Calls for Participation

If you are planning to organize a panel or roundtable for MESA’s 2020 meeting in Washington, DC, please fill out the form below to post a call for papers for your session. You can post calls as far in advance of the meeting as you care to. Please note that the submission timeframe is January 13 through February 18 when the myMESA system will be ready to accept proposals. 

Questions about the submission process are always welcome. Please email Kat Kassanitz at

Calls for Participation 2020 

  1. Organizer: Louise Cainkar (

    Proposed Session Title: The Wall is Up: Global Im/Mobilities 
    Session Description: This panel welcomes papers that examine human movement, especially from or through MENA, that has been stopped/stalled by current policies and practices, as well as its implications on a range of fronts (e.g., economic, political, gendered, well-being).  
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 11

  2. Organizer: Suraiya Faroqhi (
    Proposed Session Title: Writing about the Ottoman World: Travel Accounts from the 17th and 18th Centuries
    Session Description: This panel will deal with the question of reliability in travel accounts. How far did genre conventions and (perceived) audience demands determine what people published about their travels, and to what extent was there room for introducing the observations of the authors at issue? This session will not only deal with the 'Orientalism' issue and is seeking contributions that foreground the travels of Indians and Iranians as well.  In the latter case, authors writing about the Ottoman world is desirable, but if that is not feasible, authors focusing on Iran or northern India will suffice. As an example, Suraiya's work will focus on Domenico Sestini (1750-1832) in the Anatolian town of Sivas and compare his observations with Ottoman archival records.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 13

  3. Organizer: Mary Ann Fay (
    Proposed Session Title: Gender and Nation Building in the Arabian Gulf
    Session Description: Women in the Arabian Gulf today are taking center stage in representing the ongoing process of nation-state building. We mean by this term the construction of institutions, norms, and ideologies that give the state a national identity for its citizens and those outside its borders. This effort takes place in a broader geopolitical context because a nation-state is constructed in relationship to other states. With respect to the Arabian Gulf, state leaders have promoted women's non-traditional activities as symbols of modernization. Women are portrayed as entering into previously unimagined spaces as young leaders, soldiers, educators, sportswomen, artists and Spartan mothers of young soldiers. State elites often seem to view the foregrounding of women as a branding exercise which does not challenge the conservative genders norms of the region. On the other hand, the symbolic use of women as agents of modernization can also unleash the public agency of women and destabilize popular understandings of appropriate gender relations. By dissecting these dynamics from a comparative perspective, the panel will explore the tensions between branding and female agency. In this way, the panel will also examine the prospects form women's empowerment in the Gulf region.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 1

  4. Organizer: Alaaeldin Mahmoud (
    Proposed Session Title: Global/Local Popular Entertainment in the modern Middle East
    Session Description: This panel welcomes papers that will discuss the rise of what has become "global" forms of popular entertainment in the nineteenth century and its various ramifications relating to its complex ways of reception ranging from close assimilation, appropriation and adaptation to almost utter disavowal and denunciation. Papers discussing storytelling, theatre, music, film, comedy, dance, circus, reading, gaming, sports, and exhibitions (fairs) are especially welcome. The panel will examine the various ways whereby the local needs of entertainment came to be met by adopting the global entertainment given the respective sociocultural contexts and settings in question.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 13

  5. Organizer: Yehia Mohamed (
    Proposed Session Title: The Future of Arabic Heritage Education: Mapping Curriculums and Research Strategies
    Session Description: The past decade has witnessed a significant growth in Arabic heritage education across the globe. This growth is likely to continue as a result of the political turbulence in the Arabic-speaking world, with millions of refugees settling in communities outside the Arab world. Historically, research in this field has predominantly focused on heritage speakers in North America; however, the diverse nature of heritage speakers and the changing political climate makes it necessary for us to better understand the categories that exist and how best to meet their specific needs. This panel will deal with defining and outlining the unique characteristics of these sub-categories in addition to mapping a future research strategy regarding pedagogy and curriculum development.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 10,

