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2012 Conference

Friday, March 9, 2012 | 9 AM – 12:30 PM
Smith Memorial Student Union, rooms 333 & 338
1825 SW Broadway, Portland, OR

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9 AM

Language Marking Difference: the Role of Language in Contemporary Morocco

Smith Memorial Student Union, Vanport Room
Faculty discussant: Oren Kosansky, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Lewis & Clark College

Nationalism in Turkey – depicted through language, literature and film

Smith Memorial Student Union, room 333
Faculty discussant: K. Pelin Basci, Associate Professor of Turkish Language and Literature, Portland State University

10:45 AM

Contemporary Issues in the Middle East

Smith Memorial Student Union, Vanport Room
Faculty discussant: Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reed College

Religion and the Arts in the Middle East

Smith Memorial Student Union, room 333
Faculty discussant: Anne McClanan, Professor of Art, Portland State University


Paper Abstracts

Language Marking Difference: the Role of Language in Contemporary Morocco

Morocco is a country crisscrossed with cultural and linguistic diversity. This panel is composed of four presenters, each of whom has researched a particular aspect of how language marks difference in contemporary Morocco. Whether through examining the role of language in fomenting youth discontent or the fading significance of Hebrew in Morocco, language offers a unique angle of insight into Moroccan society.

  • Speaking Between the Lines: Multilingualism and Sociolinguistics in Morocco, Jade Lansing, Lewis & Clark College

    Multilingualism is a significant and widely accepted aspect of contemporary Moroccan society, which developed as the result of a long history of internal and external encounters with foreign cultures. Five major languages are used in Morocco today: Fus-ha Arabic, Darija, French, Berber, and English. Moroccan citizens range from illiterate Berber or Darija speakers to fluent speakers of five (or more) languages. Each of these languages has a distinct, albeit shifting, social context within Morocco where it is considered appropriate or applicable. This suggests that the inability to speak a given language may be prohibitive to entry into some social spheres—thus, multilingualism becomes a necessity for social mobility in Morocco. While they are not always formally institutionalized, individual languages and interaction between languages plays a significant role in differentiating social spheres and indicating individuals’ contextual social roles in Morocco. The aim of this analysis is three-fold— to describe how Moroccan attitudes toward individual languages were formed, what these attitudes are in contemporary Morocco toward the languages I have described above, and why these attitudes are significant.
  • Umma and Blaad: Examining the importance of Classical and Vernacular Arabic in the development of Moroccan language policy post-1956, A. Elliot Olson, Lewis & Clark College

    Language both constructs and informs understandings of self and society. Official language policy, therefore, provides valuable ground for analysis of national attitude and aggregate unification. Research on nationalism and language are often based on Euro-centric models and inherently exclude cultures that do not share the conditions of European nationalism. To examine this exclusion, I present Benedict Anderson’s model of nationalism and national unity through language as articulated in Imagined Communities, and juxtapose Anderson’s model against the official language policy of post-1956 Morocco. I conclude that unlike European nationalism, which turned to nation-specific vernacular languages for unification, Moroccan nationalism efforts after the removal of the French Protectorate utilized Classical Arabic in lieu of Moroccan Arabic (darija) for specific political and religious reasons.
  • Youth in Revolt: Sources of Identity in Moroccan Youth, Anna Lofstrand, Lewis & Clark College

    This paper looks at sources of alienation and anomic discontent amongst Moroccan, predominantly middle class youth. It draws on research from scholars such as Shana Cohen and Moha Ennaji, as well as social theories of Durkheim. To explain sources of discontent, alienation, and dissatisfaction among Moroccan youth, the author looks at the politics, economic policies, educational system, social and religious forces, and linguistics of post-Colonial Morocco. Flight to France, rampant unemployment, football hooliganism, and the marked lack of participation in and solidarity with the Arab Spring of 2011 also feature in this survey of discontent pervasive in the shabab of Morocco.
  • Mapping Moroccan Jewry: A Report on the Rabat Genizah, Hannah McCain, Lewis & Clark College

    The documents of the Rabat Genizah, dating from the 18th, 19th, and especially 20th centuries, help us to situate Moroccan Jewry in a globalized context. Documents from places like Israel and France are expected—and there are plenty of them—but we also find documents from such diverse places as Peking, London, and Warsaw. Moroccan Jews’ international orientation is evident from the circulation of culture and politics through conduits such as Zionist propaganda, Alliance Israelite material, and even socialist and communist publications. The Genizah also helps to illuminate Jewish life in Morocco on a local level through documents such as marriage contracts, community announcements, amulets, personal correspondences, and pedagogical materials. This paper presents preliminary findings concerning the maps of language and paths of communication that are drawn for us by the documents left behind in the Rabat Genizah.

