We are happy to announce that a conference for graduate students studying Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations will be hosted by the Near Eastern Studies Department and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley on Friday, April 27th – Saturday, April 28th, 2018.
Civil war. Forest fires and hurricanes. Global displacement and mass migration. Destruction of cultural heritage. Occupations that don’t end. The rise of chauvinist, racist and populist movements. Terrorism, police brutality and mass shootings. Genocide and massacre. Once again, such as it is, we find ourselves in the midst of hard times. While precedents of past crises abound across history, there is no doubt that our current era seems defined by its diverse conditions of adversity. Contemporary theorists, like many of those included in Butler, Gmabetti and Sabsay’s 2016 volume, have responded to catastrophic events across the globe and history by interrogating what our exposure to various forms of precarity and increased vulnerability may yield in terms of political mobilization and aesthetic enrichment. Other authors have expanded on the ways in which hard times change both the phenomenological experience of being in the world, and the epistemological lenses with which we articulate ourselves.
From our perspective as students and scholars of the Near East, hard times have become an uncritical staple of contemporary discourse regarding the Middle East. In the news, in the streets and even in our classrooms, the Middle East is often framed as an outworldly difficult place, defined by its hardships and catastrophes. In our conference, we wish not to deny this notion (at least, not offhandedly), but to complicate it by considering it from a diverse array of critical perspectives.
To that end, the Near Eastern Studies Department and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, invite papers situated within, working against and expanding on the question of hard times in related fields of the Near East. How does the paradigm of hard times contribute to the works under consideration? What kinds of climates and calamities—political, economical, religious, personal—emerge or are generated within the spaces of the text? How does the difficulty of historical, social, cultural conditions reveal itself textually, in thematic, formal and performative modes? How can we recognize crises and adversity – political, environmental, religious, social, etc. – in the ancient world? In what ways are crises productive and, alternatively, what do they foreclose? How do the concepts of agency, materiality, authority, resistance and opposition inform the production of knowledge across and within hard times? What future(s) does the study of the Near East have in our own “hard times” where public scholarship and political activism are under attack and “area studies” are often situated on the academic peripheries? We also invite papers that challenge the notion of “hard times” as an entrenched depiction of the region that encompasses the Near East.
Individual paper topics may include (but are not limited to) the following: Opposition and counter-narratives, Borders and border politics, Translation as political resistance, Resistance in the Ancient World, Crisis and Archaeological Cultural Heritage, Refuge and Refugees in the Ancient World, Persistence of instability as a trope in Near Eastern and Middle Eastern Studies, The Near East as a political field, Precarity and its poetics, Vulnerability and political action, The productive and/ or restrictive effects of crisis, Beyond the geopolitical narrative of crisis (environmental, social, existential crises), Historiographies of crises and their alternatives, Representation of crisis in aesthetics (literature, plastic art, etc.), The future(s) of Near Eastern Studies.
The conference will consist of two days of thematically-organized panel sessions. Faculty will serve as the respondents for each of the panels. On Friday evening, Professor Miriam Cooke will give the keynote lecture addressing the conference theme.
We are now accepting abstracts until December 15th with notification of acceptance by January 15th.
On the night of Friday, April 27th there will be a special keynote lecture.
The conference is free to attend and open to all.
On Friday night there will be a special keynote lecture by Miriam Cooke.
Coffee and refreshments will be served. We request that you register your intent to attend so that we have an estimate of numbers to cater for.
Talks will be 20 minutes long with 5-10 minutes for questions and discussion, and may relate to any aspect of Near Eastern Studies. We invite all graduate students (Masters and PhD) and advanced undergraduates writing a thesis to submit abstracts by December 15th, 2017.
For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.
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