Place, Power, and the Production of Subjectivity: Taking a spatial turn in Arab Studies


About the panel:

Examining the relationship between place, power, and the production of subjectivity has become increasingly indispensable for scholars investigating social phenomena in the Arab region – both historically and today. In this panel, we engage with two scholars from the region, Dr. Omar AlShehabi and Dr. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, whose writings explore the ways in which colonialism, knowledge production, and geography animate the lived experiences of people in the Arab region. We discuss with our speakers the (im)possibilities of the “interdisciplinary spatial turn” in studies on the Arab region (Hammond, 2017). We ask: how has the colonial encounter in the region impacted the way different political subjectivities are defined? How has this impact changed over time? How have critical Arab thinkers attempted to re-imagine and re-define the political and sociocultural “self” after being estranged by colonial categories? In what ways have these investigations in the “self” impacted political mobilization in the region today? Finally, we address the question of language in knowledge generation in the region, where we ask the scholars to describe the process of writing “on the region” in English, and the contentious processes of translating back and forth for audiences located in multiple geographies, locally and transnationally.

Date: Thursday, 23 September, 2021

About the Co-organizers


Esraa Al-Muftah is a PhD candidate in Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia. Esraa earned her M.A. in Sociology and Education with a concentration in Educational Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014. Prior to that she completed her B.A. in Psychology with a Diploma in Special Education from the American University of Beirut in 2011.


Sara J. Musaifer is a PhD candidate in the Comparative and International Development Education Program (CIDE) at the University of Minnesota. Sara earned her Masters degree in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Jordan.


About the speakers:

Omar AlShehabi is Visiting Associate Professor at the Sociology Department at UBC and Director of the Gulf Center for Development Policies in Kuwait. He is the author of Contested Modernity: Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Colonialism in Bahrain (Oneworld Academic, 2019) and Exporting Wealth and Entrenching Alienation (Center for Arab Unity Studies, 2018, in Arabic).


Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. She is the author of Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution: The Egyptian and Syrian Debates (Columbia University Press, 2019) and Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective (Columbia University Press, 2009)



Amal Ghazal is currently Dean of School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Doha Institute. She is on leave from her position as Director of the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Islamic Reform and Arab Nationalism: Expanding the Crescent from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, 1880s-1930s (London: Routledge, 2010) and is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).



André Elias Mazawi serves as Professor and Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (BC), Canada. He is Affiliate Professor with The Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Educational Research at the University of Malta, and Affiliate Researcher with the Équipe de Recherche en Dimensions Internationales de l’Éducation (ERDIE) at the University of Geneva.


About the Co-sponsors

The Centre for Culture, Identity and Education (CCIE) was established in 2005 as part of a successful UBC proposal for a Canada Research Chair and is a cultural studies research centre that focuses on exploring various facets of and developments in the comprehensive issue of identity and its educational implications in local and international cultural contexts.


The Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies (CCMS) fosters academic and public discussion and understanding of Muslim societies and cultures. It shifts the analysis from the notion of a single religious landscape defined by the religion of Islam to that of Muslims of different experiences and interpretations as agents in the construction of their societies and cultures.


AGITATE! Unsettling Knowledges is a platform for knowledges that seek to unsettle the dominant politics and practices of experts. As an anti-disciplinary space, AGITATE! explores the possibilities and challenges of interweaving scholarship, creative writing, art, journalism, and activism. The aim is to catalyze new conversations, visions, and narrative practices in multiple genres and languages, in an effort to advance struggles for sociopolitical and epistemic justice.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.