Nationalism in Turkey – depicted through language, literature and film

The theme of the panel concentrates on aspects of Turkish nationalism and how nationalism developed in Turkey.

  • The Construction of Nationalism in Turkey Through the Turkish Language Reform, Katelin Putnam, Portland State University

    This presentation will address the linguistics of Turkish after the language reform, the process in which this language developed, and how this contributed to Turkish identity. We will also look at Turkey’s Ottoman past to understand its present as a modern nation, and define nationalism in terms of a shared historical past. The challenges of Turkish nationalism will be addressed by aiming to understand various ethnic group that struggle with Turkish identity.
  • Reassessing Nationalism in Turkey Through Orhan Pamuk’s Novel My Name Is Red, Katie Krueger, Portland State University

    In his novel My Name Is Red, Pamuk uses Ottoman history as a way to examine Turkish modern identity and challenges readers to have an honest relationship with the past in order to understand the present. I will be looking as three aspects of My Name Is Red: the contrast between the West and the Ottoman Empire through the novel’s theme of Ottoman miniaturist artwork, several character identities within the novel that speak to Turkey’s present just as much as they represent the past, as well as how gender roles and identity relate to modern Turkey’s assumptions of Ottoman women.
  • Issues Regarding Nationalism in Turkey Through the Film İki Dil Bir Bavul, Jessica Unukur, Portland State University

    This paper will discuss the ideas of identity and nationalism in Turkish cinema, specifically recent films addressing issues regarding the Kurdish ethnic minority population in Turkey. The current condition of the Kurdish population in Turkey as well as the interaction between this population and the rest of the nation are reflections of the political events of the 1920s and 1930s. This presentation will look at the portrayal of these condition and relationship in film. Additionally, this presentation will discuss the filmmaker’s message as well as the filmmaker’s chosen approach to expressing that message.

Contemporary Issues in the Middle East

  • Politicizing Desires: [Trans]nationalisms and Sexualities in Israel, Jake Silver, Reed College

    At the end of the 20th century, Israel has indisputably made strides in legislation for sexual equality, yet within the past few years the Israeli government and some citizens have used Israel’s liberalization to separate a ‘civilized’ Israel and its gay-friendliness from what they have labeled the homophobia and barbarism of Arab nations and Palestinians. With the far-reaching scope of modern technology, pro-Israeli parties in the 21st century have begun to use this gay-friendly attitude rooted in Israeli law to reach gay-sympathizing groups and individuals internationally in order to sway ambivalent parties to be pro-Israel and anti-Palestine. Jasbir Puar has termed these Israeli propaganda tactics pinkwashing. My conference presentation attempts to investigate and examine—through visual, discourse, and historicized analyses of specific events—how pinkwashing brings together notions of sexuality and nationalism within domestic, social, and religious realms and how such propaganda have theoretical implications on national inclusivity and exclusivity. Subsequently, pinkwashing reinforces borders between nations, ethnicities, religions, and sexual subjectivities. By historicizing the development of Jewish notions of sexuality and masculinity before, during, and after Israeli state formation, I argue that the Israeli cultural climate has developed to include only heterosexualized images of gay and lesbian individuals within the state’s national fabric rather than the entire queer community. Counter to pinkwashing’s claim of the all-inclusive gay-friendly Israel, this presentation aims to examine how notions of the nation-state in film, the media, and literature have altered public conceptions of [homo]sexualities, effectively stratifying the queer community and reinforcing nationalistic hetero-masculinity.
  • A Comparative Study of Egyptian and Syrian Military Organizations, Joshua Alcantar, Portland State University

