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Middle East Migrations: 2022 Conference

The Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, in conjunction with the editors of Mashriq & MahjarThe Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies, will host an international scholarly conference on Middle East and North African migrations on July 11 & 12, 2022. The conference will be held at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, North Carolina, USA) in Withers Hall, Room 331.

What was once a marginal, passing interest for scholars of the region and its place in the world is now a flourishing and vibrant field, bringing together a host of disciplines, from history, anthropology, geography, and sociology to comparative literature and cultural studies, and from refugee studies to political economy and settler colonial studies.

With this in mind, this conference will highlight the work of a broad range of scholars who provide original insight, by opening up new paths of inquiry and shedding light on neglected subjects, but also by suggesting methodological innovations and offering perspectives on the field’s development.

Conference Program

Monday, July 11

9-9:45 a.m. – Coffee & Pastries

9:45-10 a.m. – Opening Remarks: Dean Deanna Dannels, Humanities and Social Sciences & Akram Khater, Director of the Khayrallah Center

10 a.m. -12 p.m. – Homelands lost and found 

CHAIR: Akram Khater

Diogo Bercito was born in São Paulo. He worked for over 10 years with the leading Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. He holds an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University and he is now pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the same university. He researches early twentieth century Arab migration to Brazil.

Sossie Kasbarian is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling. She earned her doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. She has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh and has taught at SOAS, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva), Lancaster University (England), and the American University in Cairo. She is co-editor of Diaspora – A Journal of Transnational Studies. She is the co-editor (with Anthony Gorman) of Diasporas of the Modern Middle East: Contextualising Community (Edinburgh University Press 2015) and the forthcoming Diaspora and ‘Stateless Power’: Social Discipline and Identity Formation Across the Armenian Diaspora during the Long Twentieth Century (co-edited with Talar Chahinian and Tsolin Nalbantian). She is currently working on a monograph entitled, The Armenian Middle East – Armenian remnants, resilience and reconfigurations. 

Uğur Peçe is an assistant professor of History at Lehigh University, with previous teaching experience at Bard College and Harvard University. He received his PhD degree in History from Stanford University in 2016. A historian of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East, Uğur is particularly interested in the questions of violence, displacement, and popular mobilization and is currently finalizing a book manuscript tentatively titled “Island and Empire: The Civil War in Crete and the Rise of Protest in the Ottoman World.

12-1 p.m. – Lunch

1-3 p.m. – Diasporic Trajectories

CHAIR: Akram Khater

Joe Leidy is a PhD candidate in history at Brown University. His dissertation traces the history of youth as a political symbol from mid-nineteenth century Ottoman Mt. Lebanon to French Mandate Lebanon, and into the Syrian-Lebanese diaspora. He recently completed a year as a teaching fellow in Global Islamics Studies at Connecticut College. He also has a chapter about the Village Welfare Service, a 1930s youth volunteer organization at the American University of Beirut, in the forthcoming edited volume Interwar Crossroads: Entangled Histories of the Middle Eastern and North Atlantic World between the World Wars.

Eibhlin Priestley is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge where she is researching the social and economic lives of the Syrian community in Sudan during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1898-1956). She holds an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS, and a BA in History with Italian from the University of Sussex.

Heather J. Sharkey is Professor and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (University of California Press 2003); American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire (Princeton University Press 2008); and A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press 2017). She has edited Cultural Conversions: Unexpected Consequences of Christian Missionary Encounters in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (Syracuse University Press 2013); with Mehmet Ali Doğan, American Missionaries in the Modern Middle East: Foundational Encounters (University of Utah Press, 2011); and with Jeffrey Edward Green, The Changing Terrain of Religious Freedom (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

3-3:30 p.m. – Coffee Break

3:30-5:30 p.m. – States of being

CHAIR: Stacy Fahrenthold

Lauren Banko is currently (fixed term) lecturer in modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Glasgow. From October 2022-October 2025, she will be Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Humanities and Social Science, a post that will be held in both History and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. She received her PhD in Near and Middle East History from SOAS, London. Lauren is currently working on her second monograph, tentatively titled ‘Subverting the documentary regime: licit and illicit mobilities between Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean, 1920-1950.

Michael Ewers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte where his research examines the human capital dimensions of international economic development, including migration, employment and urbanization.  Although this research is situated in a global context, his regional specialization is in the Middle East. He has used a wide range of methodological approaches to study the region’s oil economies, labor markets and financial centers. Before joining UNC Charlotte, he worked at Texas A&M University and then as a Research Associate Professor and Senior Policy Analyst at Qatar University’s Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI).

