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April 2nd, 2020


Room 505

1957 E St NW

Washington, DC 20052

State power is amplified at and through managing the sexual and sectarian intersections of political difference in Lebanon. In this lecture Maya Mikdashi employs ethnographic and archival research to frame religious conversion as a site through which to better understand this governance at the intersections of political difference, and what it may teach us about sovereignty, secularism, and state power. She suggests that bringing feminist political and legal theory into conversation with academic work on sectarian and religious difference in the Middle East allows for new perspectives on the making and management of political difference.

Maya Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a lecturer in the program in Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Maya is an anthropologist (PhD Columbia University, 2014) who is deeply engaged in ethnographic, legal, and archival theory and methodology. She currently is completing a book manuscript that examines the war on terror, sexual difference, secularism, and state power in the contemporary Middle East from the vantage point of Lebanon.

6th Annual Educator Workshop on Award-Winning Children and Youth Literature

Thursday, April 2, 2020 from 10am – 3:30pm

Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center
2218 - 6th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20059

Co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies and School of Education at Howard University, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University.

The workshop will explore the assertion of identity in literature for children and youth, and focus on use of this literature in the classroom, featuring current award-winning books from the Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) and the Middle East Outreach Council book awards. Speakers include historian and author Dr. Jaye Winmilawe and educator and linguist Dr. Rabiah Khalil Abdullah. Teachers will receive books to take home and other resources. Lunch will be served.


  • Create opportunities for teachers of Arabic at all grade levels to meet, network, share resources and ideas.
  • Sponsor community-based events that elevate the teaching of Arabic language and culture.
  • Support schools that want to start or increase Arabic language teaching.

Photo of participants of the inaugural meeting of the DC Arabic Teachers' Council
Participants of the inaugural meeting of the DC Arabic Teachers' Council

In this workshop, teachers will learn about engaging and immersive teaching resources for using documentary films in the Arabic language classroom. SIMA (Social Impact Media Awards) is a nonprofit organization that promotes the work of independent content creators and media artists on the frontlines of social change and brings their work into communities and classrooms around the globe. SIMA Executive Director, Daniela Kon, and Director of Global Partnerships, Virginia Pittaro, will share the history and inspiration behind their work, preview social impact films and participatory lesson plans, and provide a tutorial on how to use their online Impact Media literacy course.

Workshop Resources

Resources will be posted after the event is held.

In this workshop, Layali Eshqaidef, founder of Kalimah Programs for Arabic Language, Culture, and Arts in Rockville, Maryland, will illustrate how to design a project-based learning unit that can be applied to many language proficiency topics like food, clothing, music, or travel. Through interactive teaching strategies and best practices in foreign language acquisition, Layali empowers educators to develop lessons that get students invigorated to learn more.

Layali Eshqaidef has been teaching Arabic at colleges and kids’ programs for more than 8 years. She is the Founder and President of Kalimah Programs for Arabic Language, Culture, and Arts Education ( Kalimah offers Arabic immersion after school, weekend, and summer programs and events for elementary and middle school children and families in Maryland and the DMV area. Through her work and research, she is exploring the power of art, music, and play in language acquisition. She loves designing innovative learning units, lessons, and activities that are fun and integrate multiple disciplines simultaneously. She strives to bring the world into the classroom so students can take the classroom out into the world.

In this workshop, Dr. Donna Clementi, national consultant for ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), will lead Arabic language educators through a series of classroom activities and feedback strategies that build proficiency in interpersonal communication in the foreign language classroom. Educators who attend this workshop will increase their ability to initiate an interaction in order to share information, feelings, and opinions, to actively listen in order to react verbally and/or nonverbally to what someone says, to make comments and/or ask follow-up questions to keep the interaction going, and negotiate meaning by confirming understanding and asking for clarification as needed.

