7th International Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University

It was such a pleasure to attend this inspiring gathering of minds and palates, foodies and food studies academics, and be able to share the results of my ongoing research at the American University in Dubai on Teaching and Learning about local cultures and religions through Food and my student’s visceral experiences in the classroom and their food stories.

Pamela Chrabieh Rome 2017 7th Conference on Food Studies

For more information: http://food-studies.com/2017-conference

Make Hummus Not War: PACE Workshop for high-school students about Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai

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Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD Dr. Pamela Chrabieh organized a workshop entitled ‘Make Hummus Not War’ for high-school students enrolled in the PACE Workshops Program and interested in Middle Eastern Studies.

According to Dr. Chrabieh: “Hummus is not just food. It tells stories of war, peace, religions-politics relations, migrations, cultural resistance and cultural appropriations. It tells stories of Southwestern Asians’ communities, nations and glocal (global-local) identities. This is how I introduced high-school students to Middle Eastern Studies and to my teaching methods. Students used all their senses to learn more about this much needed field of study, through interactive and engaging dialogue sessions, collaborative learning, and experiential/visceral activities by making and eating hummus.”

As Dr. Chrabieh stated: “I have been using food (and food anthropology) as one of my many teaching methods since 2004, in Canada and Lebanon mainly, and since I joined the American University in Dubai in 2014. The “Make Hummus not War” workshop is a shorter version of a series of activities I usually organize for my Cultures of the Middle East and Religions of the Middle East courses, and these activities have started to be recognized in the UAE as innovations in Education – ‘The Diplomacy of the Dish Festival’ I organized in Fall 2015 was one of the officially registered activities of the UAE Innovative Week.”

Students who participated in the workshop came from the Dubai International School, Al Mawakeb School – Garhoud, the International School of Choueifat and the Dubai National School. Following the workshop, most students wrote in their feedback forms they highly appreciated learning more about the region and the complex religions-cultures-politics dynamics by focusing on a case study, working in teams to communicate individual and collective learning experiences, and learning through doing. Furthermore, they expressed considering Middle Eastern studies – Certificate or Bachelor degree – as part of their future academic journey.

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International Women’s Day at the American University in Dubai

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AUD students enrolled in the MEST 353 Women and Gender in the Middle East course with Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, are organizing an international women’s day event titled “Women who Inspire us.” There will be an intercultural buffet, art and creative writing workshops, as well as poetry recitation.
Date: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Time: 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Venue: Recreation Area
The International Women’s Day 2017 theme is Be Bold for Change. The MEST 353 Women and Gender in the Middle East students and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh chose to celebrate this day at AUD by highlighting women’s achievements and contributions to change in the Southwestern Asian and North African societies: from women who ensure the transmission of culture to future generations in the private sphere to women who are deconstructing stereotypes in the public sphere and challenging societal norms; from women whose food carries the stories of families and communities, as well as survival struggles and migration journeys, to women poets, authors, painters, politicians, businesswomen, educators, etc
 

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.

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

Innovation Week: The Diplomacy of the Dish – Culinary Festival

Source: American University in Dubai News

AUD Faculty, students and staff who are interested in learning about the cultural diversity of the Southwestern Asian and North African regions through food, as well as in having a visceral experience of the unknown/ inexperienced while participating in an intercultural dialogic platform, are invited to attend one of the many Culinary Festival sessions that will take place at the American University in Dubai from Monday, November 23 till Tuesday, December 8, 2015, as part of the MEST-318 Cultures of the Middle East courses.

MEST students will be presenting their final projects, consisting of a short oral and visual presentation of the food they will individually prepare – unfamiliar cultures and foods to them -, and their dish for a collective degustation.

Culinary Festival Sessions (Fall 2015)

Monday, Nov. 23 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 24 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 25 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 26 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 29 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 30 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 1 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 6 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 7 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 8 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Contact Person: Dr. Pamela ChrabiehWhy the Food and the Discovery of the Unfamiliar?

Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture” (Mark Kurlansky, ‘Choice Cuts’, 2002).

Most people are introduced to a culture’s cuisine before they decide they want to learn more about it. When we cook, eat and drink unfamiliar types of food, we have a visceral experience of foreignness brought into our bodies and minds, which contributes to the process of familiarization, thus helps students face Xenophobia (the fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange) and Food Neophobia (the fear of eating new or unfamiliar foods) by repeated exposure to unfamiliar/novel foods. The process of familiarization opens the door for dialogue, the recognition of differences, mutual respect and the search for a common ground – for what unites in the diversity of legacies and stories.

Food is a life force and a good meal fosters a strong connection between individuals, a convivial relation beyond mere coexistence. When we gather to share the physicality of the food and the cultural knowledge (historical, political, religious and social knowledge related to the prepared food, Global foodways, Culinary colonialism and neo-colonialism, Culinary nationalism, Culinary interpenetrations and fusion, Culinary/Cultural wars) that accompanies the praxis of cooking and eating together (commensality), when we think about the food, prepare it and serve it together, we share bits and pieces of our belongings and our glocal (global/local) identities, bits and pieces of our lives with our commonalities and our differences. In my classrooms, I focus on creating awareness that behind the foods we eat, there are stories of wars and hardship, conflicts and fear, but also reconciliation, positive relationships, resilience, empowerment and solidarity that merit study.

When food and cuisine are used as instruments of peace, as tools of soft power and communication, when language alone is not enough, we create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions in cooperation. This form of cultural diplomacy is called the Culinary Diplomacy or Gastrodiplomacy, and it is being recognized in Southeastern Asia for instance in South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia as a form of edible nation branding – a growing trend in public diplomacy. Scholarship on Gastrodiplomacy is burgeoning and will certainly expand in the upcoming years.

About my Pedagogical Approach:
Learning through food has become an essential component of all my courses since 2004 in:

  • Canada, at the Université de Montréal (with +1000 students – majority of French Québécois and minorities of immigrants, 2004-2006);
  • Lebanon (with +3000 students from different religious and political backgrounds in three universities, in a context of continuous physical/psychological war, 2007-2014);
  • The UAE, at the American University in Dubai (with a 100+ national identities, ethnic identities and religions to manage in classrooms, since 2014).
Learning through food is a major application of my Peace Education approach that aims to cultivate the knowledge and practice of a culture of peace. Wars start in the human mind, and Peace Education plays an important role in individual and collective mindset changes from classrooms to communities. Students learn to develop cultural awareness and communication strategies in an intercultural setting. They learn to deconstruct stereotypes and construct alternative narratives. They learn to reflect on the subjectivity of their own cultural patterns, to step outside boundaries and discover the fluidity of cultural frontiers. They learn to share responsibility for the act of learning while using all their senses. They learn to understand and experience unity in human diversity through dialogue. They learn about peace by gaining peace knowledge, and more, by doing peace.Other examples of activities I have been implementing in my classrooms since 2004 include field trips; intercultural/interreligious gatherings in galleries, museums and sacred spaces; visual art workshops including art therapy sessions; outdoor agoras; meditation sessions; virtual dialogue platforms; storytelling/story sharing sessions; as well as singing and dancing, to name just a few.

I have been presenting numerous conferences about my Peace perspective and educational approach since 2000/2001 – Canada, Lebanon, Italy, France, UK (Oxford University), Japan, Turkey, Cyprus, USA (University of California), Hungary, Czech Republic, UAE…– and publishing articles, academic papers and book chapters, in French, English and Arabic. All of my 7 books include information about my Peace perspective and activities as an educator, scholar-researcher, activist and artist.

– See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1007/current_upcoming/innovation-week-the-diplomacy-of-the-dish-culinary-festival#sthash.MmBLz9XV.dpuf

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