Executive Women in the UAE Event on Breast Cancer Awareness

It was such a joy to meet with all these lovely ladies and accomplished women, to listen to their inspiring speeches and share our experiences.How Big is your Table was not only about hospitality and food, it was about women empowerment, leadership, solidarity and breast cancer awareness. It was about the need to own one’s body, the freedom to make our own decisions as women, and simply being happy for other women and the achievements that they work hard for.


Dr. Pamela Chrabieh (right)

Executive Women Event ‘How big is your table?’

Design Building, Al Sufouh 1, Dubai – October 11, 2016.

For more information: http://executive-women.com/2016/10/how-big-is-your-table/

Shifting Identities, Changes in the Social, Political and Religious Structures in the Middle East

Proud to have contributed to this wonderful collective work and excited about its publication:

This book contains the proceedings of the International conference, “Shifting Identities: Changes in the social, political, and religious structures in the Middle East”, which was held in Cyprus in July 2015. The conference brought together around 50 professors, historians, theologians, social scientists and researchers from over 15 countries including Europe, the USA, and the Middle East. Case studies from Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, and Sweden were presented. Some of these case studies focused on particular community like the Armenians, Syrian orthodox, or Protestants while others studies chose to tackle issues like feminism or Arabism in the Middle East. Several of the articles struggled theologically to find a meaning to what is happening in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring showing a way forward. Shifting identities is not a pure theoretical exercise but are related to shifts that were experienced by several of the authors in the course of their biographical journeys.

Edited By Dr. Mitri Raheb, Diyar, 2016.shifting-identities-pamela-chrabieh

For more information: AMAZON.COM


Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Odense- Denmark

Voices of Peace from Dubai to Odense. Dr. Pamela Chrabieh presents at Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies conference

img_20160922_104818AUD School of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh attended the 10th Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies ‘Formation of Middle Eastern Subjectivities, Cultural Heritage, Global Structures and Local Practices’ conference at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense from September 21-24, 2016.

The Nordic Society is an independent and non-profit association for researchers in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway) working on the Middle East and covering subjects in the humanities and social sciences, from antiquity to the present day. The associational conference takes place every third year in one of the four Nordic countries.

In September 2016, the Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies at the University of Southern Denmark hosted the conference in Odense. “In the past decades, the exploration of the formation of modern subjectivities has developed into a core field of the humanities and social sciences. This strand of research is asking for social practices and codes; it investigates competing bodies of knowledge, social performances and emotions; interprets textual and visual forms of discourse; analyzes the interrelations of social practices with material artifacts and means of communication; observes individual forms of subjectivity as well as the interaction in social fields and classes.”[1]

Dr. Chrabieh presented a paper on the Gulf panel entitled “Voices of Peace through Arts in the UAE: Middle Eastern Studies’ students perceptions of Islam. She introduced the audience to the preliminary results of her ongoing qualitative research at the crossroads of Peace Education, Sciences of Religions and Art History on perceptions of Islam as it relates to Peace by 160 university students enrolled in Middle Eastern Studies courses at the American University in Dubai. The results of this research were compared to those of a previous academic inquiry Dr. Chrabieh conducted from 2007 to 2014 in three Lebanese universities with 3000 students.

According to Dr. Chrabieh, Art has an important role to play in the pursuit of peace, and is an amazing way to channel a sense of collective urgency such as through the Peace Art in Dubai project she implemented at the American University in Dubai. “As a result of various activities – art workshops and events, online exhibition, outdoor agoras -, students have been able to create individual and shared spaces and expressions through various media and art techniques that helped them debunk stereotypes of Islam, better understand each other’s beliefs and practices, and become active agents of peace.”

The Peace Art in Dubai project is an application of Dr. Chrabieh’s Peace Education approach which aims to cultivate the knowledge and practices of a culture of peace. So far, her Peace Art in Dubai blog features more than 160 artworks. She adds, “Students’ positive feedbacks at the end of every semester encouraged me to pursue this project, as well as the recent changes to the federal government ministries in the United Arab Emirates, including the establishment of a Ministry of Tolerance with a clear message calling citizens and expatriates to be agents of peace and to help the government in its task, first internally, and second, in exporting the model outside of the Emirati boundaries. Hopefully these new measures will contribute to call attention to the importance of peace education initiatives already taking place and open the door to the establishment and officialization of peace education programs in schools and universities.