Donna Clementi, PhD, is currently a national consultant for ACTFL leading workshops on world language instruction, assessment, and curriculum design. She is co-author of Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design Second Edition (ACTFL 2017). Since 2006, she has led the CARLA Summer Institute on Second Language Assessments at the University of Minnesota. Since 2013 Clementi has led the Professional Development Workshops for Teachers of Arabic at Concordia Language Villages. She taught French and was the World Languages Program Leader in the Appleton Area School District (WI) for 33 years. Clementi’s honors include: ACTFL’s Florence Steiner Award for K-12 Leadership in Foreign Languages (2000); Distinguished Foreign Language Educator Award from the Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers (2002); Supervisor of the Year Award by the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages (2004); Les Palmes Académiques from the French government (2008); Founders Award from the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (2012).

Don’t miss these upcoming IMES Events


Wednesday February 5, 6pm: Middle East Studies Alumni-Student Networking Reception at the Elliott School. Join fellow Middle East Studies students and alumni for a networking reception at the Elliott School. Hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, and soda will be provided. For details and to register, visit

Institute for Middle East Studies Scholar Lecture Series

  • Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic with Narges Bajoghli
    • January 23, 5:30pm
  • Film Screening & Discussion: Naila and the Uprising
    • February 6 , 5:30pm
  • The Levant Express: The Arab Uprisings, Human Rights, and the Future of the Middle East with Micheline Ishay
    • February 27, 5:30pm
  • City of Black Gold: Oil, Ethnicity, and the Making of Modern Kirkuk with Arbella Bet-Shlimon
    • March 26, 5:30pm
  • Intersection of Sex, War, and Sectarianism with Maya Mikdashi
    • April 2, 5:30pm


Sign up to receive weekly emails on upcoming IMES events here:

Join us at the annual IMES conference on April 17!

This year’s annual conference theme is "Producing the Region: New Directions in Middle East Media and Politics.” It will take place Friday, April 17, 2020.


The media landscape of the Middle East is changing rapidly. Turkish entertainment series are globalizing visions of the region. Netflix started a project of commissioning Arabic original entertainments, charting a new path towards localization of media production. Displaced populations from wars in Iraq, Yemen and Syria are creating new digital diasporas, where fractured expressions of nostalgia and witnessing circulate. Media are vital to making the Middle East a lived region of shared and contested meaning. The next IMES annual conference presents cutting-edge research by media scholars who examine this closely.


The genealogy of the idea of the ‘Middle East’ is by now well-rehearsed, and is often criticized as an external imposition that geographically centers the West. However, there is a viable contemporary current of felt belonging, along with an array of existing policies, institutions and other infrastructures of regionality, that makes the Middle East meaningful as an analytical framework that intertwines media and events. 


The conference presenters possess expertise in media studies and the Middle East. They represent a breadth of theoretical interests, methodological approaches and disciplinary backgrounds. Confirmed speakers include: Marwan Kraidy (University of Pennsylvania); Narges Bajoghli (Johns Hopkins); Omar al Ghazzi (LSE); Yasmin Moll (University of Michigan); Ziad Fahmy (Cornell University); Elliott Colla (Georgetown); and many others.


Visit our website for updated information:

MESA logoThe Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), the leading professional organization for scholars and students of the Middle East, has established its headquarters at the Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES) in GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Several IMES faculty members have shared their support for the institutional transition.

Will Youmans, the interim director of IMES, said about MESA that “As the professional center of the field, having it at GWU could help highlight the University’s growing expertise on Middle East affairs, but it’s an independent, international organization that has its own interests in being in D.C. now,”

Nathan Brown, a former director of IMES and a professor of political science and international affairs at GW, said the move will lead to more Middle East scholars visiting campus to share their research. He said MESA will continue its work “to connect scholars throughout the world interested in the Middle East” by holding its annual scholarly conference and publishing its academic journal on Middle East research.

He added that the association’s leaders want to be able to use the resources that the District and the University have to offer, like a well-established background in Middle East studies, to expand the group’s ability to connect individuals interested in studying the Middle East. Brown said the organization’s move to the Elliott School will give faculty members more opportunities to work with MESA and potentially give students more part-time work opportunities.

“The hope is that by placing it in a city rich in institutions focusing on the Middle East and in a university with a strong commitment to Middle Eastern studies, informal as well as formal ties will develop,” Brown said in an email.

