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Contesting Narratives, Locating Power (Lund Conference)

De-Orientalizing Pedagogy

[image from unknown archive] [image from unknown archive]

 The Arab Spring movements have elucidated the ways that local and global/imperial politics shape everyday Arab life in the Arab world. Consider, for instance, the emergence of public U.S. debates about the everyday lives of Egyptian workers and public debates about the relationship between the U.S. administrations and the regime of Hosni Mubarak. While public debate did not always connect the “everyday” with the “global/imperial,” such discussions set the stage for more in-depth discussions about these connections than ever before. As such, the Arab spring movements open up opportunities to de-Orientalizing the way U.S. scholars have tended to teach about the Middle East.  For instance, Orientalist pedagogy often teaches about everyday life in the region through abstract, ahistorical concepts such as “culture”, “religion,” “gender,” and “sexuality.” The Arab movements open up new opportunities to locate such concepts within the context of changing socio-economic relations, U.S. empire and global neo-liberal political-economics. They also make it more urgent than ever before to study the Middle East beyond Area studies approaches that focus on separate, bounded nation-states. The Arab spring revolutions require us to develop regional and transnational frameworks that can account for the interconnectedness of the Levant, the Gulf, and North Africa and of the local and the global. More specifically, I will argue that transnational feminist frameworks are crucial for teaching beyond Orientalist and Area 

Studies frameworks at this historical moment. For instance, transnational feminist theory provides frameworks for exploring both the significance of nation (and its intersections with race, gender, and sexuality) and the relations among and between nations, histories of imperialism, colonialism, and globalization and post-colonial resistance theory. Indeed, these movements influence what I have been teaching. Overall, teaching about the Arab spring through the frameworks of empire studies and transnational feminist studies can make crucial contributions to the fields of Women’s Studies, American Studies, and U.S. Ethnic Studies (in terms of studying the significance of U.S. discourses on “Middle Eastern gender and sexuality” to concepts of “Americanness” and to the general study of American empire or America as empire (i.e. the relationship between U.S. imperial formations in the Middle East compared to other forms of U.S. imperialism such as U.S. settler colonialism, neo-liberal domination, etc.).


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