Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony (Wednesday, December 1)
Pessoptimism and the Discontents of the Field
Dina Rizk Khoury, Professor, George Washington University
Emile Habibi, Palestinian/Israeli award-winning author and politician recounts in his book, The Secret Life of Saeed: the Pessoptimist, the story of Saeed, an ordinary Palestinian attempting to navigate life in Israel between 1948 and 1967 as both informer for the Israeli state and victim of the politics of survival of Palestinians. Pessoptimism is Saeed’s existential condition, his mode of being in the world. It speaks to his desire to make meaning of his life under untenable historical conditions. It struck me, during summer months spent in Beirut, that Saeed’s pessoptimism is a particularly apt portrayal of lives lived day by day and hour by hour of an increasing number of citizens, protestors, refugees, displaced persons and migrants in the nations and regions we cover during the past twenty years or so. I would hazard to say as well, that despite the vast differences in our material and political circumstances, pessoptimism has increasingly animated our ability, particularly in fields of inquiry that cover the modern period, to write and teach the Middle East and North Africa. As a field of inquiry, the study of the MENA region is thriving despite the challenges of funding, limitations on the ability to conduct research, and the field’s entanglements with the foreign and domestic politics of the US. Yet, we often feel suspended between the elation and hope that we share with the people whose lives, protests, and creative reckonings inspire our intellectual engagements and the violence and loss that accompanies and often coexists with much of the politics. What are our responsibilities to our colleagues whose help and research we use to our professional advantage in a country deeply implicated in the violence against the people of the region? What are the strategies we can develop to continue teaching the Middle East during these years of structural transformation in the political economy of higher education that are compounded by systemic attempts by state legislatures in the US to undermine our ability to teach its modern history without erasures?
Members Meeting (Thursday, December 2)
Undergraduate Research Poster Session (Friday, December 3)
Sponsored by the Committee on Undergraduate Middle East Studies (CUMES)
The sixteen presenters in this poster session are participants in the eighth annual Undergraduate Research Workshop, hosted by MESA’s Committee for Undergraduate Middle East Studies (CUMES). The papers were selected in a competitive application process, bringing together students from universities in Sweden, Qatar, and all over the United States. The workshop was directed by MESA award winners, CUMES board members, and faculty experts in the topics or disciplinary areas. This poster session is an opportunity for the students to share their research with the wider MESA community and the public. The open poster session is an opportunity for students in any academic discipline with a focus on the Middle East to present their research and get feedback and research advice from MESA attendess. It will be held Friday, December 3rd from 3:00-4:00pm EST.
Please find information regarding student presenters and posters here.
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89935535830