[-empyre-] week 4

Dale Hudson dmh2018 at nyu.edu
Mon Feb 24 21:50:57 AEDT 2020

Thanks, Parisa, for these insights into your experience of these terms and where and when they are used. I’ve also noticed more use of West Asia in activism than in academia, likely for the same reasons. I believe Joumana will have insights in regard to Visualizing Palestine.

I was in Beirut for a weekend of meetings with colleagues to discuss such issues. As much as we wanted to move away from Middle East, we were pulled back by the institutionalized power of keyword searches, academic publishing, non-profit exhibitions, and commercial platforms. 

One of the issues that we faced is ways that Middle East might be more capacious at times than Arab World, not only for “including” Iranian and Turkish cultures, but also for inclined non-Arab cultures within Arab-majority states, as well as minoritized ethic or religious communities within Iran and Turkey. Same applies to South Asia, where Siddi are subjected to stigmas against blackness much like those faced by Afro-Iranians and Afro-Arabs. Slavery remains taboo.

Another related part of this discussion is the diaspora, so I wanted to congratulate Sama on being featured in the State of the Art 2020 exhibition at the Crystal Bridges  Museum of American Art: https://crystalbridges.org/exhibitions/state-of-the-art-2/ <https://crystalbridges.org/exhibitions/state-of-the-art-2/>

> On Feb 23, 2020, at 20:46, Parisa Vaziri <pv248 at cornell.edu> wrote:
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> Thanks for the introduction, Dale. Before addressing this week’s prompt directly, in this post I’d like to respond more generally to the question formulated in the discussion proposal, regarding the ideological politics underlying the term “Middle East.” I am currently situated at the crossroads between two academic departments, Comparative Literature, and Near Eastern Studies. As long as I’ve been working at the university, I’ve never once heard the suggestion that we might consider changing our departmental name from Near Eastern Studies to something else, nor that the term itself might be problematic. This might simply be due to the conservativism of the field—inextricably bound with the cold war politics that undergirded area studies programs in the U.S. and that was the condition of possibility for their development and expansion throughout the North American academy. I bring this up only because it’s been striking to me that the place where I’ve noticed actual movement and critique of the term “Middle East” is not in academic settings, but in youth grassroots political activism. In Los Angeles, where I lived as a graduate student before moving to central upstate NY last Fall, I participated in a collective called SWANA (acronym for Southwest Asia and North Afrika). As a group, SWANA’s mission is to advocate for Southwest Asian and North Afrikan communities on both local and global scales. They stage educational events, action-oriented campaigns and spaces for healing.
> One of the things I was involved in toward the end of my time in LA and involvement with SWANA (and which dovetails with my past and current academic research) was the presence of anti-blackness in SWANA communities. In my own research I am interested in the forms of representations and of erasures of blackness in Iranian cultural history. At the activist level in SWANA, I was part of conversations about how to deal with forms of anti-blackness that surface consistently—violently or invisibly-- in our own communities in diaspora. 
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