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Session R4818 (Teaching Middle East Studies in a Controversial Time: Between Activism and Accountability), 2017
The surge of activism and support in response to Trump's "Muslim ban" on my rather conservative and apolitical PWI, including from the administration, has been a source of solidarity for international and Muslim students, as well as for faculty and students of color more generally, mirroring trends across the US. However, it has also revealed a general lack of knowledge about the Middle East and Islam among liberals, and a complicity in perpetuating certain American exceptionalisms at the expense of the very populations we are supposedly in solidarity with. Ready comparisons to fascism, for example, elide the imperial history of the United States, and especially the impact of the War on Terror and the Obama administration on the very countries that were targeted by the Executive Order. My talk is interested in considering the role of the Middle East anthropologist at this moment, when American parochialism from the left (not only the right) seems to be pushing out nuanced conversations about on-the-ground life experiences and their complexities, especially when access to those experiences is shrinking due to the direct and indirect results of American empire. When the response to "alternative facts" is a turn to liberal hegemony, how do we maintain the critical intersectional, feminist, and subaltern reading and research practices that anthropology and related disciplines have worked so diligently to cultivate, particularly about the the "Orient"? How can we center these starting points in our pedagogy and activism, for we are not all Muslims, we are not all immigrants, and we are not in a state of exception.