A new forum connected one of the most respected scholarly researchers of the Middle East with two doctoral fellows who have used technology to chronicle recent uprisings in the region.
USC professor Laurie Brand, Laila Shereen Sakr, a USC Annenberg fellow at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Maytha Alhassen, a member of the Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship Program, united for “New Perspectives on Islam and the Middle East” on Sept. 15.
The event was part of the newly established Fellows Forum, a monthly series that brings graduate students together to discuss current events and other issues being researched by university-funded fellows and USC professors.
Brand, director of the School of International Relations at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, is a four-time Fulbright Scholar who has carried out fieldwork in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait.
She has written two books on the Middle East: Palestinians in the Arab World: Institution Building and the Search for State in 1988 and Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa in 2006.
While Sakr and Alhassen are beginning their scholarly careers, they already are making an impact.
Sakr mapped the Arab Spring – a revolutionary wave of demonstrations in the Arab world – through a semantic analysis of social media feeds in Arabic, French and English. Also known as VJ Um Amel, Sakr’s work has been shown at the Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center in Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Alhassen recently returned from conducting research in North African and Middle East countries that experienced the Arab Spring. She has co-hosted an Arab-American TV variety show, a news segment on Al Jazeera and recently was profiled on CNN.
Future Fellows Forums will focus on the use of gaming technology, climate change and electoral politics.