Arab American Studies

B A C K G R O U N D

 

Today, an estimated 3.5 million Arabs and Arab Americans live in the United States. Arab Americans in Michigan constitute one of the largest Arab American populations in the U.S. In addition, the Arab region and its diasporas have become increasingly central to U.S. history and politics. Immigration and displacement by war and the forces of global economy are among the factors that have sparked movements of Arab people to the United States.

 

Arabic-speaking individuals and communities have been living in the Americas for centuries. Research and community-based activism related to Arab American issues and concerns have been in practice for decades. Yet the academic field of Arab and Muslim American studies has been virtually invisible within colleges and universities throughout the United States. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent backlash against persons perceived to be Arab, South Asian, or Muslim, produced a heightened interest Arab and Muslim American studies. This increased interest, however, often reduces the rich and diverse experiences of Arabs in the U.S. to the circumstances of September 11th and its aftermath. Our approach to Arab and Muslim American studies displaces the post-September-11 gaze with a focus on diverse local, national, and global events that have inspired Arab immigration and displacement to the U.S. and shaped Arab American engagements with racism and whiteness within different historical contexts. Our research and teaching highlight Arab American cultural expressions, the links between race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion, and the significance of media and art to Arab American individuals and communities. Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan prioritizes comparative approaches that place the understanding of Arab and Muslim Americans in relation to research and activism related to the wide range of indigenous, racial, ethnic, and immigrant communities in the U.S. It also prioritizes community-based approaches that link universities with local Arab and Muslim American communities from a social-justice-based perspective.

MISSION

Our teaching and research is committed to:

  • An interdisciplinary approach to Arab and Muslim American studies that integrates research and teaching methods from various fields, such as history, media studies, literature, anthropology, and sociology, among others;
  • A transnational approach that highlights the relationship between Arab homelands and diasporas;
  • Comparative approaches that place the understanding of Arab American history and experiences in relation to other racial, ethnic, or immigrant groups; and,
  • Community-based approaches that link universities with Arab and Muslim American communities through teaching, internships, and collaborative projects.

VISION

Our goals are to increase awareness of:

  • The circumstances that have produced the movement of people between the Arab region and the United States;
  • The ways that racism, discrimination, and war impact Arab and Muslim Americans;
  • The significance of media representations and stereotypes of Arabs, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans to “American culture”;
  • The significance of religion, religious identity, and spirituality to Arab American studies and communities;
  • The ideals and practices of gender and sexuality among Arab and Arab American communities;
  • The diversity of Arab American identities and communities; and,
  • Arab and Arab American contributions to history, science, culture, and the arts.

COURSES

Courses in Arab and Muslim American Studies provide an interdisciplinary study of Arab and Muslim American histories, literatures, and cultures. We address the historical and current experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans in the United States and the relevance of those experiences for understanding race and ethnicity in the U.S. and globally. Courses explore themes such as immigration history; racism and discrimination; gender and sexuality; media representations; the local and global impacts of war and violence on Arabs and Arab Americans; intellectual, literary, artistic and cultural contributions; and relationships with other racial and ethnic groups. This curriculum provides knowledge vital for a critical understanding of the contemporary United States in a global context.

The Department of American Culture offers the following courses in Arab and Muslim American Studies:

  • Introduction to Arab American Studies (ARABAM/AMCULT 215)
  • Arab American Literature (ARABAM/AMCULT 290)
  • Muslims in America (ARABAM/AMCULT 236)
  • From Harems to Terrorists: Representing the Middle East in Hollywood Cinema (ARABAM/AMCULT/WMS 235)
  • Arab Women: Homelands and Diasporas (ARABAM/AMCULT 301 and WMS 343)
  • Women and War in the Middle East (ARABAM/AMCULT 301 and WMS 368)
  • Immigrant and Racial Politics after September 11th (ARABAM/AMCULT 498)
  • Why Do They Hate Us?: Perspectives on 9/11 (ARABAM/AMCULT 498)
  • Internship in Arab American Studies (AMCULT 390)

Related courses in Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan, in collaboration with the Department of American Culture:

  • Arab American Literature (English 317)
  • Anthropological Approaches to the Middle East (Anthropology 409)
  • The New Middle Eastern Diasporas (Anthropology 658)
  • Formatting Cultures (Anthropology 658)
  • Women and Islam: Politics of Representation (COMM 405)

