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U Middle East Center focused on education, discussion during crisis in Israel and Gaza

The University of Utah’s Middle East Center will be leading a series of campus discussions and other events in the coming weeks to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict and ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.

Reinvigorated under new leadership, the U’s Middle East Center offers a hub for faculty experts and thought leaders to engage with students and staff from different cultures and experiences to build understanding on campus, said Chris Low, the center’s new director.

“At the University of Utah, the College of Humanities and the Middle East Center will be working very hard in the coming days and weeks to provide opportunities for education and frank, but compassionate dialogue that includes community members,” said Chris Low, director of the Middle East Center in the College of Humanities and an assistant professor in the Department of History.

Along with College of Humanities Dean Hollis Robbins, Low is working to identify faculty on campus with deep knowledge and research experience who of the Middle East, including Israeli-Palestinian relations, in ways that expand knowledge and understanding and bridge potential cultural divides.

Faculty experts involved in the dialogue sessions will include:

Chris Low, assistant professor and environmental humanities research professor. From 2015 to 2022, Low taught at Iowa State University. In 2020-2021, he was a Senior Humanities Research Fellow for the Study of the Arab World at NYU Abu Dhabi. Low’s research and teaching focuses on the Modern Middle East, Ottoman Empire, and the states of Arabian Peninsula. He has lived, researched, and traveled widely across the region, including Egypt, Israel and Palestine, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Low is the author of Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Maeera Shreiber, professor of English, chair of the Jewish Studies Initiative in Humanities’ Division of Religious Studies and affiliated faculty in the Middel East Studies Program. Shreiber teaches and writes about poetry, Jewish American literature, ethnic American studies, religious studies, and interfaith relations. Professor Shreiber is the author of, among other books, Singing in a Strange Land: A Jewish American Poetics.

Hakan Yavuz, professor of political science in the Middle East Center. Yavuz has taught at the U since 1998. He is author of Erdoğan: The Making of an Autocrat (2021), Nostalgia for the Empire: The Politics of Neo-Ottomanism(2020), Toward an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gülen Movement(2013), and Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (2009), as well as numerous journal articles in both English and Turkish.

Like other universities across the country, the U’s campus is home to students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds, geographies, cultures and perspectives. As the violent conflict in Israel and Gaza continues and deaths and destruction mount, Robbins said, it’s important for America’s universities to fulfill their role of leading discussion, accepting disagreement and working on solutions to move forward.

“Our challenge will be to ensure that we can have civil discourse inside and outside the classroom as students are drawn to ask hard questions about what is going on, why, and how we might end the violence,” Robbins added.

University leaders posted two statements this week about the crisis in the Middle East:

  • The first—a short message of support and direction to campus resources from President Taylor Randall, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Mike Good, and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mitzi Montoya—is here.
  • The second—a longer letter to our campus community from the provost, EDI, Student Affairs, and Global Engagement in advance of a “teach-in” at the College of Humanities later this month—is here.

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