  6. Organizer: Stephen Cory (
    Proposed Session Title: Political, Social and Religious Change in the Pre-Modern Islamic Maghrib
    Session Description: The theme of this panel is political, social and religious change in the pre-modern Islamic Maghrib, i.e. the countries of North Africa prior to the nineteenth century. The name of the panel may change slightly depending upon the topics of papers that make up the panel. I plan to apply for AIMS sponsorship, and thus will need to know who is interested and what the subject of their papers are prior to Jan 31. Contact me via email to express interest or regarding any questions you may have.
    Deadline for AbstractsJanuary 31

  7. Organizer: Adrien Zakar (
    Proposed Session Title: Towards a History of the Circle in the Middle East
    Session Description: That circles (dawā’ir) are a central metaphor in various strands of Middle Eastern thought and indeed can be found in different spheres of knowledge from architecture, design, and geography to theology, mysticism, and theories of governance is well known. As a way of thinking, the circle frames ideas from large-scale cosmic phenomena and theories of time, space and economy to conceptions of society and selfhood. Scholars have investigated the meaning and function of circles as powerful symbols, heuristic tools and instruments of visualization in different contexts such as medieval cosmographical charts, the building of centers of power like Mecca and Baghdad, imperial doctrines of justice, and modern historicities of nationalism. Working with and through circles has become a necessary component of the researcher’s skill set. Yet, no attempts has been made to address the question of circularity as a unitary historical phenomenon across epochs and geographies. This panel considers the multitude of ways in which circles have provided an intellectual infrastructure for ideas and practices of knowledge-making, craft, and spirituality. Approaching them as such, circles become simultaneously tools of investigation as much as objects of inquiry in their own right. Starting with circles as material objects, we aim to broaden the scope of analysis to address metaphors of circularity as they are instantiated in daily practices and spheres experience. Our panel will gather scholars from a diversity of disciplines and time periods in order to generate new methodologies in the study of visual and textual cultures in the Middle East by bringing celestial charts, spiritual handbooks, discursive traditions and ritual practices together in a conversation.  We welcome submissions on any time period and regions of the Middle East broadly defined. The final deadline for submitting abstracts (300-500 words) for Middle East Studies Association Conference is February 18th. We request abstracts and short bios to be sent to us by February 10th, 2020. Please send them to Adrien Zakar and/or Aamer Ibraheem (
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 10

  8. Organizer: Elife Bicer-Deveci (
    Proposed Session Title: Abstinence and Amusement in The Ottoman Empire/Turkey From 19th Century to Present
    Session Description: The panel welcomes papers on topics of abstinence and amusement in the society of the Ottoman Empire/Turkey. Concepts of abstinence and amusement reflect vision of ideal social order and morality. Actors with various ideological, political and religious orientation used them to articulate their understanding of “good” and “bad” behaviour, but also to construct identities of belonging and exclusions. The panel will discuss different aspects condensed in these concepts and their relevance to understand processes of globalisation, modernisation and the nation-building.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 13

  9. Organizer: Elif Sari (
    Proposed Session Title: Queer(ing) MENA: Emergences and Potentialities in Times of Authoritarianism, Uncertainty, and (Im)Mobility
    Session Description: The climate of authoritarianism, increasing uncertainty, heightened securitization of borders, and shrinking rights and freedoms pervade people’s everyday lives in the MENA and elsewhere. These profound transformations unevenly effect queer and trans communities, criminalizing and marginalizing them, restricting their communal and political organization and cultural production, and controlling their bodies and mobilities. This panel aims to discuss the constant, intimate, and resilient work of queer and trans communities to create more livable presents as well as imagine more desirable futures. This aim echoes José Esteban Muñoz’s understanding of queerness as an insistence on the "potentiality" or possibility for another world. This panel welcomes papers that examine the "emergent" practices, meanings, and engagements that queerness might open up in an age of increasing authoritarianism. Among the questions it asks are: What novel forms of intimacy, engagement, and solidarity arise out of, and as a response to, power structures? How can critical queer theory and transgender studies help us understand those emerging forms of love, care, resistance, and solidarity in contemporary MENA and its diasporas? And how those new intimacies, collaborations, and alliances, in turn, expand our understanding of gender and sexuality, resistance, community, and temporality?
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 10

