CCAS Forges New Relationship with Peking University

CCAS Director Osama Abi-Mershed and MAAS Director Judith Tucker traveled in December to Beijing, China, where they participated in a Georgetown‰ Peking University joint conference on ‰China and the Arab World.‰ CCAS professors Rochelle Davis, Jean-Francois Seznec, and Noureddine Jebnoun joined Dean Gerd Nonneman and Professor Mohamed Zayani of SFS-Qatar in Georgetown‰’s delegation.

The two-day conference, held on December 12-13, culminated a collaborative project with the Peking University School of Foreign Languages, headed by Dean Cheng Zhao-Xiang. Professors Fu Zhiming and Wu Bingbing, respectively Director and Vice Director of PKU‰’s Department of Arabic, spearheaded the collaboration, including yearlong preparatory discussions and exchanges with CCAS Professors Barbara Stowasser and Jean-Francois Seznec. Hosts and delegates reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and mutual understanding between China and the Arab world, which CCAS is keen to promote in partnership with SFS-Q and other Georgetown educational units.

Conference participants shared in two days of workshops, plenaries, and scholarly exchange between US, Arab, and Chinese academics. The Georgetown professors each presented a paper at the conference.

Professor Abi-Mershed‰’s paper, ‰Unbounding the Colony: Preliminary Thoughts on the State of Maghribi Studies in North America,‰ examined the state of North African studies in the US and explored opportunities for collaborative research with Chinese scholars and academic institutions. Professor Tucker investigated the legal consequences of the Arab Spring in ‰Women, Gender, and Islamic Legal Reform: The Arab Spring and Beyond.‰

Professor Abi-Mershed said, ‰”We were extremely gratified by the opportunity to engage with our Chinese counterparts on a range of issues concerning the Arab world and Arab studies. The plenary sessions were conducted in a spirit of frank discussion and respect for differing views. Moreover, the conference afforded CCAS and SFS-Q the opportunity and the platform to collaborate in developing this very important partnership and dialogue with our colleagues at PKU.‰”

Professor Davis then presented a paper on the poetry that appears in over half of the 140 Palestinian books about villages destroyed in the War of 1948. Professor Jebnoun‰’s paper questioned the validity of the Arab World‰’s socioeconomic consensus and offered insight into the fall of the socioeconomic contract governing the relationship between rulers and ruled in the Middle East. Finally, Professor Seznec assessed economic exchanges between China and the Gulf, which he called ‰a new silk road.

Scholars from other universities and academic institutions in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and China presented on topics ranging from eighth century Tang-Abbasid relations to recent questions of energy and security in the Persian Gulf. SFSQ Dean Nonneman praised PKU‰’s level of scholarship and remarked on the Chinese graduate students‰’ impressive command of Arabic.

Conference participants enjoyed the hospitality of the School of Foreign Languages and were treated to three days of activities and excursions to the Great Wall, the Ming Dynasty tombs, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the tenth-century Niu Jie Mosque.

Along with the establishment of a permanent liaison office in Fudan, this partnership represents a key step in the implementation of Georgetown‰’s strategy to strengthen exchange networks with China. Professor Abi-Mershed said, ‰”My colleagues and I were greatly encouraged by the outcome of the conference, and we look forward to our future initiatives with PKU and SFS-Q, beginning with a second conference in Georgetown in October 2012.‰”