Middle East Studies

CMES Director Nadje Al-Ali Makes Statement Following Decolonization, Development and State Building in N.Africa conference

October 2, 2020

I am writing as the new Director of the Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) at Brown to firmly agree that we have to do better. (Letter of concern regarding the conference Decolonization, Development and State Building in North Africa.) I would like to assure colleagues who signed the letter and beyond of my firm commitment to foster and create inclusive and accessible spaces and to critically interrogate knowledge production about North Africa, the Middle East and its diasporas. I agree that we need to go beyond metaphors when engaging decolonization as I understand it as an academic methodology and a political commitment.

I have had constructive conversations with the organizer who wanted to share this statement with you:

“I understand and share the disappointment over the absence of Maghribi participants in the Decolonization, Development and State Building in North Africa conference which I hosted. I have great respect for the contributions and lived experiences of Maghribi scholars. The Call for Papers returned many excellent submissions based on extensive research conducted in the Maghrib but unfortunately it did not yield a fully representative sample of the significant work native Maghribi scholars are producing. The conference would have benefitted from a more inclusive program highlighting their research. I look forward to bringing our academic community together, in ways that reflect my belief that scholars of North African origin, as well as those who study the region, must be represented.”

As the new Director of CMES, I am hoping to be able to invite and host many of you here to have discussions and exchanges about what decolonization actually entails, in relation to North Africa specifically but the region more broadly as well. I am interested in having other difficult discussions involving race and racialization, gender, and sexuality as well as the tensions based on our respective positionalities and academic vs activist knowledge production. 

Nadje Al-Ali
Director, Center for Middle East Studies