  10. Organizer: Karim Malak (
    Proposed Session Title: From Miṣr to Egypt and al-Shām to Syria: Sovereignty, Community and Rule 1600-1880
    Session Description: This panel explores the relationship of hierarchical and interlocking sovereignty from the Levant to Egypt by adopting a long durée approach from the 16th century to the 19th century. Its purpose is to correct the neglected theoretical and historical focus on the communities that spanned these borderlands and traversed them through war and conquest (Marsot, 1984; Fahmy, 1997). By adopting a long durée approach it hopes to answer the question of how did Levantines and Egyptians experience changes in sovereignty, community and rulership from the 16th century to the late 19th century through the various milestones of war and conquest, famine, Western intervention and massacre?
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 10

  11. Organizer: Sharif Elmusa ( and Hella Bloom Cohen (
    Proposed Session Title: Green Postcolonialism, Palestine, and the Middle East
    Session Description: Session Description: In Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge (2018), Wael Hallaq takes Edward Said to task for failing to address the overarching issue of the environment; and attributes the failure to Said’s wholesale bung into the whole gamut of modernity, rationality, secular humanism and so forth. Yet, a number of scholars from various disciplines writing on the environment had already used Said’s ideas to fold the environment into postcolonial studies. Robert Spencer, in “Ecocriticism in the colonial present: the politics of dwelling in Raja Shehadeh’s Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape,” calls for a meeting between the “respective preoccupations of ecocriticism and postcolonial studies” (Postcolonial Studies 13.1, 2010: 34). Generative scholarship has done such work: see Rob Nixon’s “Environmentalism and Postcolonialism,” in Ania Loomba, et al, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond; Graham Huggan’s and Helen Tiffin’s “Green Postcolonialism,” Interventions, 9(1), 2007; and Graham Huggan’s “Postcolonial Ecocriticism and the Limits of Green Romanticism,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 45, 2009, among others. Despite these new foundations, green postcolonial writing on the Middle East remains relatively scarce. This panel will consider the dearth of ecocriticism within postcolonial discourses on the Middle East; especially absent seem to be posthumanist and environmental critiques of Palestine and sociohistorical, literary and artistic production surrounding the Palestinian question. We are interested in interdisciplinary abstracts that seek to engage with the environment and green /ecocritical postcolonial scholarship in the Middle East, including in Palestine. Comparative research among Middle Eastern countries is also welcome. Authors might consider the following talking points:
    1 - Edward Said wrote on many subjects and close-read many literary and non-literary texts and authors; but he did not touch on the natural environment, although it has become a major issue during his lifetime, and he had openings in his work to take that “turn,” and which later would be used by others to advocate for environmentalism and “environmental justice.” It is worth noting here also that environmentalists in general did not “other” the natives, and if they did it was positively, if sometimes exotically, picturing them as ecological agents. Nor did some, like Deep Ecologists, other the non-human animals, and instead advocated a biocentric view of living things for their intrinsic value rather than for their utility for humans. Has Said’s overlooking of the environment been in part responsible for the lack of interest in the environmental question among postcolonial Middle East scholars? Can scholars reconcile Deep Ecology with Said’s legacy?
    2 - Said did not write on the environment because of his biography, being an exile and a city dweller, yet this could be a launching bad for engagement with place and environment. 
    3 - Said’s Humanism and/ or his understanding of Humanism, which he advocated and wrote a book about--is there room within it for posthumanist revision?
    4 - Political advocacy for the environment by the Industrialized “Western” countries was for a long time viewed with suspicion by the “Third World,” a way to block their own industrialization and development.
    5 - Israel’s use of green language and rhetoric in its colonization of Palestinian land (making the desert bloom, planting trees on destroyed villages, planting pine trees, not native trees; confiscating land in the name of making it natural protectorates, etc.).
    6 - Where do we see an ecological shift within various disciplines? How broad and deep is this focus in fields such as History, Anthropology, and Literary Criticism?
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 13

