"My pedagogical ambition is to equip highly diverse students with the ability and confidence to apply theories, methods, and practical skills both inside and outside of the university, all while creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning environment."

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Student Profile: Nawal Musleh-Motut

Communications PhD Graduate in the Faculty of Communication, Art & Technology

June 08, 2020
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I am currently a Term Lecturer in the School of Communication, as well as a Research Assistant with the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD), at Simon Fraser University.

For the past seven years I have taught undergraduate research, media, and communication courses grounded in critical race/anti-racism, post/anti-colonial, Indigenous, feminist, queer, and globalization and development studies, with a strong focus on intersectional social justice. My pedagogical ambition is to equip highly diverse students with the ability and confidence to apply theories, methods, and practical skills both inside and outside of the university, all while creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning environment.

My teaching reflects the interdisciplinary nature of my own research and writing, which theoretically and methodologically sit at the intersection of anthropology, media and communication studies, and history, again with a strong focus on intersectional social justice. I am primarily interested in: decolonization; Indigenous epistemologies and methodologies; diaspora studies; visual culture; narrative and storytelling; critical race/anti-racism and post/anti-colonial theory and praxis; feminist theory and praxis; development and globalization studies; social cultural anthropology; critical, imaginative, and performative ethnography; and Middle Eastern and Indigenous histories and contemporary societies.

My publications include "Comics Images and the Art of Witnessing: A Visual Analysis of Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza" (ASJ 2019), "From Palestine to the Canadian Diaspora: The Multiple Social Biographies of the Musleh Family's Photographic Archive" (MJCC 2015), and "Negotiating Palestine Through the Familial Gaze: A Photographic (Post)memory Project" (TOPIA 2012). I hope to publish my doctoral dissertation, "Willing the Impossible: Reconciling the Holocaust and the Nakba Through Photograph-based Storytelling," within the year.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I chose to complete my doctoral studies and research at SFU because it offered the best supervisor, support, and resources.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

My doctoral dissertation, “Willing the Impossible: Reconciling the Holocaust and the Nakba Through Photograph-based Storytelling,” explored how contending master narratives and collective memories of the Holocaust and the Nakba – which have created and continue to sustain the Palestinian/Israeli conflict – can be challenged, complicated, and disrupted when Palestinians and Israelis story and exchange their own counter-narratives and counter-memories of these tragedies through family photographs. To facilitate this process I developed a unique photograph-based storytelling method, which enabled Palestinians and Israelis to first narrate and then exchange stories of how the Holocaust and/or the Nakba have impacted their lives. As my dissertation demonstrated, storytelling and photography enable the occasions and conditions of possibility necessary for Palestinians and Israelis to connect rather than compare their histories of suffering and exile, take moral, ethical, and political responsibility for one another, and imagine a new form of cohabitation grounded in justice and equitable rights for all.

I am currently working on two projects that extend this work beyond my dissertation. First, I plan to establish a community-based, collaborative, and globally accessible digital Holocaust and Nakba postmemory archive, which will showcase my participants’ stories, associated photographs, and reflective responses, plus invite Palestinians and Israelis living in the region and/or diaspora to share their own stories, photographs, and responses to one other. Second, and given that my doctoral research was undertaken with diasporic Palestinians and Israelis living on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, I plan to offer the aforementioned research method to local Indigenous leaders as a gift of respect and reciprocity aimed at assisting in the collaborative facilitation of good relations and joint solidarity between Indigenous and settler communities in Vancouver.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

Although I have completed my PhD, I continue to enjoy teaching and mentoring Communication undergraduate students, plus working as a Research Assistant at the ISTLD where my work focused on decolonizing and Indigenizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

I am very grateful to receive a number of departmental and private awards, each of which played a crucial role in the success of my doctoral studies and research. In terms of major or donor-funded awards specifically, I have received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship, the COGECO Graduate Scholarship in Communications, and the Shahrgon Annual Graduate Award in Critical Independent Journalism Studies for the Promotion of Citizenship and Democracy.

Contact Nawal: nawal_motut@sfu.ca