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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2005

Revisiting Research

Conference gathers young scholars of the Middle East & Islam adjusting to post-9/11 changes.

Scholars in Islamic and Middle East studies met at the University of Toronto in November to discuss post-9/11 prospects and challenges for Canadian research in Middle Eastern issues.

“After Sept. 11, 2001, and again after the bombings in London this summer, this field of expertise has found itself in the limelight of media attention and in high demand to explain, mediate and advocate,” said Jens Hanssen, professor of history and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the U of T, who organized the conference with Simon Fraser University history professor Thomas Kühn and Amal Ghazal, professor of history at the U of T and Dalhousie University.

Participants discussed issues relating to teaching about the Arab-Israeli conflict, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, academic freedom and the challenges of multiculturalism. Concluding plenary sessions addressed professional, pedagogical and policy issues and strategies for the future of Middle East and Islamic Studies in Canada.

“We were really delighted with the enthusiastic response of our colleagues to the conference,” Hanssen said. “We had no idea that what we were planning would turn out to become a historic event in Middle East and Islamic Studies in North America.”

Over the last four years there has been an unprecedented expansion at Canadian universities in the field of Middle East and Islamic studies.

“This expansion reflects the growing significance of this field in light of recent immigration from the Middle East, issues regarding the place of religion in Canadian society as well as public interest and anxiety about the nature of Islam,” Hanssen said.

The event was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Consortium on Human Security, the Canadian Committee of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, the U of T, Dalhousie and Simon Fraser universities and the University of Alberta.