The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Research Group aims to promote interdisciplinary collaboration among scholars and students at the University of Alberta who are interested in the critical study of social, cultural, historical, religious and political themes related to the Middle East, Islam, and Muslim communities. The primary goals include raising awareness of the importance of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies within the Faculty of Arts and the University of Alberta, creating more opportunities for students to learn about MEIS, mobilizing our resources within the Faculty of Arts and the communities, and establishing more regular ties and involvement between the University and the communities.
MEIS fosters an intellectual community on campus that applies a critical lens to the teaching and the study of related scholarship. We encourage the free flow of ideas, debates and research projects among this community. We hope this will promote a deeper understanding of pertinent issues regarding the history, culture and civilization, arts and literature, and domestic and international politics of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world through a multi-disciplinary perspective.
"My dissertation research examines the work of several Iranian novelists, poets and filmmakers, as well as that of ideologues and public intellectuals who lived and wrote between 1953 and the 1979 Islamic Revolution to delineate the contours of the discourse of Return to Self that they advocated."
Kara Abdolmaleki, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
"My research examines and problematizes the Anglo-American invasion and ensuing crisis of the nation-building project in post-2003 Iraq. After 12 years of ‘nation-building’, Iraq exhibits no signs of a functioning democracy: the governing structure and process are riddled with ethnic and sectarian strife. Insecurity –especially for vulnerable minorities, characterizes the state. ISIS still has control over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. There is no coherent national identity –Iraq has regressed towards tribal affiliations seen pre-‘Iraqi’ period. Most problematically, there is a massive crisis of Iraqis refugee and internally displaced persons. My purpose in this single case study is to first, explore why post2003 Iraq has not transitioned to a ‘democracy’ following regime change and ‘nation-building’ through a critical postcolonial perspective. Second, I am interested in exploring the potential for grassroots solutions to the problem, which has not been the focus of much of the Anglo-American policies in Iraq. Since the colonial creation of the Iraqi state, Iraqis have not had the right to forge their own political future. This highlights the importance of this research, which focuses on the potential of everyday Iraqis to rebuild their country on pluralist, tolerant, and democratic values."
Mariam Georgis, PhD Candidate in Political Science
"My research based on ethnographic field-work as well as critical reading of historical and media sources will analyze the significance of the 18th century Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s poetry from Sind, Pakistan in different peripatetic as well as educated communities of believers and literati in Sind, Pakistan and parts of India. I will show how the processes of modernity, namely colonialism combined with anti-colonial nationalism during the Raj and post-colonial nationalism after the birth of Pakistan has shifted the place of this saint to be the national and classical poet of Sindhi in the urban spheres, and examine its impact on the ritualistic singing by the faqirs (dervish) at the shrine of Shah Latif and beyond. "
Shumaila Hemani, PhD Student in Music
"My project investigates the construction and propagation of various narratives of trauma in three cases of post-revolutionary Iran, contemporary Palestine, and post-9/11 United States."
Amir Khadem, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
"My doctoral dissertation examines the 2009 Iranian Green Movement. This is an important area of enquiry as the Green Movement represents the first instance in the new millennium of a mass mobilization in the Middle East, preceding the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ by two years. Examining this phenomenon will thus contribute to the theorization of social movements, democratization and politics in the Middle East."
Navid Pourmokhtari, PhD Candidate in Political Science
"My doctoral dissertation concerns a critical study of print and cinematic cultures of The Thousand and One Nightsand their various utilizations in nation-building enterprises across English, Arabic, and Farsi contexts in nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
Rasoul Aliakbari, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
"My research is about the contemporary Iranian artists who challenge the visual regimes that dictate the representation of Iranian-ness and are promoted by both local and global art institutions."
Somayeh Noori Shirazi
, PhD Student in Arts and Design
"Does natural resource wealth promote authoritarianism and construct states immune to democratic social movements? The key to understanding this relation is to investigate the political incentives produced by resource “rents.” My research attempts to advance the understanding of the correlation between the rentier state and degrees of authoritarianism through the lens of the structural, elite, and civil society levels in the specific case of Iran (1997- 2013)."
Hajar Amidian, PhD Candidate in Political Science
"My research will explore the politics of ideas in the Middle East; examining how ideas, discourses, and collective memories are constructed to create a sense of solidarity, national identity, and loyalty to both state and non-state actors."
