Food is more than nutrients, and my students at the Lebanese American University have learned this fact by researching, preparing, tasting and sharing stories about foods of the European Renaissance era: lemonades, custards, renaissance crostini, Italian lady fingers, Bianco Mangiare, English pancakes, blueberry cakes, Salami biscuit cakes, and coffee. A festival of palates, senses, symbols and identity markers.
|AUD School of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh attended the 7thInternational Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University in Rome – Italy and presented a paper entitled ‘Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai: The Case of Middle Eastern Studies Students’ Experiences’.
According to Dr. Chrabieh: “This paper introduces its readers to the Peace Education approach I have been developing since 2004 in the academic sphere in Canada, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to one of its main applications in the classroom: the food component. These approach and component combine Anthropology of Food, Sciences of Religions, Cultural Studies and Irenology. The paper also presents the preliminary results of a qualitative research I have been conducting since 2014 at the American University in Dubai on the food learning experiences and food stories of more than 500 students enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern Studies courses. Students experience(d) conflict foods or foods as bridges across cultures and religions. They told/tell stories impregnated with gustatory nostalgia, whether relived or invented. They explain(ed) how food is an individual and collective identity marker. They also share(d) stories of migration, assimilation, pluralism, resistance and hybridity, while dealing with issues ranging from cultural appropriation to food security, as well as food diplomacy, intercultural dialogue and glocal (global-local) identity formation”.
Dr. Chrabieh concluded her paper with this statement: “It is far a given that food can bring about peace in this region and it is still early to evaluate the long-term impact of learning about cultures, religions and peace through food in the university context, but I can at least state that on a micro level, such as the classroom, and on an interpersonal level, food certainly contributes to deconstructing stereotypes and to bringing people together; therefore, food does prove to be a crucial instrument for a better diversity management and, as Sam Chapple-Sokol puts it, ‘it is a valuable addition to our toolbox as we confront conflicts both old and new’”.
The 7th International Conference on Food Studies was organized by the Food Studies Research Network that is curated by the Common Ground Research Networks. The Food Studies Research Network is brought together around an interest to explore new possibilities for sustainable food production and human nutrition, and associated impacts of food systems on culture.
Hosted by Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies and Roma Tre University , the conference’s scope and concerns were Food and Sustainability; Food, Nutrition and Health; and Food and Politics. Roma Tre University has always shown a tendency towards multidisciplinary research, and recently with a focus on sustainability through a new graduate degree in Innovation and Sustainability and a degree program in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures. As for the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies, it is a pioneering leader in Italy in developing study abroad and international education programs and research projects on Food Studies. It is the academic headquarters in this country for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, and Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This Institute has also worked with more than 30 universities on study abroad programs, from the USA to Canada, France and Japan.
Gustolab organized a pre-conference workshop on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy that Dr. Chrabieh attended. The objective of the workshop was to share and discuss opportunities for study and research in the food field with professors, students, researchers, and independent scholars who are interested in learning about study programs or doing research abroad. Attendees explored topics such as study abroad programs, culinary schools, master programs and internship programs. The material ranged from the social sciences to human, technological, biological, and agroecology sciences.
Dr. Chrabieh concludes with the following: “It is no surprise that the research interests of academics across a wide range of disciplines relate to food in some way. Food is at the center of our lives, cultures and religions, socio-political and legal systems, etc. Scholars in humanities for instance examine issues including the cultural significance and representation of food and food as an identity marker. Food Studies programs are now growing in popularity in North America and Europe. However, misconceptions are still found in our region i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa. For instance, the use of food in class is seen as a frivolous or not serious enough praxis. This is quite unfortunate. Food Studies is an important interdisciplinary field of study of food and of its relationship to the human experience that definitely needs to be promoted in local academic circles”.
