Hamdi AttiaMENA Hosts Artist-in-Residence Hamdi Attia

We are deeply pleased to partner with the Kaplan Humanities Institute in hosting Hamdi Attia as an Artist-in-Residence for Fall 2017.

Born and raised in Egypt, Hamdi Attia lives and works in Cairo and Chicago. His work engages an experimental vocabulary, using video and mapping as well as drawings and sculpture. His work has been featured in private and group exhibitions in Cairo, New York, Paris, Rome, Sao Paulo, Detroit, Copenhagen, Zanzibar and Philadelphia. Attia has been commissioned for a number of public works in the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. He represented Egypt at the Venice Biennial in 1995, taking the top pavilion prize with Akram Al-Magdoub.

"The noble failure of trying to make sense of our contemporary life reproduces itself in art practices, creating a successful platform for anti-idealism," he has said. "Given the tools of this platform, I am simultaneously interested in reconfiguring romanticized socio-political, cultural, or personal products and thoughts by addressing how they diverge and overlap."

Hamdi's residency is co-sponsored by Northwestern's Middle East and North African Studies Program and the Kaplan Humanities Institute.

Please attend these events with Hamdi:

Hamdi Attia in Conversation with Chris Abani 
Monday, October 23, 12:00 pm
Kresge Hall 1-515 (The Forum)

Open Studio: Maps, Politics and Power 
Thursday, November 16, 5:30 pm
Kresge Hall (Room 2-315)

Hamdi is available to visit classes, and the Northwestern community is encouraged to see him in the Kaplan Artist-in-Residence studio in Kresge Hall, Room 2-315. To arrange a visit, please e-mail Rosie Roche, Northwestern Arts Manager.

MENA Graduate Wins Fulbright

Irene Jiang MoroccoRecent MENA graduate Irene Jiang has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright student grant to Morocco, which she will use to make a documentary film during 2017-18.

Jiang graduated from Northwestern in 2017 with a double major in MENA and Radio/Television/Film. In 2015, she spent the fall quarter in Morocco on a study abroad program hosted by the School for International Training, studying at the acclaimed Center for Cross-Cultural Learning in Rabat. There, Jiang took courses on Moroccan society, pursued training in advanced Arabic, and had the opportunity to do independent field research.

This experience inspired her Fulbright project: a documentary film about Théâtre Nomade, a traveling circus based in Casablanca that incorporates youth from diverse and often marginalized backgrounds into an artistic community.

“My film will explore how these youth form identities and claim creative agency through the circus arts," Jiang explained.

MENA director Brian Edwards called Jiang’s proposed project “compelling and sophisticated.”

Edwards was one of Jiang’s recommenders for the Fulbright. He also was her advisor for the major and teacher in a seminar on the film and literature of contemporary North Africa and the Middle East.

“Irene Jiang models the best of the new generation of student-scholars who have come to dedicate themselves to learning about Morocco,” Edwards said.  “Not only is she committed to learning about Morocco, but she is committed to learning from Moroccans and finding ways to communicate that understanding,” he continued.

Jiang credits her time in the MENA program.

“I am forever grateful to MENA for the worldview-changing classes I had the opportunity to take and the village of inspiring and invested mentors that shaped me into the scholar and artist I am today,” she said.

Irene Jiang Nomad

“My decision to major in MENA was one of the best I've ever made,” she reflects. “I could not have gotten here without the incredible atmosphere of intellectual curiosity fostered by the program.”

Edwards looks forward to seeing the results of Jiang’s work in Morocco. “Irene’s film has the potential to bridge the gap between the stories that are told about Morocco and those that Moroccans might tell about themselves,” he said.

bottom photo: Irene Jiang with members of Théâtre Nomade on a break during a storytelling performance


MENA Director Brian Edwards in the News


Brian Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies, Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, and Director of the MENA Program, has been in the media of late — giving radio interviews, recording podcasts, writing articles, and being profiled:

MENA Faculty Respond to Trump's Executive Order of January 27

Several MENA faculty members have published articles and given interviews in response to the Executive Order that President Trump signed on January 27, which instituted a 90-day ban on entry into the United States for all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen; the indefinite suspension of entry into the United States of all Syrian nationals as refugees; the suspension of all refugee processing for 120 days; the introduction of new screening procedures for all visa applicants; and the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program. Bringing their scholarly expertise to bear on these dramatic developments, political scientists Wendy Pearlman and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and film scholar Hamid Naficy have made critical interventions in public policy debates and helped inform the current cultural conversation. Read their interventions here:

Wendy Pearlman, "I interviewed 300 Syrian refugees. They are far from a security threat." The Monkey Cage (Washington Post blog), January 30, 2017

Over nearly five years, I have interviewed more than 300 displaced Syrians in the Middle East and Europe. My forthcoming book, a collection of testimonials in which Syrians explain their country’s conflict in their own words, shows that these men, women and children are far from security threats.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, "The Myth of the Muslim Country," Boston Review, January 31, 2017

Describing the nations subjected to Trump's ban as Muslim is sociologically sloppy, historically misguided, and politically dangerous. The government does not have the authority to determine who counts as Muslim or Christian. How is it that today so few of us are ready to contest the claim that this authority belongs to the state?

Hamid Naficy interviewed in "Nominated for an Oscar, Barred From America," The Atlantic, February 1, 2017

The Iranian film The Salesman is shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. But because of Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the movie’s director won’t be attending the ceremony. To get a better sense of the cultural and geopolitical context of Farhadi’s recognition by the Oscars and his eventual boycott, I spoke with Hamid Naficy...

Chicago Arabic Teachers Council connects Arabic teachers from across Chicago

We are excited to announce the Chicago Arabic Teachers Council, a new partnership between MENA and the Qatar Foundation International (QFI) that will connect university-level educators with K-12 and private school Arabic teachers through a network of support and collaboration. On December 17, 2016 MENA convened a daylong symposium on Northwestern's Evanston campus exploring Classroom Practices and Teaching Strategies. It was a spirited event full of thought-provoking presentations and workshops, stimulating conversations and valuable networking!

From Damascus to Chicago: MENA Students Produce Documentary on Syrian Refugee Children

MENA is proud to announce that a short documentary by two of our undergraduates, Colleen Cassingham and Alex Lederman, was published by The Atlantic. The film, From Damascus to Chicago, follows a Syrian refugee family as it transitions to life in Chicago. We follow Akram and Retaj, who are 7 and 10 years old, through a dance class that helps them flourish in their new environment, as well as their parents' journey to find inner resilience to start a new life.

MENA Inaugural Conference, "Theorizing Current Transformations in the Middle East and North Africa"

Date: 10-21-2015 to 10-24-2015

The Program in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) will be holding its inaugural conference, “Theorizing Current Transformations in the Middle East and North Africa,” from October 21-24, 2015. During conference proceedings, national and international scholars will discuss scholarship of the modern Middle East, critiquing and expanding upon existing models in addition to proposing new approaches for understanding the rich and complex region through a wide variety of lenses and methodologies.

MENA Faculty Teaching Awards!

Date: 10-14-2014

MENA is thrilled to share the great news that four MENA faculty have been named to the Associated Student Government (ASG) Faculty and Administration Honor Roll for superlative teaching performance in 2013-14.  They are Professors Brannon Ingram, Rebecca Johnson, Fatima Khan, and Wendy Pearlman. This recognition honors their work in the classroom and with students.  MENA celebrates our colleagues and is so proud to have them teaching for our program! Congratulations!