Nafisa Abdulhamid, Master’s student in Political Science
"My dissertation examines the policies adopted by the Iranian government to manage cyberspace as an emerging domain of power, exploring the implications of these policies for Iranian domestic politics and foreign policy."
Roozbeh Safshekan, PhD Candidate in Political Science
"Utilizing a trove of access to information requests and confidential interviews with professors throughout Canadian campuses, my project seeks to undercover the ways in which academic freedom is affected by discussions of the Israel/Palestine conflict. It begins by asking the question, Why is the issue of Israel/Palestine necessarily considered ‘controversial’? Its overall goal is to present a comprehensive Canadian survey of the discourse of Israel/Palestine in the academy."
Dax D’Orazio, PhD Student in Political Science
"Through a genealogical examination, my research will examine the Syrian Uprising. This analysis will focus on the transformation of the Syrian Uprising from a peaceful protest movement in which protesters called for freedom and justice, into a prolonged geopolitical civil war with the involvement of various actors internally and externally."
Noureddin Zaamout, Master’s student in Political Science
"The Sufi cultural revival in Punjab has had a profound impact on ideas of community formation amongst Punjabis in India, Pakistan and in their diaspora communities in Western countries like Canada. My goal is to study this cultural revival of Sufi modes of worship and musical practice in Punjab, and the effect that this has had on they way diaspora Punjabis conceptualize their own social and cultural identity. I hope to address the way reciprocal cultural interdependence between East and West Punjab is strengthened by this revival, and that this forms a basis for sustained peace along one of the most complicated international borders in the world."
Arshdeep Khaira, PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology
"Over the first few months of 2016, Tunisia celebrated and commemorated the fifthanniversary of a wave of discontent that toppled an oppressive regime and sparked offfurther uprisings around the Arab world. This revolutionary spirit in Tunisia and otherArab countries has manifested itself in a huge production and proliferation of culturalmaterials such as chants, banners, slogans, jokes, poems, street art, blogs, presidentialspeeches and media coverage. Although Tunisia was the cradle of this series ofrevolutions, very few studies have explored the linguistic aspect of the Tunisianrevolution such as the inter-lingual mediation that was done by translators, artists,writers, journalists and bloggers in order to voice dissent against the repressive regime. Inmy thesis, I will examine first what has been translated in terms of cultural and politicalproductions such as literature, blogs, humour, slogans, songs, and presidential speeches.Then, I will discuss how the Tunisian revolution was represented in the Francophoneworld trough the translation of articles by the French journal Le Courrier International."
Houssem Ben Lazreq, PhD Student in Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
"My project examines the history of Russian involvement in the Caucasus region and the Russo-Caucasian colonial relationship from three distinct perspectives. The first is through the lens of classical Orientalism. I read the Caucasus as “Russia’s Orient,”examining the ways in which Russian writing about the Caucasus traded in stereotypes that exoticized and eroticized the Muslim peoples in the region. The second stage of my project examines anti-colonial efforts of Caucasian self-representation and assembles an archive of texts and films that record Caucasian experience of Russian imperialism. The third perspective is geopolitical, as I work to “globalize” the Russo-Caucasian relationship by asking what happens when recent events are mediated by the War on Terror. My dissertation seeks to investigate the dynamics of imperial, colonial, and postcolonial relations between Russia and the North Caucasus in order to question center-periphery model of postcolonial theory and develop understanding of the cultures that emerge out of these complex relationships."
Nataliia Pestereva, PhD Student in English and Film Studies
"My research aims to contribute to LGBT-community’s rights by investigating experiences of the Iranian gay community as they move from Iran to Turkey and then to Canada. This project negotiates contemporary discourses of sexuality as refugees and immigrants. It also contributes to the field of queer migration, an academic approach to activism at intersection of queer rights, immigration rights, and social justice."
Aryan (Ahmad) Karimi, PhD Student in Sociology
"My work focuses on the intersection of social justice, multiculturalism, and comedy. Focusing primarily on the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, I use cultural theory to understand the themes, ideologies, and political implications of producing light-hearted laughter. I have found that while laughter is often said to be the best medicine; however, when it comes to social ills, that wisdom depends on what we’re trying to cure."
Jay Friesen, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature