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Saturday, May 18, 2024

New lecture series launches with discussion of Middle East

The current uprisings in the Arab world were one of the main topics of a lecture on Wednesday night hosted by The Middle East/South Asia Studies (MESA). A panel of accredited scholars and professors from UC Davis as well as other universities was present.

“The main goal was information,” said Suad Joseph, professor of anthropology. “The scholars have spent a lifetime studying this region and they can offer insight that you won’t get from a usual media source.”

The series was made possible by a grant from Faris Saeed, a Dubai resident who supports a number of MESA programs. The $250,000 donation was a major gift in the development of Arab Studies. It will be expended in the next several years on course development, such as developing a minor in Arab Studies, annual lecture series and support for scholarship opportunities, among other activities.

“We are very excited about the donation of $250,000,” Joseph said.

In addition, there was a public celebration as the Parsa Community Foundation gave a gift of $250,000, which was matched by on-campus partners and donors in the community, for a total of more than $600,000. This money will go to the expansion of courses as well as the development of a minor in Iranian Studies.

MESA is a recently developed program that is one of few in the entire nation with a core curriculum. From an idea that was rejected back in the 1970s, it has grown substantially through the work of students and faculty.

Wednesday’s lecture was highlighted by speeches delivered by several key professors and experts in their various fields.  

Beshara Doumani, professor of history at UC Berkeley, spoke exclusively about the idea of the phrase “the people want.” He said there is a sense of the people drawing upon sources other than secularism, and unity in revolution comes from a general desire for dignity.

Paul Amar, associate professor of global and international studies at UC Santa Barbara, took apart some of the myths that surrounded the current revolution in Egypt and provided alternate views to such ideas. Some of these myths included that the revolution in Egypt began as a result of youth in sexual turmoil and that the revolution could not occur without the Internet. He broke these misconceptions by claiming the revolution was a result of organized, employed youth without dependence on the Internet.

Susan Miller, associate professor of history at UC Davis, spoke of the revolution in Libya and the region’s uncertain future. The emerging revolution already has a government established, and that’s in direct conflict with the presiding government, she said.

With MESA’s new funds, the program hopes the lecture was the first of many.

“MESA has achieved a new plateau, and that will allow us to serve the students and the community in a broad range of programming to increase understanding about this critical area in the world,” Joseph said.

AMIR BEGOVIC can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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