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Everyday Conversions: Attiya Ahmad

Highlights from Dr. Attiya Ahmad’s talk at the John Hope Franklin Center as part of our weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.

 

Why are domestic workers converting to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region? In this talk, Dr. Attiya Ahmad presents us with an original analysis of this phenomenon. Using extensive fieldwork conducted among South Asian migrant women in Kuwait, Ahmad argues domestic workers’ Muslim belonging emerges from their work in Kuwaiti households as they develop Islamic piety in relation—but not opposition—to their existing religious practices, family ties, and ethnic and national belonging. Their conversion is less a clean break from their preexisting lives than it is a refashioning in response to their everyday experiences. In examining the connections between migration, labor, gender, and Islam, Ahmad complicates conventional understandings of the dynamics of religious conversion and the feminization of transnational labor migration while proposing the concept of everyday conversion as a way to think more broadly about emergent forms of subjectivity, affinity, and belonging.

Dr. Attiya Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at The George Washington University. Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the gendered interrelation of Islamic reform movements and political economic processes spanning the Middle East and South Asia, in particular, the greater Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. Dr. Ahmad is a Ph.D. from Duke University and recently published her first book, “Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait” (Duke University Press, 2017). Dr. Ahmad is currently examining the development of global halal tourism networks.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Duke Hosts Middle East and Islam Summer Institute

Twenty-three educators from around the country convene on campus to develop 6-12 grade curricula.

From June 25-29, 2017 Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center led “The Middle East and Islam: New perspectives of Islamic History from the 16th century to the present” a summer institute for middle and high school educators from around the country. Over the course of the program, the educators attended lectures by Duke University, North Carolina State University, and University of North Carolina professors, and received specialized resources from the Duke Libraries.

 

 

Throughout the week, programming focused on different themes including the Ottoman and Safavid Empires of Turkey and Iran, and Islam in America. The educators were assigned readings from several books before arriving on campus and came prepared with questions. Participants engaged in daily curriculum session and discussions with university experts in K-12 education and Middle East Studies.

 

Along with their studies, the educators also partook in several experiential learning activities: film screenings, visiting a local mosque, and eating a variety of traditional Middle Eastern cuisines. “Our hope for the summer institute is to introduce teachers to new, engaging content and resources, and provide a space for participants to form networks with like-minded educators across the country,” said Emma Harver, a partner on the program from the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

Students in library training

Emma Harver watches librarian Mohamed Hamed deliver a library resource training session at the Edge.

 

Program participants were selected through a nation-wide search which received over 110 applications. A committee of teachers and Middle East specialists selected the program attendees which represent 14 states, teach a variety of disciplines, and work with both middle and high school students.

 

“I know for myself, I came in with a fairly solid understanding of Islam, but the institute was still able to tell me there was still a lot of things that I didn’t know and that I was open to learning about,” said Tara Rana, a Global History teacher from New York City, New York.

 

Learn more about the Duke Islamic Studies summer institute.

 

Group photo

Participants of the 2017 Middle East and Islam Summer Institute for Educators.

Middle East Explained

The Duke-UNC Consortium for the Middle East Studies recently launched a new video series, “Middle East Explained” aimed to provide digital teaching tools for middle and high school teachers. Emma Harver, the Consortium for the Middle East Studies Program and Outreach Coordinator, conceived of the video series after surveying a group of North Carolina educators about teaching the Middle East last spring.

“71% (of the educators surveyed) said they would likely teach more about the Middle East if they has more resources,” said Harver. The digital pedagogy project plans to provide free, creditable, expert teaching modules with each 5-10 minute video packaged with a downloadable guides for both teachers and students. The Middle East Explained premiered its first video, “The Historical Roots of the Syrian Refugee Crisis” on September 7, 2016. In the video, Dr. miriam cooke, the Braxton Craven Professor Arab Cultures at Duke University, provides the historical context key to understanding why so many Syrians have fled their homes.

Harver plans to create more “Middle East Explained” modules throughout the academic year that align with the North Carolina curriculum. The series intends to develop modules on the Iraq War, the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Arab Spring, and more. “My hope is that this project will deepen understanding of this important region in an approachable manner by sharing the expertise of the Duke and UNC with the greater North Carolina community,” said Harver.

The Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, founded in 2005, is a collaboration between the Duke University Middle East Studies Center and the Carolina Center for the Studies of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina. The “Middle East Explained” project is made possible by the support of the John Hope Franklin Center and a Title VI grant from the United States Department of Education.

 

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