The Association of Middle East Children and Youth Studies (AMECYS) is the first academic association for scholars of children and youth in Middle East studies. AMECYS is a private, non-profit, international association for scholars with an interest in the study of children and youth in the Middle East, North Africa, and their diasporic communities. Through interdisciplinary programs, publications, and services, AMECYS promotes innovative scholarship, facilitates global academic exchange, and enhances public understanding about Middle Eastern children and youth in diverse times and places. AMECYS boasts nearly three hundred members and is the newest affiliated organization of MESA.
AMECYS was founded in 2018 by Heidi Morrison, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, with the assistance of the following scholars: Suad Joseph (UC Davis), Dylan Baun (University of Alabama in Huntsville), Chiara Diana (Université libre de Bruxelles), Nazan Maksudyan (Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin)), Matthew Parnell (American University in Cairo), Yael Warshel (Penn State), Murat C. Yildiz (Skidmore College), Khedidja Mokeddem (Centre de Recherche en Anthropologie Sociale et Culturelle, Algeria), Leyla Kayhan Elbirlik (Bogazici University), Diana Hatchett (University of Kentucky), Ben Fortna (University of Arizona), Avner Giladi (University of Haifa), and Linda Herrera (University of Illinois).
Since its foundation, the association has launched several activities and initiatives, including a website, three member meetings (MESA 2017 and 2018 and WOCMES 2018), sponsorship of panels and roundtables (“The State and Future of Childhood’s and Youth Studies in the MENA Region” at WOCMES 2018 and “Women and Youth in the Post Uprising Arab World” at MESA 2018), and the sale of tote bags for fundraising. AMECYS holds an annual graduate student paper prize, which in 2018 went to AUC’s Dina Abdelrahman for her “Active Muslims or Active Citizens? A Case Study of Female Muslim Youth in Egypt.” AMECYS is currently launching a new call for the annual graduate student paper prize, which is open this year to papers in both English and French (deadline of submission: 15 March 2019). AMECYS plans to continue to sponsor relevant panels at conferences as well as publish a newsletter, host a syllabi repository on its website, attract institutional members, and organize a Zoom workshop for its members on a critical topic such as refugee children or the youth bulge.
If you would like to contribute to any of these endeavors, and/or become an AMECYS member, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to visit AMECYS Facebook Page:
Thoughts from AMCEY's Board Members on Why Children and Youth Matter to Middle East Studies
President Heidi Morrison, University of Wisconsin (La Crosse)
When we open ourselves up to a world that is not centered around adults, we open ourselves up to a conversation about the Middle East that accounts for the majority of the actual lived inhabitants: children and youth. Giving up an adult-centric perspective can be as uncomfortable, yet equally meaningful, as giving up other normative vantage points, such as that of a white, upper-class male. Try to view the world—past, present, and future—through the eyes of a seven year old! What do you see differently?
Board Member Nazan Maksudyan, Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin)
Yaşar Kemal (1923–2015), probably the best novelist in Turkey, conducted a series of journalistic interviews with street children, working children, migrant children, and poor children in the 1970s. In an interview, when asked why he did it, he said: “I do not treat children like kids. If I have a friendship, a relationship with a child, then he or she is my friend, not a child. I do not see them as kids, I do not treat them like a different human species. Why? I never believed that it is right to treat children as kids. They are fully fledged human beings.” I see my work on the history of children and youth in the Ottoman Empire in parallel with the attempt to reformulate and expand the subject, scope, and actors of history writing. “Bringing the children in” is the product of the conviction that enumeration and multiplication of accounts relating to the same events, eras, and processes contribute to an enriched perception and comprehension of history—not necessarily in the Middle East, but elsewhere as well.
Board Member Suad Joseph, Board Member, UC Davis
Children and youth account for sixty to seventy-five percent of the population of most Middle Eastern countries. There has been an on-going “youth bulge” in the region for a number of years. If for no other reason, the study of children and youth in the Middle East is critical because they are the majority of the population–and indeed, its future.
Board Member Khedidja Mokeddem, CRASC (Algeria)
This age group is numerically important. For example, according to the results of the 2008 population census, nearly half of the Algerian population is between the ages of ten and fifteen (50.94 percent female and 49.06 percent male). The number of Algerians between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five is 3,573,027, of which 18,187,77 are adolescent girls and 175,480 are adolescent boys. Young people are the spine of human development.
Board Member Leyla Kayhan Elbirlik, Bogazici University
Any effort in raising the voices of children and youth, uncovering their stories and lived experiences would be considered a great contribution to historical scholarship. The subject of children and youth in Middle Eastern studies is a challenge especially due to the limitation of written and oral sources from the early modern period. I am tempted to compare the work of the historian of that period to that of an archeologist, carefully excavating, identifying and parsing the material to offer a glimpse into an obscure area of life. The lives of children and youth, their shared and individual experiences also tell us about the way society constructs and reconstructs itself. Hence, in Middle Eastern studies where archival resources on family life, personal and private correspondences, autobiographical records are considerably meagre, children and youth studies will contribute significantly to the field. Most importantly, considering children and youth as active historical agents will help establish this subject as a major category of scholarly research within world history.
Board Member and Program Officer Dylan Baun, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Young people matter in Middle East Studies because they have been invisible for so long. While they are participants in all types of social change, ranging from revolutions to reading practices, children and youth in the Middle East have often been at the fringes of scholarship and public media and framed as susceptible to cooption and manipulation. And, finally, when young protestors were in the limelight during the 2011 Arab Uprisings, they were depicted as dormant under authoritarian governments until recently and unknowing of what they truly want. The reality is much more complex, where young people across the region, since at least the nineteenth century, have been both sites of empowerment and control. By putting young people and their material evidence--from diaries to clothing choices--at the center, researchers can work to contextualize this paradox and assess its impacts. The results are not always uplifting, but they render a most significant group in Middle East society more visible.
Board Member and Secretary Chiara Diana, Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)
Common perceptions of children are based on their age as minors and on them lacking experience and a sense of responsibility. These characteristics are often employed as a rationale for excluding them from the adult world. Being underage tends to place children at the bottom of the social scale, as legally incompetent citizens and deprived of the right to responsibility for their own lives. This situation causes discrimination against them and allows adults to establish a social order to the detriment of very young people’s participation in society. On the contrary, children and young people in the Middle East and North Africa region prove that they are political, cultural and economic agents through their political and citizen activism, collective and individual artistic actions, and extensive participation in the (in)formal labor market (i.e., about fifteen percent of children in the region are child laborers). That is to say that children and youth matter and Middle East studies academics cannot continue to ignore this important group. They deserve specialized attention from scholars working on the region in order to make them more visible and to recognise their agency in past as well as in present Middle Eastern and North African societies.
The Ottoman History Podcast recently hosted three AMECYS members (Heidi Morrison, Dylan Baun, and Murat Yildiz) to discuss the field of the history of childhood and youth on the Ottoman History Podcast. We reproduce that episode with this annoumcement.