Neha Vora

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IAIS Building/LT1

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Professor Neha Vora (Lafayette College) presents "American Universities, Liberalism and Transnational Qatar"

Part of the IAIS Visiting Speaker Series

An Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies seminar
Date12 December 2018
Time17:15
PlaceIAIS Building/LT1

Neha Vora is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at Lafayette College. Her research and teaching interests include migration, citizenship, higher education, South Asian and Muslim diasporas, gender, liberalism, political economy, and the state, in the Arabian Peninsula region and in the United States. She is the author of Impossible Citizens: Dubai’s Indian Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2013) and Teach for Arabia: American Universities, Liberalism, and Transnational Qatar (Stanford University Press, 2018).

Tea and coffee will be served from 4.30pm in the IAIS Common Room.  All are welcome to attend and registration is not necessary.


Abstract

Qatar has invested billions of dollars in growing its higher education sector over the last two decades.  The centrepiece of this investment is the Education City complex, home to branch campuses of six elite American universities.  The expansion of American higher education into Qatar and other supposedly non-liberal countries has raised concern among US based faculty, who ask whether liberal education can thrive in repressive regimes that suppress free speech, democracy, and activism.  Within Education City's American universities, liberal ideologies manifest in several key ways.  These include co-education, English-language curricula, courses that foster critical thinking and debate, and celebrations of multiculturalism.  These insitutions have also become a source of tension among some Qatari citizens, who see them as emblematic of a turn toward too much Westernisation and an erosion of traditional national values, particularly around gender roles and Islam.  Offering an ethnographically grounded account that centres the unique experiences of different actors as they navigate branch campuses in Education City and their relationships to identity formation, citizenship, nation-building, and imaginings of the future, 'Teach for Arabia' discusses the role of liberal higher education in the making of transnational Qatar.  At the same time, examining the inherent contradictions of American academia from the vantage point of Qatar highlights how ideas about the liberal and the illiberal are constantly emergent, contain within them their own undoing, and reveal statements from both sides of the globe in maintaining mythologies of liberalism and its others.

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