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Sufism, Migration, Human Rights Highlight CNES Winter Programs

Sufism, Migration, Human Rights Highlight CNES Winter Programs

Conferences on Media and the Eichmann Trial, North African Sufism, and Global Maghrebi Migration

Contemporary and historical issues that cut across the Middle East, considered from multiple disciplinary perspectives, are the focus of the Near East Center's winter quarter program of academic events, beginning with a January 11 presentation on Iraqi Marshlands Then and Now, by Azzam Alwash, CEO of Nature Iraq.

The event corresponds with an exhibition of photographs by Nik Wheeler at the Fowler Museum (through March 22), looking back at the Marsh Arab lifestyle that flourished before Saddam Hussein embarked on the destruction of the area's Shiite population. More than a quarter-million people once lived in the marshes, but since the marshes were drained and mined, less than a third of the population has returned. CNES Director Susan Slyomovics participates in the public conversation on the exhibit.

Lecture Series on Iran, Islam, Historiography, Hip Hop

Also on January 11, the Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, organized by CNES affiliate Nayereh Tohidi, presents a lecture in Persian on Iranian Identity and Modern Nation-State Formation: The Historians' Debate, by Afshin Matin-Asghari (California State University, Los Angeles). Matin-Asghari addresses the same topic in English on January 14. The next set of bilingual lectures is by Mary Hegland (Santa Clara University) on Women and Power in ‘Aliabad’: Climbing out of Gender, Sexual, and Generational Hierarchies, speaking in Persian on February 22 and in English on February 25.

The series on Islam in Central Asia features a lecture on Islam in the New Afghan Public Sphere by Nushin Arbabzadah (UCLA) on January 22.

The series on Hip Hop in the Middle East and North Africa, spearheaded by Professor H. Samy Alim of the UCLA Anthropology Department, screens Slingshot Hip Hop on February 3, with director Jackie Salloum present for the screening and discussion afterwards.

And the series on the Historiography of the Middle East, moderated by Professor James Gelvin (UCLA History Department), explores Whatever Happened to Social History? From Female Agents to Gendered Pawns, in a February 17 lecture by Judith Tucker (Georgetown University).  

CNES is also sponsoring a January 27 lecture on The Politics of Qur’anic Hermeneutics: Royalties on Interpretation, by Walid Saleh (University of Toronto), a specialist in medieval Islamic intellectual history and an expert on the Qur'an and the history of its interpretation (tafsir). The event is hosted by the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and moderated by Professor Ismail Poonawala.  

Conference on Filming the Eichmann Trial 

Historians, literary critics, legal scholars, and filmmakers agree on the importance of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi official charged with the logistics of mass deportation to the death camps. Kidnapped from Argentina by Israeli agents in 1960, Eichmann was indicted in the Jerusalem District Court for crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people.

His trial lasted from April 11 to August 14, 1961. One hundred and eleven witnesses testified in the case. Eichmann was found guilty and hanged on June 1, 1962. "The Eichmann trial is important for many reasons. It was the first transnational narrative to construct the genocide of the Jews as a distinct event of World War II, and it marked the foregrounding of victims as witnesses who produce historical accounts," says conference organizer Susan Slyomovics. Filming the Eichmann Trial explores the impact of film and radio and TV broadcasts of the proceedings. The February 22-23 conference includes historians, filmmakers, film critics, media historians, and legal historians from France, Israel, England, and the US who have been invited to screen their films and analyze subsequent visual and legal histories. The event is co-sponsored by the UCLA-Mellon Program on The Holocaust in American and World Culture and by the Center for Jewish Studies. 

North Africa Initiative

CNES’s North Africa Initiative is aimed at familiarizing American audiences with the cultures of the area and educating them about Islam in this pivotal but relatively understudied part of the Arab world. With funds provided by the UCLA International Institute, the US Department of Education, and the Social Science Research Council (the latter grant being part of a broader SSRC initiative on Islam in World Contexts), the Center launched the North Africa Initiative in spring 2008 with a presentation by Menouar Merabtene, the legendary cartoonist known as Slim, who has produced more than a dozen graphic novels and animated films as well as syndicated cartoons, many featuring the character Bouzid El Besbessi, Slim’s archetypal Algerian Everyman who has served as a vehicle for decades of social and political satire. To date the Center's programs on North Africa include a workshop for teachers, screenings of contemporary films from the region, lectures on a variety of topics, an international conference celebrating the 1200th anniversary of the founding of the great metropolis of Fez, and two musical concerts, one at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and one at UCLA’s Royce Hall, which together drew some 1500 enthusiasts. The North Africa Initiative concludes in winter quarter with a stellar line-up of activities. 