  12. Organizer: Enaya Othman (
    Proposed Session Title: Perception and Representation of Disability in the Middle Eastern Communities
    Session Description: This panel explores the construction, perception, and representation of disability in the Middle East and its diasporas. It aims to foster discussion on disability from diverse perspectives including history, culture, gender, and religion. The panel welcomes papers that deal with theological interpretations and historical insights as well as social and cultural construction of disability, normalcy, and normative bodies in Middle Eastern societies. It also invites papers investigating the portrayal of people with disability in cultural, literary, and artistic productions. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the panel also focuses on the intersections between disability and various modes of identification such as ethnicity, culture, gender, class, and religion. Another significant intersection refers to the double stigma experienced by people with disabilities belonging to immigrant groups originating from Middle Eastern countries. In this sense, this panel examines disability as an identity, minority, and social justice issue in Middle Eastern countries and its immigrant/diaspora communities.
    Deadline for Abstracts: February 13

  13. Organizer: Kirsten Scheid
    Proposed Session Title: Art as Method and Lens for Middle East Studies (Round Table)
    Session Description: Art is relevant to ongoing life in the Middle East and, consequently, key to studying it. For example, Winegar's ethnographic study of "young artists" in Egypt (2006) revealed the workings of "graduated sovereignty." Documenting Palestinian art installation projects using "anticipatory representation," De Cesari (2011) found that art may call into being, by representing beforehand and providing practical experience of, institutions that do not yet (fully) exist. Shannon (2003) listened to tarab music in Syria to comprehend how art manipulate experiences of, and relations to, time which affect audiences’ commitment to the chronologies and teleologies of community. Such cases show that studying art can help you understand local society, politics, and processes because unpacking how art is made, identifying concepts people think through art, or tracking how people’s subjectivities form in art processes, gives access to aspects of their lives that do not fit conventional maps, dictionaries, or teleologies. Categorical junctures found in art can alert us to ones that are imaginable, tangible, and motivating for the people we study, despite their “messiness.” Ultimately, these cases undermine the idea that politics, economics, or social identity constitute external and self-evident contexts in which art happens. The panel proposes that starting with art as a method and analytical lens to advance and enrich studies of the Middle East. Please submit statements of interest and short CVs to be part of a roundtable discussing these issues. As per round table format, the goal is not to present fully fledged papers but to bring cases based on fieldwork or archival experience that you can present briefly and use for thinking through with engaged colleagues. Two discussants who do not normally work in the arts will be asked to give feedback to further the cross-disciplinary nature of the discussion.
    Deadline: February 16

  14. Organizer: Mohammad Salama (
    Proposed Session Title: Decolonizing Arab Studies
    Session Description: Could Erich Auerbach have written Mimesis without Homer, Shakespeare, or Virginia Woolf? Could Roland Barthes have envisaged S/Z without Balzac’s novella, “Sarrassine (and Zambinella)”? To what extent, then, are these theories, informed by and rooted in their own historical circumstances and literary traditions, applicable to the rich tradition of Arabic? More importantly, and especially so in the era of post-coloniality, where in the vast sand of literary criticism, could a line be drawn between Eurocentrist and nativist theories? These two questions trigger a few others: what available mechanisms does Arabic literary theory have to contain the chronic drift of theory towards Europe? While Western theory in essence seeks to be universal and might even be compassionate towards the Other, how do we assess the concerns for immunizing Arab Studies against surrendering once again to the good old gravitational pull of Eurocentrism? If the persistence of Eurocentrism in Arab Studies is at all curable, what are the scientific or identitarian means needed to provide such remedy? How can the enormously varied cultures of the Arab world not only speak in, but provide organic critique for, their own distinctive voices? As its title indicates, Decolonizing Arab Studies is a call for liberating the global community of Arabists from a fashionable yet potentially repressive servility to Eurocentrist theory. While many of the analyses of Arabic literary and cultural texts sound like they offer a revolutionary approach to Arab Studies, only a handful of these studies have solid educational value and contextual grounding that the field can benefit from or build upon. By considering the historical geneses of Western literary theories and their educational implications, the presenters in this panel will provide arguments, pose questions and interrogate answers about the increasingly abstract and historically irrelevant employment of Eurocentrist theories they encounter in their assessment and teaching of Arabic texts in today’s universities. Yet, instead of dismissing the reliance on Western theory as ostentatious and nonrepresentational, the goal of this panel is to examine their main hypotheses in relationship to the empirical and historical specificities of Arabic literary and cultural productions. For this reason, the panel does not just present a critique of the employment of Western theory in approaching Arabic literary and cultural heritage in texts ranging from classical, medieval, nahda, to modern and contemporary eras, but it also provides illumination for an emancipatory path in order to enlarge and enrich our inquiry in this current situation of Arab Studies.
    Deadline: February 7