    The recent events in the Middle East which have been dubbed, the “Arab Spring” began with the last act of a desperate man in Tunis. In this paper we shall examine the consequences of the domino effect this set off in Egypt. Specifically, we shall attempt to understand why the Egyptian episode of the Arab Spring occurred relatively peacefully, with regards to actions undertaken by the military elite. In stark contrast to the Egyptian military’s response has been the handling of a similar popular uprising in Syria. This substantially different response of Syrian security forces has led to a protracted and brutal crackdown on the Syrian people. A comparative study of Egypt’s and Syria’s military structure should reveal the reasons for their very different methods as well as allow for the examination of the current consequences in each case as well as long term possibilities.
  • Women in Egyptian Society, Jena Mathews, Portland State University

    This presentation will examine the changing role of women in today’s Egyptian society and speculate on their future social, economic and political prospects. This paper will first look at the roles of Egyptian women during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak and then examine their role in the Egyptian revolutions, in addition to how Egyptian society reacted to their level of involvement. Due to the amount of parliamentary seats that the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party won in the recent Egyptian elections, this presentation will investigate the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitudes and policies regarding women in order to speculate about what the political, social and economic future for Egyptian women will look like. In order to try to draw the most authentic conclusions, I will be conducting the bulk of my research in Arabic using Arabic sources. As the first Middle Eastern country to revolt against their leader during the Arab Spring, and the first country to transition through democratic elections into a post-revolutionary government, Egypt has lead the way during this period of change. Similarly, Egypt’s opportunity to revolutionize the role of women in the society is an opportunity to inspire similar changes in neighboring countries. The topic of women’s participation in society is important to the future of Egypt and the future of the region as a whole.
  • Brain Drain in Iran, Pouya Ahmadi, Portland State University

    Brain drain or human capital flight is a term used for the portion of educated individuals with technical skills and knowledge who leave their native country in the hope of finding a better life abroad. Iran has the highest rate of “brain drain” in the world. That’s the conclusion of the International Monetary Fund, which recently surveyed some 90 countries. The IMF says every year more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave their home country to find better life opportunity somewhere else. Brain drain has had a huge cost for Iranians. Local sources put the economic loss at some $50 billion a year or higher Amanollah Gharayi Moghadam, a professor of sociology in Tehran says, “For each inventor or scientist who leaves the country, it is as if 10 oil wells had been destroyed” It seems to me that most researches conducted and journals written on this topic have been primarily done by economists and main focus has always been the economic dimension of this migration . Economic dimension are obviously a major cause for this migration, however, there are also many other key factors that contribute to this brain drain that are not often talked about. I hope to cover some of these uncovered dimensions in this paper. Lack of employment and opportunity, religious restrictions, social injustice toward the youth and minorities, lack of social freedom, forced army service and higher education are some of the main and most recognized factors of this brain drain in the Islamic republic. Throughout my research I have interviewed several Iranians asked them why they left Iran. Depending on Gender, geography, social class and economic status their answers varied. therefore, I decided to mainly focus on the most common reasons of this migration of human capital.
  • The Mosque in Film, Rachel Waterhouse, Reed College

    This paper proposes to examine how representations of the mosque in film contribute to an understanding of the mosque as a lived space in and through which social relations, roles, and identities are negotiated and constructed. In Iran, from 1997 to 2005, the film medium provided a unique discursive space regarding issues of religious pluralism, accountability, citizenship, and human rights. Through a close reading of two Iranian films from this period, “Under the Moonlight” and “The Lizard,” I argue that the filmmakers capitalized on the polyvalence of the mosque as a symbol to convey the constant negotiations and shifting of relationships within the Islamic Republic—negotiations among the clergy, the laity, the Islamic republic, and God. The mosque’s polysamy as a place of innumerable interpersonal and spiritual negotiations is emphasized in both films to the end of the advocacy of a pluralistic Islamic approach. For example, in “The Lizard,” the theme of the plurality of ways of reaching God is emphasized through incongruity and displacement in the narrative, a device that puts the dialectic of space and social interaction into critical relief. The absurdity of protagonist Reza’s situation is contrasted with his dissident moral attributes within the mosque space. Similarly, in “Under the Moonlight,” the mosque is imbued with a spiritual significance and grandeur that is sustained through the dregs of clericalism (whose power it also serves to reinforce). The mosque’s adaptability to distinct didactic purposes of religio-political critique in film speaks to the polyvalence of this singularly negotiatory space.