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Encounters with the UAE Cultural Heritage


Since arriving in the United Arab Emirates two years ago, I have witnessed the lightning urban growth, experienced luxury at its finest, and have been amazed by the postmodern and futuristic architecture and the successful diversity management system of numerous glocal (global-local) identities and lifestyles. However, as a university professor and scholar in Middle Eastern Studies, what has blown me away is the rich cultural heritage, including the tangible and intangible components and dynamics, from values, thoughts and memories, to oral history, social practices, rituals, customs, language, folk music and dance, poetry, natural environments, foodways, arts and crafts, and other manifestations of intellectual achievements, knowledge and skills transmitted from generation to generation.

Not everyone feels a connection with cultural heritage. Some may think that folklore, ancient artifacts and traditions are archaic and unnecessary, but encountering the past and its legacy is crucial to understand what shapes today’s society. Understanding, enjoying, valuing and preserving cultural heritage provide a sense of unity in diversity. Cultural heritage is also a source of social memory, a record of the remote roots and patterns of continuities and discontinuities of nations, the result of a selection process of memory and oblivion. As Zbigniew Kobylinski explains it in Cultural Heritage Preservation: “The protection of cultural heritage should therefore not only be the preservation of its authentic historical substance, ensuring its abidance and continuation but it should also involve ensuring that the general public has possibility to be benefited by, and to have active access to the values inherent in this heritage. This ensures that the cultural heritage can participate in the spiritual life of a human being, a social group and a whole nation”.

The United Arab Emirates has fulfilled the two conditions needed to ensure protection of their cultural heritage: an adequate legal and administrative framework, and a deep social consciousness and involvement. Government entities have taken and continue to take several measures to preserve the Emirati cultural heritage and to create awareness about it, in particular through establishing museums and heritage villages, forming clubs, holding festivals and events, organizing exhibitions and book fairs, and financing archeological expeditions and excavations. Ancient artifacts – including a large collection from the Stone Age and Paleontological fossils – are displayed in numerous museums as well as online – virtual platforms.

Grassroots and individual/collective private initiatives also contribute to the ethics of cultural heritage’s care, whether through formal or informal channels. Heritage education is an important component of the courses I teach for instance, from Islamic Art and Architecture to Cultures and Religions of the Middle East. My classes encompass individuals from diverse ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. When students tell the stories of their different perceptions and experiences in Al Fahidi historical neighborhood in Dubai, the museum of Islamic Civilization in Sharjah, the oldest mosque in Fujairah, the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival in Abu Dhabi, the breathtaking scenery of Jebel Jais, or through learning the steps of the Ayyala, reciting the poetry of Ousha Bint Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Suwaidi, cooking Machbous, Harees, Raqaq and Chebab, and drinking Arabic coffee, they share visceral encounters with both the contemporary Emirati culture and its foundations; encounters that bring alive the layers of history, hopes, dreams, struggles and achievements.

These encounters and many others help preserve the local cultural heritage through inclusion, immersion, conviviality and transmission, and at the same time celebrate cultural diversity in dialogue. They contribute to the understanding that cultural boundaries are not necessarily well-defined, and that human history is made of mutual influences, interpenetrations, cultural appropriations and fusions. Encountering the United Arab Emirates cultural heritage reminds us that what matters is how we engage in historical acts; what matters is that identities are both situated and open-ended, and that heterogeneity constitutes a potential common ground for cross-cultural understanding.



Middle Eastern Studies Forum: Peace through Arts

On the afternoon of April 11th, 2016, the Middle Eastern Studies Division at the School of Arts and Sciences held the last of its monthly MEST (Middle Eastern Studies) Forums of the 2015-2016 academic year, titled “Peace through Arts.” The event consisted of MEST students showcasing visual art, songs, poetry, dances, and food that symbolize peace.

The organizers, Dr. Nadia Wardeh and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, began the event with short introductory speeches. Dr. Wardeh presented first a dictionary definition of peace: “a state of non-violence or truce” and stressed the importance for peace to become “the nature of the human state, not a temporary phase in human life.” She then emphasized the “ripple effect,” in which everyday actions such as a smile or a hug between individuals can easily lead to world peace. According to Dr. Wardeh: “To say it frankly, unfortunately, peace is what is missing in the world around us (…). In our war-torn world, it seems like there are no human values, thus, no peace. But today we want to prove that peace can be big and small, seen in the entire globe or in brief moments.  Indeed, peace is what we are doing today (…). Think of when you drop a stone in a pond. It generates a small ripple at first, but after a while, that little ripple spreads throughout the entire pond. Now, think of world peace. If someone apologizes to someone else, if someone smiles to someone else, if someone feels the meaning of the greeting he/she uses all of time, Peace be upon you, imagine what we can achieve!”