  15. Organizer: Aziz Shaibani (
    Proposed Session Title: Reflections on the current uprising in Iraq
    Session Description: The current uprising in Iraq started in October 1, 2019 and withdrew large segments of the society across gender and religion/sect boundaries. It reflects accumulation of despair and marginalization for decades intensified after the American invasion in 2003. The uprising is shaping the present and future Iraqi pollical landscape and is bringing new forces to the field. The influential Iraqi left is replaced by heterogenous groups with no clear ideology, leadership or program for governance. The panel will discuss the uprising on the light of the Iraqi present and past culture, the role of different forces, and the impact of the regional conflicts on the course of the unfolding events.
    Deadline: February 10

  16. Organizer: Mehmet Akif Kumral (
    Proposed Session Title: Emotional Configurations in Middle East Politics: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Historical Perspectives and Comparative Analyses
    Session Description: The emotional turn in social sciences has yet to fully resonate with the Middle East studies. The panel aims to address part of this gap by focusing on Middle East political emotions during the contemporary era (1920-2020). Interdisciplinary researchers are invited to explore complex emotional-affective constellations through historical analyses of comparative cases. Trans-historical explorations are also welcomed as those single case studies interrogate emotional-affective transformations in modern political episodes. Narrative modes of ideographical-ethnographical enquiry and methodological pluralism are encouraged to examine co-extensive configurations of emotional-discursive practices and affective-contextual phenomena in Middle Eastern political communities and transnational movements. Panel discussions should be informed by interdisciplinary theorizing of political emotions across various fields such as philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, social psychology, cultural studies, and other cognate areas. Likewise, empirical contributions should enrich scholarly debates on international theories of emotions. Overall, synthesizing of theoretical and historical knowledge would enable panelists to unpack emotional-affective puzzles configured in modern polities of the Middle East.
    Deadline: February 11

  17. Organizer: Michael Farquhar (
    Proposed Session Title: Policing, State and Society
    Session Description: The panel will explore the ways in which practices, institutions and discourses of policing in the modern Middle East have shaped and been shaped by the states and societies of the region. At present, the panel comprises Michael Farquhar (King’s College London), who will present research on the relationship between militarised and “civil-ised” modes of coercion in the policing of Egyptian society from 1882 to 1952; Deniz Yonucu (LMU Munich), on the provocative dimensions of counterinsurgency policing in Istanbul and the enduring legacy of the Cold War's low-intensity conflict doctrine; and Jess Watkins (London School of Economics), on how community policing initiatives in Jordan post-2011 pertaining to refugees and nationals alike reflect attempts by the executive to re-imagine communities in the Kingdom. If you are interested in joining the panel, please send a provisional paper title, abstract (max. 400 words), and very brief biography to by 2 February. We are open to research from all disciplines, in either contemporary or historical perspective; and we are open to diverse definitions of “policing”, including those which expand the purview beyond core state institutions which are in principle devoted to crime control and public order. To make room for especially strong work, we would potentially be prepared to consider expanding the remit of the panel somewhat to include very closely related themes including incarceration, repression, everyday security, and private security.
    Deadline: February 2

