UC Davis Experts on the Middle East

The following University of California, Davis, experts are available to discuss current issues in the Middle East. 

Muslim fundamentalism and ISIS

Karima Bennoune, a professor of international law, is an expert on Muslim fundamentalism and can address issues related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. In November 2015, Bennoune was named the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. (https://law.ucdavis.edu/faculty/bennoune/) She also has extensive regional expertise on the Middle East and North Africa and on terrorist and extremist movements and responses to them. She has carried out fieldwork across these regions. She is the author of “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.” Her book is a 2014 finalist, in the nonfiction category, for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The book is the basis for a TED talk, which has received nearly one million views. Her talk, “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism” was originally presented in March 2014 at TEDxExeter in the United Kingdom. Contact: Karima Bennoune, School of Law, (530) 752-1484, kebennoune@ucdavis.edu.

Representations of Arabs and Muslims in popular culture; Israel, Palestine

Sunaina Maira is a professor of Asian American studies whose research and teaching focus on Asian, Muslim, and Arab American youth, citizenship, popular culture, and activism. She is the author of “Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City” and co-editor of “Youthscapes: The Popular, the National, the Global.”

Maira can also talk about her research on representations of Arabs and Muslims in popular culture in the post-9/11 context, such as in belly dancing subcultures, and on Arab and Palestinian American hip hop as an expression of cultural identities and transnational political movements. She is the author of a new book, Jil Oslo: Palestinian Hip Hop, Youth Culture, and the Youth Movement,based on ethnographic research in Palestine during the Arab Spring, which looks at the ways a new generation of Palestinians who have come of age since the Oslo Accords are producing new political vocabularies and cultures of protest through activism, music, and graffiti art. Her latest book is The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent” (co-edited with Piya Chatterjee), which focuses on the battles over academic freedom, particularly in the post-9/11 era; policing of student movements; and controversies involving scholars critical of Israel and U.S. foreign policies. She has been involved in work with various civil and human rights campaigns and coalitions in the Bay Area. Contact: Sunaina Maira, Asian American Studies, smaira@ucdavis.edu.

Oil prices

Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director for energy and sustainability at the Institute for Transportation Studies, can talk about how a conflict in Syria and Iraq would most certainly affect oil prices. She has been interviewed extensively in the media. Her research focuses on energy business strategy, energy and the U.S. economy, alternative fuels, the transformational aspects of unconventional oil and gas on American policy and business, and the geopolitics of oil and gas. Contact: Amy Myers Jaffe, abmjaffe@ucdavis.edu.

Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, other Middle East issues

UC Davis religious studies professor Flagg Miller has examined how Western intelligence and terrorism experts, together with global media networks, helped fuel bin Laden’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by bin Laden and those who supported his militant vision. Miller’s book on his research is “The Audacious Ascetic: What the bin Laden Tapes Reveal about Al-Qa’ida” (http://audaciousascetic.com/).

Miller’s work examines the contents of bin Laden’s personal audiotape library, a collection of more than 1,500 tapes acquired from his residence in Qandahar, Afghanistan, by CNN in 2001. Miller has been the sole researcher to study and publish findings on the tapes. He has worked as a linguistic anthropologist in Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, and is the author of the book, “The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen” (2007). Contact: Flagg Miller, Religious Studies, (530) 574-3758, wfmiller@ucdavis.edu.

Cultural heritage, architecture, built environment, Syria, Middle East, Islam

Heghnar Watenpaugh, an associate professor of art and architectural history at UC Davis, has been following the current conflict’s role in the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage, which includes priceless remains from the earliest periods of human history. She is writing a book on cultural heritage and conflict in the Middle East.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Watenpaugh has published widely on Middle Eastern architecture, cultural heritage and gender, including her award-winning book on Aleppo, Syria, “The Image of an Ottoman City.” The recipient of many academic awards and honors, Watenpaugh writes a blog on architectural issues for the Society of Architectural Historians. She has authored numerous blogs and op-eds, including for the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Contact: Heghnar Watenpaugh, Art History, (530) 574-4337, hwatenpaugh@ucdavis.edu.


Media Resources

Karen Nikos-Rose, Research news (emphasis: arts, humanities and social sciences), 530-219-5472, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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