2016 Engagement Report

We are pleased to report 2016 was an active year, including symposia, lectures and events on water resource issues, jihadi extremist groups and representations of the Middle East in school curricula. We were also productive in regard to providing news analysis, creating educational media, and instructional materials, to further our outreach mission.   At the same time, we increased our digital engagement, producing media from these activities, and significantly increasing our social media presence.  Curated web galleries of educational images are a new way of engaging scholars and educators through the process of image curation and discussion.  We also launched a Youtube channel, where you can find videos on jihadi extremist groups, the Kurds in context, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and others.  We now offer a number of digital resources in addition to the videos, including e-books, an active blog “Breaking Down the Headlines”, online educational image galleries, and footage of our events in the Knowledge Bank.
 
One of the major challenges of the Middle East Studies Center is the effort required to include content about countries facing wars and/or insurgencies, which may falter into “failed state” status, or which may be undergoing political blockades - most countries of the Middle East seem to fall into one or more of those categories now.  Meanwhile the campaign rhetoric seems to have emboldened hate groups on campuses across the country, including our own, and we are concerned more than ever about our students with Middle Eastern or Muslim identities.  Terrorism claimed by the so-called Islamic state, including the attack on our campus on November 28, 2016, has realized the imaginations of many who see the world in terms of a “Clash of Civilizations”.  These pose tremendous obstacles for teaching about the Middle East, and create a politicized environment that can stifle open discussion.   
 
In many ways these challenges didn’t change a thing. We continue to conduct the same outreach and academic engagement, and remain as active as ever.  We consider our role as facilitator of reasoned discussion We are committed to maintaining that role.  We have been hosting talks on jihadi extremist groups, and produced three videos on the subject with the hope that we are providing a space for reasoned discussion about these issues.  We are proud of the fact that participants represent all ends of the political spectrum, and we hope to make all perspectives welcome to these conversations. At the same time, we are responding to the forces which would suppress scholarship on the countries of our region, or which encourage bigotry.  We hosted webinars for teachers on Representations of “the East”, Islamophobia, and Citizenship in Saudi Arabia.  We will continue to address the biases against the Middle East while also inviting critique of negative aspects of the region because of the polarizing forces at work in U.S. society and the world. 
 
We hosted or co-sponsored 22 academic events 2016 which covered a wide range of topics to deepen understanding of the Middle East, its place in geopolitics, and the global issues facing all world regions. Our partners included Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the Libraries, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, and many others.  Topics included: Iranian film, hydropolitics in Iran, the Iranian elections, the evolution of transboundary water politics in the Euphrates Tigris region, current developments in Afghanistan, Silk Road Ensemble concert featuring Central Asian musical traditions, the protests in Turkey and the failed coup, refugees in Turkey, and others. See the full list here: https://mesc.osu.edu/events/year/2016
 
Our outreach program was as active as ever.  We conducted 54 outreach events at schools, community organization, military venues and on the radio or TV.  The Director was interviewed about LGBTQ Muslims by OSU’s own Ann Fisher on June 14, see: http://radio.wosu.org/post/lgbtq-members-religious-faith Our interns produced several videos on our Youtube channel using the recordings from these events. Google: MESC Outreach Program Youtube.  In March, our Outreach Activities were recognized by OSU's student newspaper "The Lantern" in an article about the work the Director and Assistant Director do to education the local community and beyond.  
 

Digital Media Production

Some of the most important items include two e-books, regular news analysis on our blog, a Youtube channel of educational videos, educational image galleries, and an archive of event footage and audio recordings.  
Our e-book, “Keys to Understanding the Middle East” is based on the Director's courses, “Introduction to the Modern Middle East” and “Contemporary Issues in the Middle East".   It can serve as a study guide for that course, or stand on its own as a substantive but accessible introduction to the region.  Our e-book “Euphrates-Tigris Water Issues: An Introduction” is based on the workshop we hosted of the same name in April. We are currently planning a new e-book on feminism in the Middle East. 
 
We launched several curated educational image collections - https://go.osu.edu/mesc-galleries - we curated over the past year include a collection of Iranian coin photographs taken by curator, Mahnaz Bagheri, at the National Museum in Tehran.  We are now developing an educational video to go with the coins with her. Please check out both galleries:
Ancient Iranian coins: http://go.osu.edu/numi-iran-ant
Iranian coins after 224 CE: http://go.osu.edu/numi-iran
 
Over the past year, our team produced 10 blog posts "Breaking Down the Headlines", 3 related to global water crisis, 2 related to religion and identity, and 1 related to an event we held on campuson jihadi extrmist groups. 
 
We have been buy curating our Knowledge Bank community which archives recordings of our events and other media we produce.  We recommend browsing some of the “classics”, including the time the Director of the Ibn Khaldoun Research Center in Cairo, Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim, spoke in 2004.   Others include our Post-9-11 Teach-in, moderated by news anchor Jerry Revish, and many more
 

Social Media

Our social media presence improved substantially since the beginning of fall semester, 2015.  For example, Facebook posts went from 30 viewers on average, to posts reaching up to 561 viewers during Spring Semester, 2016.  We attribute this mainly to increasing blog posts with news analysis, online webinars and numerous opportunities we share providing news analysis, and information regarding funding and jobs in the field of Middle East Studies. We plan to continue strengthening our engagement by continuing our news coverage, and engaging audiences further with related media we produce.  This semester we will produce a new e-book on feminism in the Middle East, and will continue our “Breaking Down the Headlines” blog posts.  These media form useful means for social media engagement.  Our upcoming events will also allow us to capture footage, and interview guest spekaers about substantive issues and topics related to the Middle East. 
 

Faculty News

We are very excited to share the achievement of MESC affiliate faculty member, and executive committee member, Joy McCorriston, Professor of Anthropology. She and her research partners, won a 1.6 million dollar grant to conduct research in Oman. If you hae a recent achivement you would like to share, we would love to hear from you. LEt us know what we can share with the larger community of Middle East Studies scholars!
 
Conclusion
The past year has seen a variety of achievements, with a foray into the virtual world of engagement. We believe it is necessary to maintain a digital engagement process which functions with physical activities to create multiple learning opportunities. While our process is still in development, the past year has seen the process become established as a part of what we do at the Center.  If you feel a digital component to your course, an event you’re planning or an activity you engage in would add value, please let us know how we can help. 
 
 
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