  18. Organizer: Anis Ben Brik (
    Proposed Session Title: Quo Vadis: Welfare State in the post Arab Spring 2.0
    Session Description: The ongoing protests across Iraq and Lebanon herald a new season second civil unrest- Arab Spring 2.0. Fueling this “new Arab order” is widespread frustration with the region’s endemic problems of unemployment and corruption, the dismal provision of government services, over-reliance on income from hydrocarbons or external aid, and a toxic politicization of identity. Unwieldy, unresponsive, governments across the region with long suppression of the development of inclusive, democratic, and effective institutions has left a vacuum of leadership among regime. These changes have imposed fundamental questions for policy makers and academics who are under pressure to reconsider conventional approaches in welfare state reform. The key research questions the session will address are: what kind of change the MENA region has been witnessing? What is new and what is not? What are the implications of these changes on welfare regimes? how are social welfare systems organized and how can they be reformed to meet the changing social needs? How have social welfare systems in this region shaped social and economic outcomes across various the life-course? Will the crisis exacerbate the trend from the passive welfare state to the social investment state or just the opposite? Which welfare state models are more resilient to retrenchment and why? These and questions will be addressed in the session. This session will critically examine the current knowledge about the origins, development, functions, and challenges of welfare state in the region. It will bring together leading scholars to reinvigorate theoretical, conceptual and substantive debates around welfare states in the region. In addition, the session will provide a critical analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing policy-makers in the region, and examine current strategies and reform processes already underway for addressing welfare needs in the region. Papers will analyze the various institutions, actors, instruments and mechanisms involved in the welfare arrangements and provides a study of the contexts, development and future trajectory of social policy in the region. The session will solicit papers based on original research from leading specialists in the fields from political science, sociology, history, economics, and other disciplines and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy in the region. Original contributions will be encouraged from diverse disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, economics, political science, education, public health) and methodologies. Theoretical and/or empirical contributions with a comparative and regional perspective are equally encouraged. The session welcomes research from across the humanities and social sciences—from the perspective of social and political theorists, philosophers, cultural theorists. Papers can focus on a single country case or propose cross-country analyses. The key outcomes of the session will be the production of an edited volume, plans for a special issue journal issue and a brief report outlining the policy-relevant discussions of the session that will be disseminated the MENA Social Policy Network.
    Deadline: February 14

  19. Organizer: Anis Ben Brik ( and Rana Jawad (
    Proposed Session Title: Social Policy in the Gulf Region: Realities, Visions and Futures
    Session Description: ocial transformations are altering the institutional and political configurations of Arab Gulf States. The accelerated rate of modernization and the unprecedented socioeconomic, political, and demographic changes that have occurred since the last three decades have significant implications for social policies in this region. This requires better understanding. However, comparative social policy research has long-neglected the Arab Gulf region apart from a small number of isolated studies examining the redistribution of oil wealth. This paper will provide a space for dialogue and discussion on current knowledge about social policy in the gulf region: origins, ongoing developments, functions, institutions, actors, instruments, challenges and opportunities facing policy-makers there. The panel will invite papers that draw upon original case-based research from diverse disciplines and perspectives, engage existing literature and advance key debates. The key research questions the panel will address are:
    1. Historical/normative questions: what have been the major political, social and economic drivers of social policy change in the Arab Gulf states since the last three decades? 
    2. Systems: how are social welfare systems organized and how can they be reformed to meet the changing social needs of Gulf populations? 
    3. Outcomes/evaluation: How have social welfare systems in this region shaped social and economic outcomes across various the life-course? 
    4. Theoretical: do Arab Gulf states represent a social welfare mode of their own? How do they compare with the rest of the MENA region and other high income countries around the world? 
    We are seeking papers that deal, not exclusively, with the following areas and focus: 
    • Social Protection
    • Demography 
    • Family policy 
    • Health and Human Well-being
    • Education and youth
    • Women and Social change
    • Social services and delivery 
    • Urban development and Housing policies
    • Social transformation 
    • Ageing and the Life Course
    • Disability
    • Labour Markets and migration
    • Gender Inequality and Social Policy
    • Sustainable development and Human Welfare
    The above are purely indicative areas: suggestions and original ideas are most welcome! The panel will solicit papers based on original research from leading specialists in the fields from political science, sociology, history, economics, and other disciplines and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy in the gulf region.  The key outcomes of the panel will be the production of an edited volume, plans for a special issue journal issue and a brief report outlining the policy-relevant discussions of the panel that will be disseminated the MENA Social Policy Network.
    Deadline: February 14


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