Religion and the Arts in the Middle East

  • The Master-Disciple Relationship in the Writings of Rumi and Shams, David Wills, Reed College

    The relationship between Shams and Rumi is one of the best-known master-disciple relations in Sufism. Yet our sense of the significance of the relationship between Rumi and Shams presently surpasses our ability to discuss it. This paper aims to explore the role of love in this relationship by examining some of Rumi’s poems and Shams’s Maqalat. By comparing the depiction of master and disciple in these writings with such depictions in the writings of their Sufi forebears, we can discuss their contribution more clearly. I contextualize the writings of Shams and Rumi in the prior discourse of master-disciple relations. Shams and Rumi innovate this tradition by presenting the lover-beloved relationship as an analogy for master-disciple. What follows is an efflorescence of figurative language which encompasses the major elements of prior Sufi thought. The two used figurative language which previously depicted lover-beloved to depict, instead, master-disciple. By demonstrating that language which once belonged to one relation can be used to explore another, Shams and Rumi contribute to Sufi discourse concerning both—and provide a new way to consider Sufi questions concerning human experience of (and union with) the divine. Shams and Rumi made Sufism’s canonical relationships permeable. The significance of their relationship lies in how they drew attention to the plurality and interchangeability of specific relationships available to Sufis—and how they criticized those who constrained them too rigidly.
  • Love of God Through Love of Man: Transformations in Sufi Love Mysticism, Katie Lantz, Reed College

    While some studies of Sufism have tried to establish whether Sufi writings on love reference divine or human love, the purpose of Sufi mystics was to blur this dividing line between humans and God. Through an examination of the works of Rabi’a, al-Daylami, and Rumi, this paper will show how early Sufi mystics in the Middle East generated a discourse around love to make tangible the presence of an immaterial God. Defining love through notions of absence and presence, these Sufis created a theory of love in which love of God could map readily onto love of humans. In the works of Rabi’a, love described the individual’s personal relationship with God. An audience could comprehend Rabi’a’s love of God because of their own experiences of love of other humans, but the two loves—of the divine and of man—were distinct practices. As the discourse developed, later Sufis such as al-Daylami approached the practice of love of God through a parallel practice of love among human beings. Rumi furthered this shift into human community by offering his exploration of love with Shams as instructive for an individual’s path toward loving God. By making religious practice synonymous with human love, Sufism made an intangible God physically present through the daily practice of love amongst human beings, which affected not only how individuals conceived of their relation with God but also how they viewed their communal relations.
  • Design and “The Gift of the Word”, Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, Portland State University

    A presentation on the challenges and process involved in designing the catalogue and promotional materials (posters, label texts) for the PSU Library Special Collections exhibit “The Gift of the Word,” with a focus on making the materials appealing and accessible to a broad audience. The exhibit of illuminated manuscripts includes two pages of the Quran, Coptic prayer book leaves, and an Armenian prayer scroll.
  • Mysteries of the Word: Researching an Armenian Prayer Roll, Darcie Hart Riedner, Portland State University

    Presenting research on the meaning, origins and function of a late 17th-century Armenian Prayer Roll, an artifact included in Special Collections of the Millar Library at Portland State University. The presentation will included images of illustrations on the roll, translation of its content, the significance of the prayers and illustrations it contains as well as the importance of a prayer roll such as this in the daily lives of the Armenian people.
  • 18th-Century Agpeya (Coptic Prayer Book), Jordan Long, Portland State University

    This original research project addresses a hand-drawn illuminated manuscript, which dates from around the early eighteenth century. It contains extant portions of an Agpeya—the Coptic book of prayer. The twelve-page fragment is from the Coptic book of hours, which contains the daily prayers associated with the Seven Hours of the Coptic religious canon. The extant fragments at the Millar Library include parts of the Midnight Office, and the beginning of the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the Coptic Daily Office. The twelve leaves contain this liturgy in Coptic, with Arabic translations in the margins. Many of the pages are illuminated with decorative archways, drawn in Coptic style. These chapter headings are followed by the text “the hymn of…,” indicating that an anamnesis, a hymn of praise, follows. Because this is an illuminated manuscript, depictions of the saints accompany the anamnesis. The images of saints that have survived are George, Theodore, and Mercurios. In the depictions, Saint George is slaying the dragon; Saint Theodore the Eastern is slaying paganism with a cross-topped spear; and Saint Mercurios is slaying Julian the Apostate. Likely written and drawn by a Coptic priest, this manuscript was used on a daily basis to administer religious rites to a congregation.