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Call for papers: Minorities of the Modern Middle East Workshop
Author: Tam Rankin, Middle East Studies Center
Posted: July 24, 2012

Portland State University (April 26-27, 2013)

The Portland State University Middle East Studies Center announces an intensive interdisciplinary two-day workshop on “Minorities of the Modern Middle East,” to be held April 26-27, 2013, at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

Political, ethnic, and religious divides intersect in the modern Middle East in ways that give form to various articulations of the term “minority.” While some of these minority groups are indigenous to the region with a collective presence that predates the creation of the modern nation-states, others are only now beginning to articulate their minority identities in response to shifting political and social contexts. Since 9/11, and now more intensively amidst the upheavals of the “Arab Spring,” the simplistic political and media discourse that had previously portrayed the Middle East as a homogenous region has given way to an equally problematic discourse that casts the region and its societies as deeply and essentially divided along ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines. Meanwhile, new articulations of minority and minoritized identities are forming within different Middle Eastern states, extending and contesting the conceptual boundaries of minority politics.

We encourage submissions that address one or more of the following questions:

Conceptual:
How are minorities in the Middle East defined by themselves and others? How are they perceived vis-a-vis majorities? What tropes, social/political projects, and narratives are working to promote and channel minority identities and interests in the Middle East?

Historical:
What political, colonial, social, economic, or demographic factors have given rise to various “minorities”? How did the minority status of these groups transform over the years? How were minorities defined politically and legally in different parts of the Middle East over the course of the twentieth century?

Political:
How and for what purposes do religious, ethnic, or linguistic minorities become politicized? How do they participate in the political/demographic processes in their countries of citizenship? How are they being affected by the rapid political transformations brought about by the recent uprisings across the Arab world?

Transnational:
In what ways does the “endangered minority” status privilege certain ethno-religious groups legally? What are the patterns that characterize the relationship between minority status and the attainment of refugee/asylum status in western countries? What patterns can we discern in the movements of minority populations within the Middle East? To what extent does active networking of Middle Eastern minorities in the diaspora influence human rights definitions and migration policies in the host countries? How do minority transnational political projects emerge (mostly) locally in diaspora? Can we examine the traditional diasporic sites of the family, ethnic business, transnational marriage, church, etc. in their capacity as transnational (conceptual) social fields where minority identities are formed and maintained through the movement back and forth between home and host countries? Can we explore minority privileges in light of dual citizenship policies?  

Current:
What are the conditions under which today's ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities live in the Middle East? How do they navigate the social and cultural structures of their countries and regions? How are they affected by the post-colonial legacy in some of these countries?

We plan to publish selected essays arising out of the workshop as an edited volume or special journal issue. Funds for travel and accommodation may be available to participants.

Please send 250-word abstracts to Laura Robson and Yasmeen Hanoosh, by September 15, 2012.