UM to Host 14th Annual Central and Southwest Asia Conference

March 14, 2016

MISSOULA – Faculty, students and researchers from around the world will gather to participate in the 14th annual Central and Southwest Asia Conference at the University of Montana on Wednesday through Friday, March 23-25.

The conference, hosted by the Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center at UM and jointly organized with UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center and the Montana World Affairs Council, will feature several panels and presentations that address timely issues such as the recent Iran nuclear deal, women as change agents in the Middle East and Muslim immigration to Europe, among others.

“Presenters at this year’s conference will offer the University of Montana, as well as the greater Missoula community, an opportunity to hear internationally renowned experts speak about issues that are in the headlines daily,” said Merhadad Kia, director of UM’s Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center. “Their presentations will enlighten us about the unfolding crises in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.”

 Speakers include U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who will deliver a keynote presentation about responsible leadership as it relates to foreign policy; Fatima Sadiqi of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., who will speak on women as agents of change in the Middle East; Dominic Thomas of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UCLA, who is a foremost specialist on Muslim immigration in Europe; and Amr Al-Azm, a visiting professor who has taught at the University of Damascus and directs the scientific and conservation laboratories of antiquities and museums of Syria, will speak on the war in Syria and the destruction of Syrian antiquities.

Numerous scholars from UM departments, such as history, modern and classical languages, anthropology and the Defense Critical Language and Culture Program, also will participate.

“This is an incredibly important event for us,” Kia said. “It puts the University of Montana not only on the national radar, but on the international radar and makes us a center for the study of a very important region of the world, which extends from Western China all the way to North Africa.”

All events will be held in the University Center Theater and are free and open to the public. The schedule follows: 

Wednesday, March 23

  • Noon-1:30 p.m.: Keynote Presentation: “France: Territorial, Social and Ethnic Apartheid,” presented by Thomas. Moderated by UM Professor Mladen Kozul.
  • 2-3:30 p.m.: Panel: “Critical Texts: Fatima Sadiqi on the Vitality of Publishing, Research and Writing Regarding Women in the Middle East and North Africa,” presented by Sadiqi. Moderator and discussants include UM English Professor Prageeta Sharma and Rachel Mindell of the Montana Book Festival.
  • 3:30-5 p.m.: Panel: “Western Europe and Immigration Crisis. Panelists will each present. UM Professor Michel Valentin will deliver “De-Territorialization, Globalization and Emigration.” Thomas will deliver “Fortress Europe: Migration and Race.” UM journalism Professor Henriette Lowisch will deliver “The German Experiment: A Crumbling Welcome.” Kozul will serve as the moderator.
  • 7 p.m.: Keynote Presentation: “Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Agents of Change,” Presented by Sadiqi. Rep. Andrea Olsen, Montana State Legislature, will serve as the moderator.  

Thursday, March 24

  • 10-11 a.m.: Panel: “The Golden Age of Central Asia,” presented by UM Central and Southwest Asia Program Associate Director Ardeshir Kia. UM lecturer Samir Bitar will serve as the moderator.
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Panel: “Struggle for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan & Iran,” presented by Shaima Khinjani, manager of academic programs, UM’s Defense Critical Language & Culture Program. UM anthropology Professor G.G. Weix will serve as the moderator.  
  • 12:30-2 p.m.: Panel: “Central & Southwest Asian Studies Student Panel.” Ardi Kia will serve as the moderator.
  • 2-3:30 p.m.: Panel: “China and the Middle East.” Panel members include a delegation from Shanghai International Studies University: Professor Degang Sun, deputy director of the Middle East Studies Institute; Gafar Karar Ahmed, honorary research fellow of the Middle East Studies Institute; and Jiani Wang, Middle East Studies Institute doctoral student. Bitar will serve as the moderator.  
  • 7-9 p.m.: Keynote Presentation: “A Senator's Perspective on Foreign Policy,” presented by Tester.

Friday, March 25, 2016

  • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Panel: “Foreign Language Instruction and Cultural” Panelists are from the Mansfield Center’s Defense Critical Language & Culture Program and include UM Adjunct Professor Owen Sirrs, UM Associate Professor Reza Samar, Khinjani and UM Associate Professor Abdelilah Bouasria. Retired Maj. Gen. Don Loranger, director of the Defense Critical Language and Culture Program.
  • 1-3 p.m.: Panel: “Putin’s Russia and its Policies in Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Middle East.” Panelists include UM history Professor Robert Greene, UM history Professor Michael Mayer, UM visiting scholar Milena Oganesyan and Mehrdad Kia. Bob Seidenshwarz, president of the Montana World Affairs Council, will serve as the moderator.
  • 7 p.m.: Keynote Presentation: “The War in Syria and the Destruction of the Syrian Antiquity,” presented by Al-Azm. Bitar will serve as the moderator. Retired UM Professor Tom Lee will be a discussant.

The conference is sponsored by the UM Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, UM’s Central & Southwest Asian Studies Center, Montana World Affairs Council, UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, UM’s Department of History, UM’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages, UM’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and UM’s Russian Studies Program.

For more information on the Central and Southwest Asia Conference, call Kia at 406-243-2289 or email mehrdad.kia@mso.umt.edu

Contact: Mehrdad Kia, director of UM’s Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center, 406-396-1143, mehrdad.kia@mso.umt.edu.