Mind of a Winner: Dr. Pamela Chrabieh on female empowerment and on career progression enhancement and success

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Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited as a guest speaker at the Executive Women Magazine “Mind of a Winner: Master Your Vision” one-day summit to give a speech on standing out from the crowd.

With the American University in Dubai as one of its strategic partners, this motivational event took place on November 17, 2016 in the Zabeel Ladies Club and gathered 200 local and expat women, CEOs, managers, entrepreneurs, artists and activists.  Women shared valuable insights and narratives about career progression enhancement, success in a highly competitive market and leadership potential consolidation.

Dr. Chrabieh started her speech by mentioning the diversity of definitions of “standing out from the crowd”, from knowing the rules of the game to doing things – not just dreaming or talking -, and from trying new paths rather than traveling the worn paths of accepted success to copying the successful others.

According to Dr. Chrabieh, there is no single recipe and every individual is called to search for their own combination of specific ingredients. She then introduced the audience to her war and peace experiences that have contributed to shaping her identity, as well as to personal stories illustrating the position and authenticity of being a postmodern nomad, a hybrid and a hyphen. She also used the metaphor of a coffee bean that transforms its environment when facing adversity, and that of a tightrope walker who is often out of balance, who even falls, but who is capable of standing up every time and even walking tall against the current.

When asked about her writing style, Dr. Chrabieh stated: “I have one foot in the academic sphere, and another in the larger society as an artist, an activist and a blogger. Depending on the audience/the readers’ contexts, I write in different styles. I care about access to information. Many academics believe that the more opaque one’s writing is, the more one is successful. It is part of an elitist game that has its advantages but confines academics to one type of audience, that of their peers, and perpetuates a hierarchy in terms of knowledge production – ‘the experts versus the ignorant mass’. It also reinforces the curse of knowledge – when one becomes unable to unpack complicated ideas in a coherent and simple manner. I hope that in the not so distant future, academic work will become more open, collaborative, holistic, caring and experiential. I hope for education to be co-created, based on shared understanding that is developed through multiple processes of being, and that brings about personal and social transformations. Beyond books and exams, education means engaging in public debates and learning/producing knowledge with others”.

Mind of a Winner: Master Your Vision

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I was invited as a guest speaker at the Executive Women Magazine “Mind of a Winner: Master Your Vision” one-day summit to give a speech on standing out from the crowd.

This motivational event took place on November 17, 2016 in the Zabeel Ladies Club and gathered 200 local and expat women, CEOs, managers, entrepreneurs, artists and activists.  Women shared valuable insights and narratives about career progression enhancement, success in a highly competitive market and leadership potential consolidation.

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture – 2016 Award Winner’s Seminar

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I was fortunate to attend yesterday the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Winner’s Seminar. The Dubai JW Marriott Marquis Hotel’s conference room was full of architects, art historians and artists, along with the Aga Khan and local dignitaries. The Seminar presented the 2016 winners, with the broader aim to stimulate discussion on diversity, inclusivity, scale, place-making, and technology transfer.

Organized in two sessions, a panel of winners, Master Jury and Steering Committee members discussed the issues and themes raised in the 13th cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT, Nasser Rabbat, was particularly focusing on the issue of context. Architecture in context, just like diverse forms of arts, is definitely not a radical innovation; however, knowledge production on contextual practices and “context” as part of the “architectural formula” are emerging as global trends. All panelists argued that buildings can and should engage in a dialogue with the history, beliefs and needs of a particular place, time and community, whether in China, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran or Denmark.

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Food is Not Just Food

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When I started developing food workshops at the Université de Montréal in Canada in 2004 while teaching World Religions and Interfaith/Intercultural Dialogue, there were students and faculty who thought it was too bizarre, not serious enough or even frivolous. Needless to say that it took several years of hard work, perseverance, loads of imagination and a solid theoretical framework for the practice to be acknowledged in the academic institutions I taught in, whether in Canada, Lebanon or the United Arab Emirates. Fortunately, other scholars and practitioners have been interested in food in the last decade and food studies’ recognition has been growing on a global level.

