[R4818] Teaching Middle East Studies in a Controversial Time: Between Activism and Accountability

Created by Victoria Hightower
Monday, 11/20/17 10:30am


This panel will explore the challenges of teaching Middle East Studies during this ongoing moment of increasing sociopolitical activism in the United States. This activism arises from recent decisions by the U.S. government that restrict travel access—and associated academic, business, and leisure opportunities—for those who originate from the Middle East, as well as the rise of nationalist, isolationist, and Islamophobic rhetoric. This is not the first time in Middle East Studies’ history that the field has found itself under attack: Early 21st century debates questioned whether our field was “built on sand” (Kramer, 2001), and encroachments on academic freedom have been propagated by private institutions and individuals (such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni). Yet the panelists believe that this is a unique time to teach and advocate for Middle East Studies (a common theme discussed in the MESA 2016 roundtable, “The Ethics of Researching Middle East Politics”). While the field has not yet been the target of direct attacks, our interlocutors, our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends are finding themselves in the US and abroad on the wrong end of censorship and repression, both self- and government-inspired. How do we as educators find the balance between activism and accountability, in the classroom and beyond?

This roundtable will discuss how we as scholars and educators navigate these difficult waters and how the dialectical relationship between our research and teaching is affected by these new concerns. The panelists represent educators from all academic institutions—community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities—as well as teachers from the K–12 system. Presenters hail from urban and rural schools throughout the United States and abroad, from red and blue states, and from areas where the curricula are being questioned as too minority-focused or ideologically driven. All educators teach Middle East Studies, the roundtable represents varied disciplines, including history, political science, religion, and anthropology. Specific contributions to the roundtable include the intersections between class, race, religious beliefs, gender, and sexual identity, and weighing the decision to engage in activism in the academic community. Roundtable members will also address how to move discussions of activism beyond the classroom, and how rank and tenure status affect the desire and freedom to speak. We hope to provide a space for dialogue and support on the balance between objectivity and neutrality, activism and accountability, as we face a new sociopolitical reality.


Anthro; Hist; Pol Science



Jill Crystal

(Auburn University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Victoria Hightower

(University of North Georgia)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;

Rachael Eggebeen

(Sunnyside Unified School District)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Jocelyn Sage Mitchell

(Northwestern University in Qatar)
Jocelyn Sage Mitchell is assistant professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, teaching comparative and American politics and interdisciplinary courses. She is also an affiliated faculty member of Northwestern University's Middle East...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Neha Vora

(Lafayette College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Elizabeth Derderian

(Northwestern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Daniel Blumlo

(Rock Valley College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;