Middle East Studies

Round Table | Practices in Middle East Studies

Thursday, April 20, 2023

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room 353, 111 Thayer

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Join the Middle East Studies Graduate Association (MESGSA) in a conversation about emerging practices of research with visiting scholars at the Centre for Middle East Studies: Julia Wartmann (University of Basel), Faiq Mari  (ETH Zürich), Ramil Zamanov (Charles University, Prague), whose work engage with a range of issues from gender equality and freedom in Syria, practices of commoning and liberation in Palestine, and Queer masculinities in Azerbaijan.

This conversation is a space to think through research practices in volatile contexts.

Moderated by: Mariz Kelada (Department of Anthropology) 

Faiq Mari
"Alternative Spaces of Revolt: the Commons of the Palestinian Liberation Struggle"
Abstract: In the 2010s in the West Bank several economic initiatives of collective labor and property emerged. They came to call themselves cooperatives. This presentation argues that these cooperatives emerged from the contradictions of the colonial peripheralization of the West Bank. The proletarianization of the population produced alienated youth and fallow lands; from this reality, a small band of left-leaning youth—otherwise repressed in their activism—saw opportunity along with necessity, and utilized the land towards an alternative economy.  This presentation traces the outlines of the peripheralization of the West Bank (WB), posing a view where the peripheralization of the West Bank’s countryside as an urban phenomenon is understood as part of the colonial and imperial peripheralization of Palestine and the Arab Region as a whole. It ends by highlighting the importance of these cooperative experiments: their emerging practice, as it toils to understand and respond to the capital colonial nexus in Palestine, is productive for theory and practice in this context and elsewhere.

Julia Wartmann
"Negotiating Freedom: Gender Equality in North and East Syria"
Abstract: Julia Wartmann's research is concerned with the question of how gender equality and women’s rights are framed within the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, and what opportunities and constraints emerge from the discursive shift. By looking at the interlacement of nationalist discourses with gender, Wartmann examines the (un-)intended consequences of the gender equality reforms introduced amidst the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Based on 60 in-depth interviews and participant observation, Wartmann illustrates how ideologically driven institutional logics prescribe acceptable norms and forms of behavior, thereby introducing new avenues for agency, but also forms of control in the name of ‘liberating women.’ Examining how practices, institutions, and discourse engender both discipline and resistance offers an analysis of gender equality in North and East Syria that goes beyond explanations that portray the efforts as either radically emancipatory or merely instrumental and a way for the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration to assert dominance. 

Ramil Zamanov
"Queer Masculinities in Azerbaijan"
Abstract: ‘Queer Masculinities in Azerbaijan’ examines the gendered life histories and everyday practices of queer/LGBTQI+ subjects in Azerbaijan. Zamanov investigates queer communities with a particular interest in nationalist, militarist, anti-militarist, and anti-nationalist queers as well as the victims of queerphobic attacks. The key focus of this research centers on queer masculinities. The research explores queer and LBGTQI+ perspectives that are subject to a larger Azerbaijani heteronormative nationalist culture while focusing especially on queer expressions of masculinity. It intends to produce an intersectional analysis of queer masculinities and their relationship to the social order in Azerbaijan. Therefore, this thesis will take an intersectional approach that considers the mutual constitutions, interdependencies, and transformations of ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship while investigating how state violence in Azerbaijan oppresses the everyday lives of LGBTQI+ subjects. Methodologically, ethnographic fieldwork has already been conducted in Baku (May 2021 to July 2022) in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and class. In this dissertation, Zamanov's goal is to explore four major issues which receive too little attention in post-Soviet LGBTQI+ academic discourse. They are as follows: (1) living under an authoritarian regime while being queer/LGBTQI+ including the threat of queerphobic attacks, (2) queer perspectives (mainly LGBTQI+ masculinities) on militarisation under authoritarian regimes, (3) queer nationalism – researching the role and discourse of nationalist queer subjects in Azerbaijan and (4) inter- community separation – the impact of authoritarian regimes on dividing the LGBTQI+ community.