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 PhD dissertation is centred upon a simple yet important question: how environmentalism is understood and practiced in the Middle East? Although environmental activism has been widely researched, environmentalism and environmental advocacy in the Middle East are poorly understood and understudied (Sowers, 2018). I explore the social and political capacities of environmental movements in the Middle East and examine the potentials and limitations of the current theories of environmental movements to explain how these movements operate in closed societies through conducting ethnographic fieldwork in environmental NGOs in Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar. I am especially concerned with whether (and if so how) environmental movements and public engagement with environmental issues relate to human rights activism and pro- democracy actions in political spheres in the Middle East. I begin my research by examining how Middle Eastern environmental activists interpret nature, politics, and environmental governance and how they employ these understandings in their activism, engagement with politics, and strategies to deal with the state. I am interested in whether environmentalism has led or may lead to a more enriched civil society by expanding citizen engagements and the public sphere and eventually by strengthening democratic mechanisms."
Rezvaneh Erfani, PhD Student in Sociology
"Traditional Iranian classical music is often admired as “deep” for the sadness and ecstasy it brings to performers as well as to appreciative listeners. The tendency of musicians to focus on ‘melancholic’ interpretations while performing is an important aspect of Iranian music that is integrated with religious life in Iran, where the cultural context of Shi‘i Islam, including sounds of Muharram, Ramadan, passion plays (ta‘zieh), and other rituals have, through the centuries, contributed to the aesthetics of Iranian music and the theme of tragedy in collective musical memory. Based on field study and critical reading, my research will investigate the ethnomusicological, psychological, and philosophical linkages between the meaning of beauty in Iranian classical music, and the cultural essence of Shi‘i Islam, considered within the broader social and historical background of Iran."
Nasim Ahmadian, PhD Student in Music
"My broad research interests fall at the nexus between international relations and comparative politics with a chief emphasis on third world security, political economy of energy, postcolonial analysis, and global North-South energy relationships (post-petroleum) as either political dependence, independence or both. In my PhD thesis, I aim to unravel the complexity of how energy systems, petroleum or solar (or hydroelectric), concentrate rather than disperse power and shape particular kinds of state’s sovereignty in the Twenty-first century. At the heart of my research interests there lies a sympathy to non-mainstream political science, critical international relations theory, and the voice of subaltern in international relations. As such, my work contributes to the great conversation on why there is no theory of third world international relations and joins the efforts to decolonize the field of its euro-centrism and traditional mainstream orthodoxies."
Anas Fassih, PhD Student in Political Sceince
"The Iranian revolution in 1979 dramatically restructured the customary performance settings for Persian classical music, creating a challenging environment for both performers and audiences. Both the performance and dissemination of music were heavily restricted; grants for artists were eliminated; and classical performers found it very difficult to gain permits for concerts and the publication of albums. To survive in this extreme situation, musicians found themselves significantly dependent on public opinion and feedback as the source of their primary income. The necessity of satisfying an audience, limited the ability of composers to experiment with avant-garde music. Instead, there was a tendency to insert elements of forbidden popular and dance musics within classical music in order to generate higher sales, including the incorporation of dance themes and rhythms, and an increase in the use of drums. The objective of my master’s research is to understand the scope and significance of musical change in relation to post-revolutionary cultural policy."
Mehdi Rezania, PhD student in Music
"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, PhD Candidate in Political Science
"My research is about the manifold state-sponsored attempts to reconstruct Shia identity in the post-revolutionary Iran, seeking to delineate the discursive processes and institutions through which Shi’ism is evoked and restored to articulate a hegemonic narrative of identity, securing political support and cementing legitimacy."
Ehsan Kashfi, PhD Candidate in Political Science