Firoozeh Kashani-Sbet is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written on frontiers and borderland communities of Iran and its environs. She has also published a book on the history of reproductive politics in Iran. She has recently finished a book entitled: Heroes to Hostages: America and Iran, 1800-1988, which is in production with Cambridge University Press. She is finishing another book-length manuscript entitled: “Tales of Trespassing: Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf.” The paper presented here comes from this project.

Tuesday, July 12

10 a.m. -12 p.m. – Writing and archiving diaspora 

CHAIR: Akram Khater

Joshua Donovan is an incoming postdoctoral fellow in the history of migration at the German Historical Institute at UC Berkeley, having completed his PhD in History at Columbia University. He is currently working on a transnational history of the Greek Orthodox community in Syria, Lebanon, and the diaspora from ca. 1860-1958. His broader interests include histories of social identity, migration, and empire.

Veronica Ferreri holds a PhD in Politics from SOAS, University of London and is a research associate at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. She works at the intersection of Social Anthropology and Migration Studies with a focus on exile and war, political commitment and solidarity, transnationalism and migration, bureaucracy and documents. Her work appear in Allegra Lab, the ZMO Working Paper Series and the Whole Life Academy/Haus des Kulturen des Welt. She is currently working on a monograph on loss and survival in the aftermath of the Syrian revolution

Ghenwa Hayek is Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the relationships between literary and cultural production, space and place, and identity formation in the modern Arab Middle East, with a specific focus on Lebanon. She is the author of Beirut, Imagining the City: Space and Place in Lebanese Literature (2014) and is currently working on a book project titled ‘Carrying’ Africa, Becoming Lebanese: Emigrant Anxieties in Lebanese Culture. 

12-1 p.m. – Lunch

1-3:30 p.m. – (Re)mapping diaspora 

CHAIR: Stacy Fahrenthold

Francesca is a doctoral candidate at the collaborative research centre SFB1265 “Re-figuration of spaces” at Technische Universität Berlin, within the C08 project “Architectures of Asylum II: Circulation of Governance Approaches, Planning Knowledge, Design Practices, and Materialities”. She has studied Sustainable Development at the University of Edinburgh and Human Geography at Universidade de Lisboa, and is currently also trainee at HafenCity Universität with the EU H2020 MICADO project. Her research work has focused on mapping the intersections between refugee studies, makeshift urbanisms, migrant infrastructures, and socio-ecological urban landscapes. An enthusiast of counter cartographic methodologies, she is involved in the transdisciplinary collective and_ando that interlaces counter-mapping with migrations and performative and visual arts.

China Sajadian is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Smith College. She recently received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her current book project is an ethnography of agricultural labor, circuits of debt, and gendered relations of hierarchy and interdependency among Syrian refugee-farmworkers in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork at the Lebanese-Syrian border, her research traces the forms of debt Syrian farmworkers have incurred before and throughout the Syrian war. This work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Orient-Institut Beirut, the Committee on Globalization and Social Change, and the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics.

James G. Thomas Jr., Oxford, Mississippi, is Associate Director for Publications at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He is an editor of the twenty-four-volume New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and of the Mississippi Encyclopedia, and is editor of numerous works on southern history and literatureHis work has appeared in Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth CenturySouthern Cultures, Southern Quarterly, and elsewhere. He holds a BA in English and Philosophy, an MA in Southern Studies, and an MFA in Documentary Expression, each from the University of Mississippi. His latest project is an online, open-access, multimedia oral history of the Lebanese experience in Mississippi, simply titled, The Lebanese in Mississippi: An Oral History.

Dr Ann Zuntz is a lecturer in Anthropology of Development at the University of Edinburgh. As an economic and political anthropologist, she looks at the intersections between forced migration and global capitalism: she studies refugees’ mobilities and other types of circulations that position displaced people at the heart of global economies. Since 2015, Ann has done ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Tunisia. At the University of Edinburgh, Ann is a member of the interdisciplinary OneHealthFIELD Network. Together with British academics and displaced Syrian agricultural scientists, she explores the role of refugee labour in Middle Eastern agriculture, and how Syrian agricultural expertise can inform sustainable development solutions to the interconnected challenges of climate change and forced migration.

3:30-4 p.m. – Coffee Break

4-4:30 p.m. – Concluding Remarks