Middle East Studies

Research Projects

Gender Studies in the Middle East and Beyond

All of us working on women and gender issues within the Middle East and its diasporas face the dilemma of challenging orientalist, racist and Islamophobic depictions of Middle Eastern men and women, while addressing structural inequalities,  systematic marginalization but also forms of resistance linked to patriarchy and heteronormativity. This new CMES initiative addresses this dilemma and aims at bridging and mediating between academic and activist positions, both within the region and in relation to diasporic communities. The initiative is based on the recognition that a gendered intersectional lens is central not marginal to a deeper analysis and understanding of political mobilizations, social developments and cultural expressions in the Middle East. A gendered lens also allows for a comparative perspective and collaboration with other regional centers and initiatives within the Watson Institute.

 The initiative is led by Professor Nadje Al-Ali and will involve a series of seminars, book talks, film showings, workshops as well as relevant research.

Racialization and Racism in the Middle East and its Diasporas

Race and Racism in Middle East

We all expressed our outrage and sadness at the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black people as a result of structural racism and police brutality. Within Middle East Studies, we are intimately familiar with grinding generational struggles for dignity and freedom of colonized, occupied, disenfranchised and oppressed people in the Middle East. Yet the history of slavery and racism within the region has remained understudied and not sufficiently engaged with. With this new initiative, we would like to affirm our strong sense of responsibility and commitment in our professional work and personal lives to fight racialization and exploitation everywhere, including in our own communities in the Middle East and its diasporas. We are committed to initiate internal conversations and dialogue within Brown and Middle East Studies more broadly and to organize activities which will engage with the global issues of structural racism and exploitation.

This initiative is co-organized and led by Professors Nadje Al-Ali and Beshara Doumani and supported by Africana Studies.

Digital Islamic Humanities

Digital Islamic Humanities logo

The Digital Islamic Humanities Project is a research initiative devoted to supporting data-driven scholarship on the history, literature, and cultures of the Islamic world. Over the past few decades, humanistic inquiry has been problematized and invigorated by technological advances and the emergence of what is referred to as the digital humanities. Across multiple disciplines, from history to literature, religious studies to philosophy, archaeology to music, scholars are tapping the extraordinary power of digital technologies to preserve, curate, analyze, visualize, and reconstruct their research objects. Through the sponsorship of annual gatherings, workshops, symposia, and other kinds of research projects, this initiative aims to support the state of the art in digital scholarship pertaining to Islamic & Middle East Studies. 

Digital Islamic Humanities Website

Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples

This multi-year project, led by John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History Omer Bartov, seeks to provide a forum for a deeper understanding of the region and its peoples. The century-long conflict over the land of Israel/Palestine has raised a plethora of questions about historical narratives and rights of possession, the morality of return and the injustice of displacement, the correction of past wrongs and the imponderables of reconciliation, the promises and conundrums of coexistence, and the centrality of self-determination. Precisely because this is a dispute over attachment and belonging to a place that both sides consider to be their historical and spiritual home, it is exceedingly difficult for each of them to recognize the other’s longing for, yet ongoing inability, to feel at home.

Israel event series

Arts and Social Change

Arts and Social Change logo

The arts have played a pivotal role in shaping and transforming Middle Eastern and Muslim societies, past and present. Through annual workshops, curated exhibits and performances, as well visiting professorships and lectures, this research initiative cultivates a network of scholars passionate about the relationship between the arts and social agency. The aim is to support innovate work and shape research agendas in the fields of Islamic art and architecture, Middle Eastern cinema and photography, fine arts and visual culture, and music and dance.  

Displacement

Displacement logo

Displacement is formative of power relations of inclusion and exclusion. This research initiative pushes at the seams of the humanities, social sciences, and the natural and physical sciences by exploring long-term drivers of displacement. The wager here is that focused interdisciplinary conversation about historical, ecological, and subjective dimensions of displacement as an enduring and global phenomenon, can lay the seeds for imagining alternative futures.

Engaged Scholarship

Engaged Scholarship logo

Engaged Scholarship explores the politics and ethics of knowledge production in zones of conflict. The aim is to generate critical conversation among scholars from across the disciplines and area studies around the question of what it means to put intellectual work in the service of the social good, broadly defined. 

Engaged Scholarship Website

Kurdish Project

Kurdish studies have historically been sidelined within Middle East studies or reduced to the study of Kurdish nationalism. While there has been a proliferation of Kurdish studies across the US and Europe in recent years, there has been only limited engagement with Kurdish society in its complexity. The aim of this project led by Nadje Al-Ali, Robert Family Professor of International Studies, is to support and contribute to critical and original Kurdish studies that combine theoretically cutting-edge and empirically grounded work while highlighting creative approaches (films, art, literature) to the study of Kurds and Kurdish societies.

In 2019-20, the Kurdish Studies initiative supported a lecture by a visiting scholar, a teach-in, and a research project that resulted in a co-authored article.