Dina Khoury, the president-elect of MESA from December 2019 to December 2021 and a professor of history and international affairs at GW, said she does not expect the move to affect the work each MESA member does, but it will give the organization more opportunities to collaborate with students and faculty interested in Middle East research and education.

Khoury said the group’s executive director and the IMES director will work out the specific details of MESA’s move. “We are grateful for GWU for giving us the space and resources to establish our headquarters,” she said in an email.

The association named a new director, Jeffrey Reger. A Georgetown University graduate, Dr. Reger most recently served as assistant director of the National History Center of the American Historical Association and as the Middle East and North Africa area studies chair for the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State.

MESA is a non-profit association that seeks to foster the study of the Middle East, promote high standards in scholarship and teaching in the study area and encourage public understanding of the region through programs, publications and education.

Alumni Profile: Reza H. Akbari, MA ‘12 

Reza H. Akbari received his MA in Middle East Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2012. While at the Elliott School, Reza interned at the U.S. Treasury Department and The Century Foundation. He is currently a Program Manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that focuses on strengthening media and civil society worldwide. In September 2019, Reza began attending American University to pursue a PhD in History. He plans to focus on modern Middle East and study the process of formation, evolution, and impact of political parties in semi-authoritarian states. Reza has previously served as a Research Associate for the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute and a Research Assistant at the Wilson Center. He has written for a number of publications, including Foreign Policy, CNN’s Global Public Square, Jadaliyya, and Al Monitor. Reza holds a BA in Political Science and International Studies from the State University of New York at Fredonia. His master’s thesis explored the potential for political reconciliation in Bahrain. 


Advice for students:

I highly recommend taking any course taught by Professors Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Ambassador Edward Gnehm. They provide a tremendous amount of practical experience as well as academic rigor. Professor Lynch constantly challenges preconceived notions and theories about the region by inviting his students to consider alternative viewpoints. Ambassador Gnehm’s experience as a former diplomat enriches every lecture. Professor Brown is one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable individuals on Middle East affairs. He is able to explain the most complex issues in simple terms and inspire lively class debates.


Alumni Profile: Tsolin Nalbantian, BA ‘99 

Tsolin Nalbantian graduated from the BA program in Middle Eastern Studies in 1999. Initially thinking she would pursue a career in journalism after graduation, she returned to Cairo where she had studied abroad in her junior year to continue working on her Arabic as a Center for Arabic Studies Abroad (CASA) fellow. When she returned to the U.S., she was awarded a graduate fellowship to attend New York University to pursue an MA in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies. Her first day of class was September 11 (yes, that September 11!) and over the course of her two-year study there, she decided to switch gears and pursue a career in academia. She found the ever-increasing pressure to simplify everything about the Middle East -- its inhabitants, history, social, political, cultural, and economic life -- into shorter and shorter articles frustrating. Feeling that long-term interest and engagement in the region suited her better, she studied at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University where she received her PhD in 2011. She is currently Assistant Professor of Modern Middle East History at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her research and teaching interests include Armenian communities of the Middle East, Middle East diasporas, the contemporary history of Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, and how marginal members of society use state and local power in an effort to claim political and social agency. Her book, Armenians Beyond Diaspora: Making Lebanon Their Own (University of Edinburgh Press), examines specific episodes of crisis and tension to demonstrate how Armenians used the sectarian system of Lebanon and Cold War tensions for their own means. 


What advice would you give to students?

Spend extended time in the region and learn (and keep learning!) the language. My junior year abroad at GW really set the tone for my professional career and personal life. The exposure I had while in Cairo and then traveling throughout the region was unparalleled. It was super fun but also really difficult at times and learning a language as an adult is simultaneously humbling and an exciting enterprise. Plus, those experiences helped me qualify for fellowships later on in graduate school and helped me get into graduate programs in the first place. They also steered my research and teaching interests that I have today.


Who was your favorite professor at GW? 

Probably a three-way tie: my Arabic teachers Samia Montasser and David Mehal for

encouraging me and keeping me on track with the language, and Nathan Brown for helping me graduate on time!

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