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.
Hajar is a Ph.D. student of anthropology at the University of Alberta and is an Iranian death studies scholar. She is a member of ASDS (Association for the Study of Death and Society) and IIAC (Iranian Institution of Anthropology and Culture). Her topic of study is Death Studies in the Middle East
Hajar Ghorbani, Ph.D. Student in Anthropology
"My research studies the role of Iranian women as visitors in museums. The museum visitor experience is physical, personal, social, and visual; studying this embodied experience is fundamental to understanding the cultural role of museums. Thus far, the field of critical museum studies has emphasized European and North American museums, by addressing how they produce national identity, educate citizens, and exclude certain groups, including different kinds of women, from them. My research will enrich the field by focusing on the diverse women who visit museums in Iran. Using methods of participant observation and archival research, I will explore the embodied experiences of women at two sites, namely the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts and the National Museum of Iran. Among other issues, I will consider how these museums may function as places for women to practice the “rituals of citizenship” described by museum scholar Carol Duncan. I will ask how different women move through, engage with, and understand the museum during their visits while attending to the museums’ ritual qualities.."
Rojina Sabetiashraf, MA Student, Art History
"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 for non-mainstream political science, critical international relations theory, and the voice of subalterns 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, Ph.D. Student in Political Science
"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, Ph.D. Candidate in Music
"I propose to carry out ethnographic research to examine how explicit sexual expression overlaps with a notion of piety. Most studies examining the impact of online social networks on transforming religious communities and intimate relationships have treated these two as separate or and even antithetical. I intend to challenge dichotomies of modern discourse by examining the mutually transformative intersection of Islamic piety and public sexuality. I approach piety not as a static norm to be conformed to or avoided, but as something that people perform, rework, and reconfigure to present new phenomena in line with tradition despite apparent deviations."
Samira Torabi, PhD Candidate in Anthropology
"My study investigates the racial and ethnic relations experienced by Muslim students in connection to the pressing issue of Islamophobia. It explores the lived experiences of Muslim students at the U of A, to explore their academic freedom, ethnic relations, identity struggles, and responses to anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination. It also aims to give participating students a ‘voice’ by soliciting their policy recommendations to foster inclusivity and social justice."
Md Nazmul Arefin PhD candidate in Sociology