Year of the Middle East Continues Program

By Gail Hairston

(March 24, 2015) — University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Year of the Middle East has scheduled three events this week. They are:

“The Arab Spring: The Youth Revolts of the Arab World Aren't Over” with Juan Cole

Tuesday, March 24, 7 p.m.

UK Athletics Association Auditorium, William T. Young Library

The youth revolts of 2011 and after in the Arab world have permanently changed the face of the region. While most observers have mainly interpreted them through the lens of high politics, this lecture argues that the big story here is the rise of a new generation of young Arabs, the Millennials, who have innovated in grassroots organization (including, but not limited to new ways of using social media for politics). It is too soon to know how the political struggles that they initiated will end, but it is certain that a new generation, with distinctive values and aspirations, has announced its arrival on the scene.

“The Arab World and American Democracy” with Jacob Berman

Thursday, March 26, 4-5:30 p.m.

The Niles Gallery

“Specters of War” examines the influence of post-9/11 American military interventions in the Middle East on the production of both American and Arab literature. Focusing on images of ghosts, spectral illusions, the undead and the undying, the talk attempts to locate zones of inter-textual contact where contemporary American and Arab literary voices move past mutual redactions and engage one another’s respective cultural realities. The goal is to both introduce Arab literary voices into the conversation about America’s presence in the Middle East and to interrogate the haunting presence of the Middle East in contemporary American literature. Works discussed will include Ali Bader’s “The Tobacco Keeper,” Hassan Blasim’s “The Corpse Experiment and Other Stories of Iraq,” Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s “Guantanamo Diary,” Theo Padnos’s “My Captivity,” Phil Klay’s “Redployment” and Ross Ritchell’s “The Knife.”

“Religion, Identity and Competing Visions of Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia” with Devin Deweese

Friday, March 27, 3 p.m.

Room 249 Student Center

For several decades, studying Islam in Central Asia meant beginning with questions, analytical categories and conceptual frameworks rooted in Soviet and Russian studies; this approach, combined with a lack of basic understanding of the historical experience of Central Asian Muslims prior to the Soviet era, led to host of misconceptions surrounding the character of Muslim religious life in the Soviet era, the impact of Soviet policies and realities, and trends in the renegotiation of religious identities in the post-Soviet age. Recent years have brought, in some circles, growing awareness of the need for approaches drawn from Islamic studies and from a historically grounded understanding of the history of Muslim religiosity in Central Asia. This lecture will discuss some of the misconceptions rooted in the ‘Sovietological’ approach to Islam in the region, and the lessons to be drawn from viewing the region through the lens of Islamic studies, with a particular focus on the ways in which religiosity was manifested in Soviet times, and on the ways in which religiosity shaped or interacted with notions of ‘national’ identity.

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