February 26, 2024

Language and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa

Lewis & Clark’s 10th annual student-run Middle East and North African Studies Symposium will explore the relationship between language and politics in the region. The symposium, which takes place February 27 to 29, provides an opportunity for students to showcase their research and hear from outside speakers and scholars.

Blue sticker for the symposium Graphic designed by Jana Qasem BA '26by Tara Elsa BA ’25

Lewis & Clark’s 10th annual Middle East and North African Studies Symposium is organized around the theme of language and politics. In addition to two guest speakers and two student research panels, the event will feature a hands-on music workshop about the Persian frame drum, or daf, as well as a catered dinner, including activities with henna and Arabic writing.

Driven by the Middle East and North African (MENA) Studies program at Lewis & Clark, this year’s symposium sets out to explore linguistic diversity and identity, multicultural communications, and language politics.

The three cochairs of this year’s symposium are Nadav Ben-David BA ’25, a psychology major and MENA minor; Jana Qasem BA ’26, an international affairs and world languages double major and MENA minor; and Jenna Woodring BA ’25, an international affairs major and MENA and political economy double minor. Oren Kosansky, associate professor of anthropology and director of the MENA program, is the event’s faculty advisor.

  • Nadav smiling outside wearing a white shirt and glasses.

    I am a cochair for the MENA Symposium—an experience that broadened my perspective on the intricate workings of our world and offered a valuable complement to my academic journey.

    Nadav Ben-David BA ’25
    Psychology | Middle East and North African Studies | Sunnyvale, California
    More about Nadav
  • Jana smiling outside wearing a black turtleneck top and a necklace.

    I am a cochair of the MENA Symposium and I suggested this year’s theme of Language and Politics. I was thrilled that the concept of multilingualism, a linguistic mosaic, and its relation to politics was incorporated into the symposium!

    Jana Qasem BA ’26
    International Affairs and World Languages (double) | Middle East and North African Studies | Tigard, Oregon
    More about Jana

“The specific focus of this year’s MENA Symposium is on exploring the nuances of linguistic diversity and identity, navigating multicultural communications, and delving into the complexities of language politics,” Ben-David says.

This year’s event features two guest speakers. On Tuesday, February 27, participants will hear from Nabil Boudraa, an Oregon State University professor, with expertise in linguistic diversity and North African studies. On Thursday, February 29, attendees will listen to a talk by Tabrez Ebrahim, a Lewis & Clark Law School professor with experience in the Islamic theory of intellectual property law. Everyone is welcome to attend these events. The full schedule can be viewed at the link below.

“I am really looking forward to Nabil Boudraa’s talk about navigating the linguistic mosaic in Algeria,” says Qasem. “I am interested in learning more about the concept of multilingualism, a linguistic mosaic, and its relations to politics.”

The symposium also includes two student panels, the first on MENA-related academic work surrounding topics of identity and the second on the Middle East and North Africa in the media.

“The student panels bring together research done in our MENA studies classes and our overseas study programs,” Kosansky says. “By combining academic, artistic, culinary, and experiential events, we hope the symposium provides multiple opportunities for the L&C community to enjoy learning about the region.”

Middle East and North African Studies MENA Symposium Schedule