The description is submitted to:


Session R4818 (Teaching Middle East Studies in a Controversial Time: Between Activism and Accountability), 2017
In our current moment, scholars are being asked once again to take up the mantle of protester and activist. In my university, this request intersects with a number of key issues what is my role and what should it be? As an Associate Professor, as a woman, as a Middle East historian. If there is not a culture of protest on my campus, how do I begin conversations about intersectional and/or structurally based oppression? How can we have these conversations without resorting to caricatures or ad hominem attacks? How do we open debate without being overly dogmatic about our own beliefs as professors?

As an historian, this hearkens back to the culture wars of the 1980s and, closer to my personal experience, the patriotism wars of the early 2000s. It echoes the debates surrounding Said’s theory of Orientalism and the questions of Middle East Studies’ close relationship to the US Government and the supposed objectivity of research (Lockman, 2004).

I teach at a largely white, rural, four-year liberal arts college in the Appalachian Mountains of northern Georgia. My university is the Military College of Georgia and we have a Corps of Cadets who live a military lifestyle 24/7, as happens at Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, and the Citadel. My students, civilian and military, overwhelmingly supported President Trump’s candidacy and his victory in November.

My university’s location and its constituency lends a special flavor to my experience teaching Middle East history. Protests have been largely absent from my university as many of my students approve of the stances adopted by the current US Administration with regard to immigration and rhetoric. Indeed, the discussions tend to revolve around the constitutionality of protests and whether the protesters should be jailed or deported themselves. Far from being apathetic millennials, my students are engaged, active, and informed, though not always from the perspective or with the empathy that I think is necessary for a college classroom to be a vibrant space of intellectual exchange.