Food studies explore agricultural, environmental, nutritional, social, political, economic and cultural perspectives on food. Scholars and researchers examine issues ranging from food sovereignty, sustainability and ethics, and food access and affordability, to the cultural and religious significance and representation of food and agriculture, and policies that shape food landscapes.In my classrooms, students are introduced to the main approaches in food studies, the issue of food as a cultural signifier and identity marker, and the diverse foodways and foodvoices found in Southwestern Asia and North Africa. This introduction exposes them to stories of families, migrations, assimilation, resistance, hybridity, and to stories of war and peace. It also helps them debunk stereotypes and experience dialogue through food diplomacy activities. Furthermore, students are introduced to Anthropology of food as a main sub-field of food studies, and are asked to use its many methods in research and food production: from applying a holistic perspective to case comparisons and controlled comparisons, and looking for the origins of targeted food to better understand human nature and evolution, globalization and its effects on local culture, niche foods, the locavore movement, food wars, etc.

This semester, just like the previous ones, I can proudly say that not only have my students revealed their hidden culinary skills, but they have also started to develop the curiosity and analytical flair of food anthropologists. They were able to understand that food is definitely not Just Food. Food plays a crucial role in communities and society as a whole; it represents an integral part of human livelihoods, beliefs, practices, identities, pasts, presents and futures.

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Contemporary Feminisms in Lebanon: Lights in the Tunnel

Though many commentators have warned that the Arab Spring has turned into a winter, and despite the fact that many countries in the Southwestern Asian region have for the last decades witnessed continuous wars, political turmoil, economic crises, as well as the rise of extremism and the dissemination of sectarianism, the reality, in my opinion, should not be depicted with apocalyptic lenses, nor with binary approaches – i.e. black/white, good/bad, old/new…

The Southwestern Asian region encompasses multiple cultures, beliefs, ideologies, practices, experiences and trends, and this complex and dynamic diversity imposes itself as the subject of study and the canvas upon which scholars should be revisiting the past or assessing current situations and phenomena. With that perspective, when it comes to writing the history of Southwestern Asian feminism and-or analyzing contemporary discourse and activism, I argue that the use of mainstream approaches – evolutionist, revolution-centered and institution-centered – does not contribute to the recognition of diversity, nor to a better understanding of its dynamics. Instead, it fuels memory selectivity versus the inclusiveness of diverse memories and thus histories and identities.

This paper first presents an overview of these approaches, and then introduces my approach to studying feminism in Southwestern Asia and especially in Lebanon – an approach I have been developing for several years as a scholar and activist. Based on the results of ongoing qualitative research I have been conducting since 2004, proving the existence and the positive impact of many individual and collective change-makers, I conclude that it is too soon to talk about the downfall of women’s rights along with what is perceived as the failure of the Arab Spring. In fact, the logic itself is flawed. But, I also disagree with the common motto “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” meaning the reality we live in is only just a dark/passive/ violent moment. Indeed, preliminary results prove that lights were (in the past) and still are (in the present) illuminating the tunnel.

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It is true too that there are many obstacles that women and all Lebanese citizens face, such as the continuous state of internal war (physical/psychological), sectarianism, economic crisis, etc. And yet, despite the gloominess of the situation, my research has uncovered an explosion of diverse feminist voices and initiatives in Lebanon and within the Lebanese diaspora worth studying, encouraging and including in the much needed dialogue between feminists, and between feminists and other actors within the Lebanese society – a much needed dialogue that helps to harness diversity and overcome divisions.

While further investigation is definitely needed, I will conclude with the following points: these change-makers or agents of change offer an alternative to the disenchantment experienced by many institutions and non-governmental organizations – a disenchantment that results from aiming for a generalized transformation (a revolution) concerning women’s rights in particular and other socio-political causes as well. This alternative is about taking small, varied and diffuse but continuous steps, about recognizing and appreciating the many lights that help us walk through the tunnel, and about including those in the history of splendors brought with the ships and the shipwrights.

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SOURCE: Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, “Contemporary Feminisms in Lebanon: Lights in the Tunnel”, in Shifting Identities: Changes in the Social, Political and Religious Structures in the Middle East. Edited by Mitri Raheb, Diyar Publishers, Bethlehem, 2016, pp. 155-172.

Summary also published in the Red Lips High Heels‘ Blog.

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.

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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/