Ryerson to launch Middle East and North Africa Studies centre

Ryerson is set to launch its new centre for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Studies, which aims to support collaboration among Ryerson researchers and foster discussion on a region that is often at the forefront of public interest.

“(The Middle East and North Africa) is a region that has always been an important part of the world, and these days it’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds given the political situation,” said Nima Naghibi, co-director of the MENA Studies Centre and Chair and Associate Professor of the English Department.

“It tends to be in the newspaper fairly often.”

The centre already has researcher membership from nine out of the 10 Faculty of Arts departments, as well as membership from other faculties.

While the centre will be housed in the Faculty of Arts, it is open to researchers from all Ryerson faculties, making it easier for them to collaborate and share information. The centre does not yet have a location.

“I think having so many different disciplines involved reflects the diversity of the region itself and the diversity of issues pertaining to the region,” Naghibi said.

The idea for the centre began during a conversation over coffee between Naghibi and a group of her colleagues, all of whom had shared interests in researching the MENA region. They decided to create the research centre as a way to foster greater collaboration between departments.

While working on the centres’ proposal, the group organized talks about MENA issues and found many other faculty members interested in collaborating studies on this topic.

“In recent years, I think the region has been presented in a negative way in the press,” Naghibi said.

“We need to open up this discussion and look at the diversity of the area. There are so many differences culturally (and) linguistically…and you really need a diverse group of people to explore such a diverse region.”

As a next step, Naghibi hopes to create a Faculty of Arts minor in MENA studies, a project that could happen “fairly quickly,” she said, because the school already offers courses related to MENA studies.

The minor would be available to all students.

Her ultimate goal is to create an interdisciplinary graduate program in MENA studies.

For now, Naghibi said that the many research interests developed at the MENA Studies Centre will promote a diverse representation of the region.

The centre’s launch will take place in the Mattamy Athletic Centre’s Alumni Lounge at 12 p.m. on March 17, with a lecture by anthropology professor Susan Slyomovics.

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