Ryerson launches new Middle Eastern and North African Studies Centre

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By Parth Parikh

Ryerson is launching a new Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Studies Centre with the goal to bring together researchers inside and outside the university.

The centre will look to foster collaboration and build a better understanding of political and social context happening in that region, said interim president Mohamed Lachemi. “I think it’s providing a platform for people to understand the issues and try to contribute,” he said.

The project was headed by several Ryerson professors, including Ingrid Hehmeyer, Farzin Vejdani, Sedef Arat-Koç, Mustafa Koç and Nima Naghibi. It began as an idea to create discussion about MENA issues with colleagues, but support from other departments allowed for expansion. Currently, the centre is represented by faculty from nine out of 10 departments in the faculty of arts.

Naghibi, a professor in the English department and a core member of the MENA Centre, said that the centre aims go beyond research collaboration into developing curriculum for future students. “[We would like to] think about ways we can develop minors or majors or graduate programs,” she said, adding that more opportunities for student research internships are in the works.

Currently, there is one research assistant working at the centre.

Naghibi also emphasized that the centre will have a strong commitment to be “non-partisan and inclusive of all points of view.” Although some opinions of issues within the Middle East can be polarizing, Naghibi said that the goal is to encourage diverse opinions and discussions.

The official launch of the Faculty of Arts Middle East and North Africa Studies Centre is on March 17 and will feature guest speaker Susan Slyomovics, an award winning professor from the University of California in Human Rights, folklore and visual anthropology in MENA.

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