Events

The Future of the Study of the Middle East: Ecology, Health and Decolonisation

Hosted by the Middle East Centre

Zoom (Online)

Speakers

Omar Dewachi

Omar Dewachi

Rutgers University

Zeina Khalil Hajj

Zeina Khalil Hajj

Environmental Activist

Eve M. Troutt Powell

Eve M. Troutt Powell

University of Pennsylvania

Minouche Shafik

Minouche Shafik

LSE

Chair

Michael Mason

Michael Mason

LSE Middle East Centre

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This webinar is being organised as part of the LSE Middle East Centre's 10th anniversary programme of online events.

For a decade, the LSE Middle East Centre has been committed to rigorous research of the societies, economies, politics and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. This event, as part of the Centre’s 10th anniversary campaign, will look at some of the main challenges facing the region and its people over the next few years, and how the discipline of Middle East Studies should be adapting to address the areas of ecological and demographic change, healthcare in the region, and decolonising the study of the ‘Middle East’. 

As researchers become more and more preoccupied with understanding the implications of living in the so-called Anthropocene, there is still limited work on the impact of climatic stresses in MENA countries, including their relationship with demographic shifts, rapid urbanisation, natural resources depletion and growing pollution.

Protracted conflicts in the region have undoubtedly led to decimated healthcare systems, and in the absence of a collective regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic, national measures have amplified inequalities between and within countries in terms of access to adequate healthcare. 

Academia is facing long and overdue calls to recognise and address unexamined legacies of colonial domination, notably around race, gender and sexuality. Students are at the forefront of these demands, which stretch beyond the teaching curriculum to research and university governance. It was an Orientalist gaze that created the ‘Middle East’, and other geographical imaginaries (e.g. ‘Western Asia’) may now be more appropriate. Decolonising Middle East Studies could take up an entire webinar in itself, so we are focusing on one particular element of decolonisation - writing about race in the Middle East.

Omar Dewachi is Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology at Rutgers University. Trained in medicine and anthropology, Dewachi works at the intersections of global health, history of medicine and political anthropology. Building on long-term fieldwork and professional engagement with local and international medical organizations, and with individuals and families wounded in ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria, Dewachi has been documenting the transformations in the landscapes and infrastructures of care resulting from the changing ecologies of war. This work has culminated in the inauguration of the Conflict Medicine Program at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The program is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the physical, psychological and social manifestations of war wounds. Dewachi is author of Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (2017) which chronicles the rise and fall of state medicine in Iraq and the role of medical doctors in infrastructure making (and unmaking) in the country, dating back from the British Mandate (1920-1932). Dewachi's current research project is a multi-sited ethnography exploring the “ecologies of wounds and wounding,” where he attempts to link the biophysical wounds of war to a broader understanding of wounding in contemporary conflicts. He focuses on the biomedical, environmental, and social experiences of war injury, displacement, and the rise of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) across different conflict-settings and therapeutic geographies in the Middle East.

Zeina Khalil Hajj is an environmental activist and former Executive Director of Greenpeace Mediterranean, a regional office for Greenpeace that operates in the Middle East and North Africa. She has 20 years of experience in creative campaigning, communications, political and policy development, fundraising, and public engagement and mobilisation on a global level. She is an activist by heart and has worked on social issues ranging from global electoral laws and environmental policies to dealing with the aftermath of war. She volunteered for Greenpeace when the organisation was first setting up offices in the Middle East, and became their spokesperson in the Arab World. For many years, she shaped Greenpeace’s global strategies and led many of its creative campaigns challenging global corporates within the electronics and textile industries, as well as global food companies. 

Eve M. Troutt Powell is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches the history of the modern Middle East and the history of slavery in the Nile Valley and the Ottoman Empire. As a cultural historian, she emphasizes the exploration of literature and film in her courses. She is the author of A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain and the Mastery of the Sudan (2003) and the co-editor, with John Hunwick, of The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of Islam (2002). Her most recent book is Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement in Egypt, Sudan and the Late Ottoman Empire (2012). She has received fellowships from the American Research Center in Egypt and the Social Science Research Council, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2003 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Troutt Powell is now working on a book about the visual culture of slavery in the Middle East which will explore the painting and photography about African and Circassian slavery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is also a professor in the department of Africana Studies.

Minouche Shafik is Director of the London School of Economics. An economist by training, Shafik has spent most of her career straddling the worlds of public policy and academia. Her early research focused on the determinants of investment, the environment and economic growth, the economies of the Middle East and North Africa, trade and migration. She taught at both Georgetown University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. During her 15 years at the World Bank, Minouche worked on its first ever World Development Report on the environment, designed reform programmes for transition countries in Eastern Europe, and developed proposals for economic integration in support of the Oslo peace process in the Middle East. She joined the IMF in 2011 as Deputy Managing Director with responsibility for many of the crisis countries in the Eurozone and the Arab countries in transition. From 2014-2017 she was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, responsible for a balance sheet of almost £475 billion, and sat on all of the Bank’s major policy committees (the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee, and Prudential Policy Committee). Minouche currently serves as a Trustee of the British Museum, the Council of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Governor of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, and is Honorary Fellow of St. Antony’s College Oxford.

Michael Mason is Director of the LSE Middle East Centre. He is also Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment and Associate of the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. His research interests encompass environmental politics and governance, notably issues of accountability, transparency and security. Alongside articles in a wide range of academic journals, he is the author of Environmental Democracy (1999) and The New Accountability: Environmental Responsibility across Borders (2005). He is also co-editor of (with Amit Mor) Renewable Energy in the Middle East (2009) and (with Aarti Gupta) Transparency in Global Environmental Governance (2014).

Join the conversation on Twitter using #MEC10

From time to time there are changes to event details so we strongly recommend checking back on this listing on the day of the event if you plan to attend.

Image: ©Ribale Sleiman-Haidar

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