FACULTY

Core Faculty in the Department of American Culture:

Evelyn Alsultany, Ph.D. Stanford University, 2005, associate professor of American culture. Research Interests: Arab American studies, mixed race identities, media and popular culture, politics of race. alsultan@umich.edu

Rima Hassouneh, M.A, Modern Arabic Literature, University of Michigan, 2004, and M.A, English Literature, Western Washington University, 1997. Lecturer II in American culture. Teaches courses on Arab American literature and Muslim American histories and identities. rhassoun@umich.edu

Faculty Associates:

Andrew Shryock, Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1993, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of anthropology and Middle Eastern and North African studies. Research Interests: Arab and Muslim communities in Detroit, transnational networks, representational politics, culture work. ashryock@umich.edu

Khaled Mattawa, M.F.A. Indiana University and Ph.D. Duke University, associate professor of English. Research Interests: Arab American literature, translation theory and practice, postcolonial literature and theory, contemporary American poetry. kmattawa@umich.edu

Shazia Iftkhar, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, assistant professor of communication studies. Research Interests: national debate around the Muslim headscarf in France, media and race, gender and religion, identity and citizenship, representations of minorities, particularly Muslims. siftkhar@umich.edu 

MINORING IN ARAB AND MUSLIM AMERICAN STUDIES 
(Effective Winter 2015)

The minor program requires a minimum of 15 credits distributed as follows:

  • One required survey course (3-4 credits): either Introduction to Arab American Studies (AMCULT/ARABAM 215) or the Middle East in Hollywood Cinema (AMCULT/ARABAM 235)
  • At least two additional courses (6 credits) offered by American Culture/Arab American Studies
  • Two additional courses (6 credits) in American Culture/Arab American Studies or in another department

INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Internship opportunities are currently available for credit (AMCULT 390) at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee-Michigan Office and the Arab American National Museum, both located in Dearborn, Michigan. Interested parties should see www.adc.org, www.adcmichigan.org, and www.arabamericanmuseum.org and should contact Evelyn Alsultany or Emily Lawsin. Limited positions available each semester.

SAMPLE OF EVENTS ORGANIZED

  • "The Iron Sheikh," an Arab American rap performance (2004)
  • "Planet of the Arabs" and "Sling-Shot Hip-Hop" (trailer), a film showing and discussion with filmmaker  Jackie Salloum (2005)
  • "Good Muslims, Bad Muslims," a lecture by Mahmood Mamdani, (2005)
  • "Iraqi Women Between Dictatorship, Sanctions and War: Historical Context and Future Perspectives,"  a lecture by Nadje Al-Ali (2005)
  • "The Arab Comedy and Poetry Jam" with spoken word artist Suheir Hammad and comedian Ahmed- Ahmed
  • "Muslim American Human Rights and Community Activism," a lecture by Najah Bazzy
  • “The Arab American News,” Osama Siblani, founder of the Arab American News (2007)
  • “In the Crossing,” Leila Buck, one-woman show, performance artist (2007)
  • “The Arab American Road Movie,” Joan Mandell, documentary filmmaker (2008 and 2009)
  • “Detroit Unleaded,” Rola Nasheff, independent filmmaker (2008 and 2009)
  • Junaid Rana (2010)
  • British-Lebanese scholar, Gilbert Aschar (2010)
  • Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Dawud Walid (2011)
  • "Geographies of Light," Lisa Suair Majaj, Poet (2011)

RESOURCES

Arab American Institute (AAI): www.aaiusa.org/
Arab American National Museum: http://www.arabamericanmuseum.org/
Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS): http://www.accesscommunity.org/
Center for Arab American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn: http://casl.umd.umich.edu/caas/
Arab American and Chaldean Council: http://www.myacc.org/
Other: Arab Artists Collective: http://www.otherart.org/
Al-Jadid: http://www.aljadid.com/
Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI): http://rawi.org/
Mizna: http://www.mizna.org/
Arab Film Distribution: www.arabfilm.com
Arab American Action Network: www.aaan.org
Arab American News: www.arabamericannews.com

Other Arab American studies projects at the University of Michigan:
The Detroit Arab American Study

Calligraphy Artwork for this website, "Arab American Studies" by Nihad Dukhan, http://ndukhan.com