Dr. Chrabieh followed by specifying the fundamental motivations behind organizing this event: “The madness of some religionists who try to win followers by hook or by crook and the misinterpretation of sacred scriptures for various interests have led to religious persecutions and holy wars. Despite these terrible experiences, as Middle Eastern Studies faculty and students, we believe that religions’ fundamentals play an essential role in people’s search for inner peace and peace in society. We believe that war begins in the minds of people, therefore it is in the minds of people that peace should be constructed”. According to Dr. Chrabieh, the pillars of peace’s defenses are dialogue, education, mutual respect and conviviality. “Differences in religious beliefs and practices should not hinder the progress of many individuals and communities working for common causes such as the causes of humanity and peace. The Middle Eastern Studies division envisions an AUD community in which people of different backgrounds and identities live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace. Today, we celebrate this vision and the initiatives of many professors and students who work in harmony and cooperate in the true spirit of service (…); we celebrate through various arts. Art has the potential to raise awareness. It also serves as an avenue for creative and collaborative learning, and engagement”.

Following the introduction that also included the recitation of sacred scriptures emphasizing peace by Dr. Wardeh and Dr. Chrabieh, Qamar Tahboub, student host of the day, announced the performances awaiting the participants: Christian and Islamic heritages in songs, Dabke dance as a symbol of unity in diversity, peace poetry recitation – from Palestine, Azerbaijan, Japan… – and self-produced poems by students. Hala Abulhawa’s poem for instance narrated her inner thoughts from when she was first introduced to the “Peace Through Arts” event. Abulhawa explained her initial difficulty in thinking about a way to represent peace, and finally concluded that “[she] realized [she] could not just find peace in the air […] it comes from within us.” Omar Shazly’s poem, written in Arabic, responded to the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, pointing out that the very name “Islam” is derived from the word “peace” in Arabic. Videos of all these powerful performances and more can be found on Dr. Chrabieh’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/nemr76

The final event of the forum was the “peace buffet,” in which food brought in by students from different cultures was shared. The students who prepared the food provided explanations on its meanings while serving it to their peers. The food was united under the theme of peace; some dishes are traditionally made to welcome visitors, and represent hospitality, while others are made on wedding days and represent joyful community occasions, or represent national unity such as Tabboule in Lebanon.

During the buffet there was a screening of videos created by Dr. Chrabieh’s Islamic Art and Architecture students. Participants were also invited to visit the art exhibition held at the entrance of the venue, which featured paintings, calligraphy, digital images, photography, and installations about peace, all created by Dr. Chrabieh’s students. Dr. Chrabieh shared also the story of a real life example of peace achieved through art. In Redlands, California, a mass shooting caused few months ago the rise of Islamophobia in the region. A good friend of Dr. Chrabieh, Katia Aoun Hage, organized an Arabic calligraphy workshop for students at the Grove School, a public school in Redlands. Ms. Hage is a musician, poet and art teacher, and used her artistic skills to teach the Grove School students the calligraphic strokes of the Arabic letters. During the session, Ms. Hage was able to deconstruct misconceptions and build bridges, truly embodying “peace art.”

The Forum and real life examples of peace achieved through various arts provided a hopeful conclusion to the semester, inspiring all individuals present to cast their own ripples of peace in the world. Dr. Wardeh concluded with a poetic note: “The MEST Division’s mission is to break any cultural, religious, ethnic, and social barriers among people and to build bridges of acceptance, tolerance, respect and appreciation of the “other”.  I had tears in my eyes and my heart danced while watching MEST students eagerly and actively contributing to and participating in this event. I can claim that today, we have succeeded in finding an amazing ideal kingdom of love and peace.  Our kingdom is composed of diverse musical notes which was built by each citizen in the MEST program. Today our message was: religions and wisdom command love, tolerance and forgiveness to bring the entire world together around peace”.

Dr. Chrabieh also concluded with the important function of art: “that of helping in creating and promoting a culture of peace; this culture is not something we wish for or an unattainable ideal; it is a culture we make, we embody and we share”.

Credits: Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Ms. Haeley Ahn