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.
"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 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 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
"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
"My research seeks to understand how efforts to address the trauma of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina influenced the reconciliation of the three constituent peoples of the country, Bosniac Muslims, Serbs and Croats. As civil wars, which have become the most common type of violent conflict globally after the Cold War, often have an intimate influence on civilian life, they lead to erosion of social connections and widespread trauma. Previous research in psychology found an inverse relationship between trauma related ailments and support for peaceful reconciliation among survivors, indicating that the traumas of war continue to threaten peace even when violence ceases. Based on these findings, I investigate whether mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programs that have been implemented in Bosnia following the war have, as well as helping survivors to heal, contributed to reconciliation and sustainable peace in the country."
Emrah Keskin, PhD Candidate 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
"I explore international border relations in South and Central Asia, and the role that music and culture play in mitigating the escalation of violence in disputed territories and conflict zones. My focus is on the Punjab region divided between Pakistan and India which is also affected greatly by the ongoing conflict in the disputed neighbouring region of Kashmir. I have found through detailed fieldwork conducted physically in East Punjab and via satellite in West Punjab that the Punjabi people in both countries desire a mutually interdependent relationship with each other (esp. between Sikhs and Muslims). A major part of this relationship revolves around music and culture, especially Sufism. One of the major by-products of this desire is the de-escalation of violence along the line of control in Kashmir, further facilitated with current initiatives by Pakistan’s government to allow open access for Sikhs to visit Pakistan freely."
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
"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, Master’s student in Music