Branford P. Millar Library, room 160, 1875 SW Park Avenue
Free & open to the public.
This was the first in a series of events presented by the Middle East Studies Center and the Portland State University library to promote and contextualize the library's new resource Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys. Project Scholar Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Reed College, spoke on the development of the Bookshelf. Dr. GhaneaBassiri developed the 'American Stories' section of the Bookshelf. The collection was displayed for the audience to browse.
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri was introduced by head librarian Marilyn Moody and Director of the Middle East Studies Center James Grehan, who expressed his confidence that the Bookshelf would provide an effective gateway to the greater collection on the PSU library's shelves.
GhaneaBassiri began by giving his audience a window into the early planning stages of the Bookshelf. From its inception, the project involved close collaboration between the federal government's National Endowment for the Humanities, private philanthropic organization The Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University. The sponsorship of the Doris Duke Foundation enabled the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf project to purchase hardback copies of the selected books. Prior to the Bookshelf project, the Carnegie Corporation was already funding more than sixty scholars to increase the outreach of academic expertise on Islam; GhaneaBassiri wrote his book A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order with funding from this program. He highlighted the fact that Carnegie funding encouraged those towards the periphery of the field to make their work more relevant to contemporary conversations on Islam. The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf project engaged a number of scholars from the ranks of the Carnegie Corporation's academic fellows. Dr. GhaneaBassiri joined the proect in January 2011 and was the most continually involved of all the Carnegie scholars. He emphasized how refreshing it was to collaborate with other academics in a humanities field that is not usually characterized by collaboration.
What is the basis of intercultural understanding? The answer to this question constituted an important guiding philosophy for selecting content for the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf. Ghanea-Bassiri explained that efforts at intercultural understanding often make the mistake of only seeking commonalities and therefore fall short by not dealing with differences. 'Different cultures have different answers to problems', said GhaneaBassiri; understanding the profound conditions of different cultures can yield understanding of differences without being threatened by them.
A second issue of importance to the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf was how to define the social and cultural boundaries of Islam. The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf seeks to portray Islam as dynamic, not monolithic. To this end, the project collaborators decided to designate a number of thematic areas: American Stories, Connected Histories, Literary Reflections, Pathways of Faith, and Points of View. Each theme includes an introductory essay by a scholar from the project team. There are additional Art, Architecture and Film resources included on the website as well, such as a series of short, 'Art Spot' lectures by D. Fairchild Ruggles from the University of Illinois.
GhaneaBassiri concluded the lecture by narrating the rationale behind his own selections. Not all of his top picks could be included in the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf. Among those works not selected were 'The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf' by Mohja Kahf and 'Zeitoun' by Dave Eggers.
Rapporteur's summary by Sara Swetzoff.
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is an Associate Professor of Religion and Humanities at Reed College. He received his bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Claremont McKenna College and completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in Islamic Studies at Harvard University. GhaneaBassiri’s scholarship stands at the intersection of religious studies, Islamic social and intellectual history, and American religious history. His most recent book, A History of Islam in America (Cambridge University Press 2010) traces the history of Muslim presence in the United States through colonial and antebellum America, through world wars and civil rights struggles, to the contemporary era. His work has been supported by fellowships from the Carnegie Scholars Program (2006–2008) and the Guggenheim Foundation (2012).
Presented by the Portland State University Library and Middle East Studies Center featuring some of the resources in the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys, a collection of books, films, and other resources chosen with a view to familiarizing the American public with Islam and the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world. Supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace Public Education for Peacebuilding Support initiative.
The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association. Support was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
The Portland State University Library is at the heart of the Portland State community, and is committed to providing excellence and innovation in research, teaching, and learning support. Along with its diverse collection of information resources, the University Library offers special collections and archives that feature unique materials of regional and scholarly interest; produces an extensive array of user-centered information services; and delivers a strong instruction program dedicated to improving students’ academic success. Located in an iconic building in the beautiful South Park Blocks, the Portland State University Library serves the largest student body in the Oregon University System, providing collaborative study spaces and technology-enabled environments designed to enhance students’ learning experiences.
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The Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University promotes understanding of the people, cultures, languages and religions of the Middle East. As a National Resource Center for Middle East Studies under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program, the Center serves as a resource on issues pertaining to the Middle East through activities that reach students and scholars, as well as businesses, educators, and the media. The Middle East Studies Center supports academic conferences, workshops, cultural events, lectures, and a resource library.
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