol University, UK), Migration as Allegory: Narrating Expulsion in the Literatures of the Caucasus
  • David Gutman (Manhattanville College), People Smuggling Networks in the Ottoman and Contemporary Mediterranean

11-11:30 a.m. – Coffee Break

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Spaces of Refuge: Borders, Territories, and Exclusions

  • Lauren Banko (Manchester University, UK), The migrant, the border, and the territorialization of state space, 1860-1948
  • Stacy Fahrenthold (California State University, Fresno), Traveling Syrians, Immovable Turks: Former Ottomans, Repatriation, and Passport Fraud at the Close of Empire, 1918-1920
  • Chris Gratien (Harvard University), “I Was Brought Up Here:” Deporting Stateless Ottoman-Americans
  • Chris Rominger (CUNY, Graduate Center), “Neutral Space for Thought and Action: North African Exiles in Switzerland, 1914-1919”

1:30-3 p.m. – Lunch

3-4:30 p.m. – Keynote Address: Dr. Ilana Feldman (George Washington University)The Refugee as a Political Figure for our Time

Saturday, April 22

9-11 a.m. – Narrating Refugees

  • Harry Kashdan (University of Michigan), “I Don’t Want to Become Like Them:” Choosing Solitude in Contemporary Arab Migration Literature
  • Renee Michelle Ragin (Duke University), “Haunted, Not Traumatized: The Condition of the Refugee in Ghada Samman’s The Square Moon”
  • Rasha Chatta (SOAS, University of London), The Arab Migrant Graphic Novel: A Comparative Study of Migrant Narratives between the Maghreb and the Mashriq.

11-11:30 a.m. – Coffee Break

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – “Managing” Refugees

  • Anna Reumert (Columbia University), Unprotected: Survival Practices Among Syrian Refugees in Beirut
  • Sofiane Bouhdiba (University of Tunis), The Libyan Crisis and the Management of Refugee Flows in Ras Jedir, Tunisia, 2011-1016
  • Kelsey Norman (University of California, Irvine), Examining Variation in MENA Host State Migrant and Refugee Engagement Strategies
  • Gerasimos Tsourapas (University of Birmingham, UK), Labor Migrants as Political Leverage – Migration Interdependence & Coercion in the Mediterranean

1:30-2:30 p.m. – Lunch Break

2:30-4:30 p.m. – Politics of Refuge

  • Laura Robson (Portland State University), Refugees and the Case for International Authority in the Middle East
  • Benjamin White (University of Glasgow), Grudging Rescue: the flight of Armenians from Cilicia, 1921, and the history of humanitarian evacuations
  • Ann-Christin Wagner (University of Edinburgh), Guest or stranger? Reconsidering hospitality in the anthropology of humanitarianism
  • Reem Bailony (Georgetown University), “Mankibu Rashaya”: Rashayn Refugees and the Construction of Lebanese Nationalism in 1925

4:30-5 p.m. – Concluding Remarks: Akram Khater