Further information found on the Conference:
SOURCE: AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN DUBAI NEWS http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1747/current_upcoming/dr-chrabieh-presents-research-at-7th-international-conference-on-food-studies
Right as the first half of the semester approached its conclusion, and students of the American University in Dubai were preparing for their Spring Break, Professors Pamela Chrabieh and Nadia Wardeh gave the university’s students something to contemplate and to cherish as they hosted a Women’s Day event.
The constant strive for a progressive future encourages us all to battle for equality. One of the daily battles we must involve ourselves in is of course, to fight for women’s right and equality. The never ending dispute is personal to us all, and on Women’s Day we all had a chance for us to reflect and empathize with each other.
From a live play where the traditional gender norms were reversed in order to put certain issues in perspective, to poetry recitals where students addressed and shared their personal struggles, the university event successfully made its students witnesses on the daily issues that women go through.
Besides the live performances, students from Professor Chrabieh and Wardeh’s classes brought in home made dishes and shared their own stories about how those foods had feminist connotations, be it on a societal or personal level. The food included; Vine Leaves, Kunafa, Cupcakes, hummus among other things.
While the food could have been the main attraction that motivated the students to partake in the event, the Arabic music playing in the background accompanied by several relevant activities and the artwork on display created a vibe that encouraged the students to stick around for the entire hour. Other than students, professors and faculty members also joined in on the annual event.
While the event was meant to be enjoyable to those in attendance, Professor Pamela Chrabieh also wanted there to be an educational factor. “As I see it, the engagement of governments in Southwestern Asia and North Africa is important for gender inclusiveness and equality progress, but certainly not enough; any top down change initiative needs to be communicated appropriately through official and non-official channels such as education (in schools and universities), knowledge production and dissemination (research centers, independent scholars), media campaigns and continuous awareness programs (traditional media, social media), along within the private sphere” she said.
Equality, or lack thereof has created an ubiquitous problem in this particular region, and while there are a plethora of men who refuse to even address this issue, it was uplifting to see so many men from the younger generation show interest in having a progressive future where equality is expected and common.
The success of this year’s event leaves us all hopeful to what the Professors and their students have in stored for next year.
Thanking our friends, colleagues and students for an amazing International Women’s Day at the American University in Dubai.
March 8, 2018 – Middle Eastern Studies students with Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Dr. Nadia Wardeh.
In a celebration of feminist ideals and accomplishments amongst Middle Eastern women, American University in Dubai professors Pamela Chrabieh and Nadia Wardeh will be hosting an event at the AUD campus on Thursday, the 8th of March.
Women’s Day, an internationally celebrated and recognized holiday, made to appreciate and commemorate female rights and empowerment, is a particularly special time of year for many feminists on a global scale.
Professor Chrabieh, a feminist and activist, who teaches a course on the topic of Women and Gender in the Middle East is organizing the event.
“This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #PressforProgress, following the alarming World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report that showed gender parity will only be attainable 200 years from now” said professor Pamela Chrabieh.
“The cultural event at AUD is a local contribution to this year’s theme. We will gather to motivate the AUD community to think, act and be gender inclusive, and call-to-action for further positive gains for women in Southwestern Asia and North Africa,” she added.
Still, despite being led by professor Chrabieh, the main contributors are none other than her students. They will be cooking food relevant to the event, initiating activities and creating performances including a short play, poetry recital, and live paintings. The food will include traditional Arabic food such as vine leaves and hummus and also dessert such as cupcakes. Preparations for the even began back in early February so expectations are rather high.
“I’m excited to see what the students bring forth because they’re all very passionate feminists,” said Noor Kandil, a student involved with the preparations. “This event celebrates the cultural background, we honor our ancestors by sharing their food recipes and stories” she added.
This event is not just a celebration of women’s accomplishments and feminists’ achievements, but to also engage and educate AUD students on Middle Eastern feminism, what it stands for and its impact of modern society.
To take part in the event, visit the E-Lawn from 1-2pm on the 8th of March.
Photo Credit: Nelly Mahrous