2017-2018 Annual Lecture Series

All events are free and open to the public.

Why Did Matteo Ricci of the Society of Jesus Lie about the Muslims of China? China, Europe, and Their Islamic Worlds in the 16th Century

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

Thursday, February 22, 2018, 6:30 PM
SFU-Harbour Centre - Room 1420-1430 (Joseph & Rosalie Segal Centre) 515 West Hastings St., Vancouver

This talk presents and discusses a passage in one of Matteo Ricci's earliest reports on China in which he describes the Muslims of the city of Canton. I will analyze the passage against the broader context of the Portuguese and Ming China in the late 16th century explaining how Ricci addresses keys issues such the "problem" of Islam and Muslims in the Indian Ocean and their presence in China on the one hand, and plan to attack China on the other.

Dr. Zvi Ben-Dor Benite is Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.  His research centers on the interaction between religions in world history and cultural exchanges across vast space and deep time. He is the author of The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China (Harvard, 2005) and The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford, 2009). He is currently working on a number of projects related to Jews, Jesuits, Chinese, and Muslims.

Manifold Destiny: Lebanese at an American Crossroads<

John Tofik Karam

Thursday, March 8, 2018, 6:30 PM
SFU-Harbour Centre - Room 1420-1430 (Joseph & Rosalie Segal Centre) 515 West Hastings St., Vancouver

"I’m an American from the three Americas, more American than (George W.) Bush,” quipped Mohamad Barakat at the border where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. Since the mid-twentieth century, overwhelmingly Muslim Arabs like Barakat have migrated to this crossroads called the tríplice fronteira in Portuguese, the triple frontera in Spanish, and the tri-border in English. This lecture and seminar will explore the transnational trade and activism of Muslim Arabs across this borderland. In fulfilling what I call a “manifold destiny,” Muslim Arabs are constitutive of, and constituted by, multiple centers of power in the hemisphere. They animate and endure various “state exceptions,” whereby states suspend laws or norms in allegedly “exceptional” circumstances which become part of the status quo. In trading and mobilizing under past authoritarian governments as well as present-day counterterrorist regimes, Muslim Arabs face a similar fate in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century Americas.

Dr. John Tofik Karam is Associate Professor in Area and Ethnic Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  A scholar who reframes the Middle East and the Americas through their mutually entangled imaginaries, his book, Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil (Temple University Press, 2007), won awards from the Arab American National Museum and the Brazilian Studies Association and was translated into Arabic and Portuguese.  His current book project is Manifold Destiny: Arabs at a South American Border Remaking the Hemisphere. 

Iraq's Twentieth Century Wars and the Making of the Iraqi Present, 1980-2003

Dina Rizk Khoury 

Thursday, September 21, 2017, 6:30 PM

SFU - Harbour Centre, Room 1420-1430 (Joseph&Rosalie Segal Centre) 515 West Hastings St., Vancouver

This talk will focus on the impact of the Iran-Iraq and the First Gulf Wars and the UN embargo on the social and political life of Iraqis. How did war shape the political and social practices of Iraqi citizens as they dealt with the demands of the government and the increased militarization of their daily lives? What were the repercussions of the belligerent humanitarianism deployed by the US under the auspices of the UN embargo on the politics of the everyday life in Iraq? 

Dr. Dina Rizk Khoury is Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University. She won the Turkish Studies Association and British Society of Middle Eastern Studies awards with her first book, State and Provincial Society in the Ottoman Empire, (Cambridge University Press, 1997, 2002). Her most recent book, Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance (Cambridge University Press, 2013), argues that war was a form of everyday bureaucratic governance that transformed the manner in which Iraqis made claims to citizenship and expressed notions of selfhood.


Migration and Documentation on the borderland of empires and nations in the Persian Gulf, 1880s-1930s

A seminar for faculty members, research scholars, and students by Dr. Dina Rizk Khoury

Friday, 22 September 2017, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm SFU-Burnaby Campus AQ6229

Passports as documents have two properties. Passports speak to migration, state formation, subjecthood, citizenship, and increased globalization. They are, however, also intimate things. My current research focuses focus on border crossings by people engaged in different forms of labor (debt peonage, indentured, and free) as they and the officials employed to document their movement struggle to understand the meaning of subjecthood, citizenship and personhood that these documents demand of them. I will focus on the southern Iraqi and Iranians border areas, spaces that saw claims by imperial powers and incipient nations to the populations as subjects and citizens.  My aim is two-fold: to flesh out what has become, after Lauren Benton’s work, somewhat of a truism: that it is at borderlands that legal and administrative contours of subjecthood are fleshed out. Second I would like to explore the ways that documentation, particularly transit documents and passports endow a particular kind of materiality to migrants beyond their intended use value by officials.


The Army and Revolution in Egypt: Historical Perspectives on a Current Crisis

Zeinab Abul-Magd

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 6:30 PM

SFU-Harbour Centre, Room 1420-1430 (Joseph & Rosalie Segal Centre) 515 West Hastings St., Vancouver

When the popular uprisings broke out across Egypt in January 2011, the oppressed masses overthrew a military dictator who had ruled the country for thirty years. However, the army sooner afterwards took full power anew, by deploying a patriotic discourse about saving and guarding the nation. In Egypt’s postcolonial history since the 1950s, the military institution has constantly hegemonized the state and economy, and deeply securitized everyday life and urban spaces of civilian citizens across social classes. Under another military president today, increasing poverty and simmering public rage might lead to a new wave of uprisings in the foreseeable future.

Dr. Zeinab Abul-Magd is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern history at Oberlin College.  A specialist in the socio-economic and military histories of the Middle East, her first book, Imagined Empires: A History of Revolt in Egypt (University of California Press, 2013) won the Roger Owen Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association.  Her latest book is Militarizing the Nation: Army, Business, and Revolution in Egypt, 1952-2015 (Columbia University Press, 2017).

Egypt’s Neoliberal Officers: Business, Surveillance, and Discontent

A seminar for faculty members, research scholars, and students  

Dr. Zeinab Abul-Mag

Friday, October 20, 2017, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, SFU-Burnaby Campus AQ6227

In today’s Egypt, there is a military regime managed by a class of “neoliberal officers.” Military entrepreneurs own a vast business empire that produces almost everything and invests in nearly anything. Moreover, military bureaucrats occupy key positions in the state apparatus that are in control of the rapidly liberalized economy. The ruling generals and ex-generals penetrate into the consumerist realms of and establish their constant surveillance over the citizens across social classes, and securitize everyday life in every urban or rural locality. They are able to maneuver social unrest and survive small riots or mass uprisings, by deploying propaganda, violence, or food charity. Their birth and rise to supremacy started in the 1980s, after Egypt fought its last big war and transitioned from socialism into the market economy. Applying political economy and Foucauldian approaches, this presentation investigates the historical roots of and public resistance against Egypt’s neoliberal officers.