Symposia on North African Sufism and Migration in Global Contexts

Two symposia explore the impact of North Africa on the region and beyond--West Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the US. North African Sufism in Global Context is the topic of a February 12 colloquium on the North African roots of four international Sufi tariqas and their spread across the world: the Jazuliyya (an early modern Moroccan order of the Shadhili tradition that influenced Sufi doctrines and practices as far away as South Asia), the Tijaniyya (founded in 18th-century Morocco, currently influential in North and West Africa, with increasing presence in Europe), the Boutchichiyya (a modern Moroccan Sufi order of the Qadiri Sufi tradition that has become influential under government patronage), and the Maryamiyya (a modern international Sufi order based on the Darqawi-Shadhili tradition of Morocco and the philosophy of the Transcendent Unity of Religions). Participants include Vincent Cornell from Emory University, Cheikh Anta Babou from the University of Pennsylvania, Abdelilah Bouasria from the American University, and H. Talat Halman from Central Michigan University. By studying these North Africa-based Sufi orders in global context, the symposium brings attention to Sufism as a hallmark of Islamic civilization, and to the Maghreb as a crossroads of ideas and spirituality that continue to enlighten our life and times. 

North African Migration in Global Context, and in a broadly modern historical sense, is the subject of a March 5 symposium organized by Professor Nouri Gana (UCLA Department of Comparative Literature). The program examines the history of migration and conversion in the Mediterranean basin, including migration to the Maghreb in late medieval and 16th-century Europe; the cultural politics of Maghrebi migration, with a focus on film and literature in relation to hrig (clandestine immigration from the Maghreb to Europe); Moroccan immigration to Israel; the crisis of cultural identity; and the search for a lost voice. Panelists include Hakim Abderrezak from the University of Minnesota, Sami Chetrit from City University of New York, and Adnan Husain from Queen’s University. The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies.

 Algiers. Coffee trading card, Arbuckle Bros., 1891

America's North Africa: Exhibition and Film Series

For more than a half-century, Americans have been impacted by North African immigration to the US, gaining familiarity with the region through direct contact with members of the large Maghrebi community in Los Angeles and other major cities. Many have been influenced by Sufism which has permeated American culture. Likewise, North Africa has been an important theme in American popular culture for more than a century, as evidenced by the mass production and consumption of pulp fiction, adventure magazines, films, artifacts, and ephemera dealing with the region and its people. Several hundred select items from the Middle Eastern Americana Collection housed in the Young Research Library Department of Special Collections are scheduled for display at College Library in the Powell Building Rotunda starting March 2. Titled America's North Africa, the exhibit is curated by CNES Assistant Director Jonathan Friedlander.

And on March 3, CNES launches a related film program titled Hollywood's North Africa with a screening and discussion of the comedy Road to Morocco, starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour. The series continues in May and June with a dozen rare and classic films on North Africa from Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s. The film series is co-sponsored by CNES and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Talk of Darkness Fatna El Bouih

The North Africa Initiative also features a March 10 reading and lecture in English, Arabic, and French by Moroccan writer Fatna El Bouih, based on her prison memoir, Talk of Darkness (University of Texas Press, 2008). El Bouih was first arrested as an 18-year-old student leader. She experienced multiple prisons, disappearance, and torture. A February 11 lecture by Lahouari Addi (University of Lyon) explores the hardships created by The Political Obstacles to Economic Reform in Algeria.

Our final winter quarter event is a March 12 forum titled Global Perspectives on Youth and Violence, co-sponsored with the African Studies Center, the Latin American Institute, and USA for Africa. Throughout the academic year and as a matter of course we strive to optimize the reach and impact of the Center’s programs by working with campus departments and units and other local universities to ensure that our efforts generate broad interest among the academic community and the wider public in Southern California and beyond.

For more details, visit the Events section of our website.




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