AIYS and Yemen at MESA (Washington, DC Dec. 1-4, 2011)

This year AIYS will be sponsoring a film titled “The Oath,” which will be shown at the Filmfest December 1 through 4, 2011. The FilmFest is also presenting the premiere viewing of a video documentary, “The Last Harvest,” created by Jonathan Friedlander as part of an AIYS ECA-funded fellowship project.


The 2011 MESA Filmfest schedule is:

Thursday, December 1, 2011                       Saturday, December 3, 2011

10:00am-9:30pm                                             8:00am – 10:30am

Friday, December 2, 2011                            11:00am – 1:00pm, Film Fest Panel

9:00am-6:30pm;                                              2:30pm – 9:30pm

8:45pm-10:00pm-feature film                         Sunday, December 4, 2011


                                                           11:00am-2:00pm, Viewer's Choice



Session Sponsored by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies


Identities and Interests in Contemporary Yemen [P2652]

Friday, December 2, 2011, 2:00 pm

Organized by Charles P. Schmitz


Papers and Speakers:

Sheila Carapico (Discussant, University of Richmond)

Tribes and State in Yemen? Charles P. Schmitz (Organizer and Presenter, Towson University)

Crafting Opposition: The JMP and the Politics of Identity, Stacey Philbrick Yadav (Presenter, Hobart and William Smith Colleges)

“Seyyids” of Yemen: Old Wine in New Bottles? Abdullah Hamidaddin (Presenter, Kings College)

Follow the Bouncing Ball: Practical Approaches to Effective Dispute Resolution in Contemporary Yemen, Stephen Steinbeiser (Presenter, AIYS’ Resident Director in Sana’a)

Summary: One of the difficulties that face scholars and policy-makers in understanding Yemen is the complex array of differing and cross cutting sources of authority to which Yemenis respond. In trying to sort out Yemen's complexity, people too often resort to simple binaries: state/tribe, traditional/modern, Zaydi/Salafi, radical/moderate, etc. Unfortunately, binary understandings of political and social identity are a poor fit with the fluid way(s) in which Yemenis view themselves and others, and fail to capture the contextually-specific appeals that can motivate action. In fact, rather than an indication that Yemen poses any unique or intractable challenge for scholars, this suggests a weakness in our conceptual approach to identity more broadly. In trying to map the fluid terrain of authority and legitimacy in Yemen, each author on this panel relies on rich ethnographic research to work against the tendency to binary classification, exploring the intersection of identities, interests, and institutions in specific Yemeni contexts.
Such an approach allows us to illustrate the ways in which authority in Yemeni society is renegotiated and reassembled through appeals to multiple sources of identity and interest. It is only by doing so that we can make sense, for example, of a shaykh who campaigns for a seat in modern Parliament on a claim to defend 'traditional values,' or an Islamist who justifies his alliance with a socialist as a means of avoiding fitna (schism) in the community of believers. The al-Huthi rebellion in the north is not rebellion of Zaydi scholars, most of those siding with the al-Huthi forces have no ideological or religious motivations but are motivated by a common opposition to abusive government practices, but the authority of the al-Huthi family as Sada is an important factor in understanding the movement. Each of these is a commonplace feature of the Republic of Yemen, emblematic of appeals to a multiplicity of cross cutting sources of authority and interest that make up Yemeni society.


Other Papers of Interest


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Huntington’s “Demonstration Effect” and the Middle East: Social Media as Democracy or as a Safety Valve? Shawn Powers, Thursday, 12/1/11, 5:00pm, in the session: Media, People’s Movements, State Power and the 2011 Revolutions [P2721]

Friday, December 2, 2011

Protest Arabic-on-Line and On-the-Ground: Blogs, Banners and Headlines, Salahdine Hammoud, Friday, 12/2/11, 11:00am, in the session: The Fresh Language Scene Attending the Current Arab Revolutions [P2773]

Staging a Protest: Actresses and Social Criticism in Contemporary Yemeni Theater, Katherine Hennessey, Friday, 12/2/11, 4:30pm, in the session: Gender, Genre, and Sexuality in Arabic Literature [P2919]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Protesters and Activists: Civil Society and New Public Realms in Egypt and Yemen, Sheila Carapico, Saturday, 12/3/11, 8:30am, in the session: Social Movements, Mobilization and Contestation in Tunisia, Egypt and Beyond [P2648]

Imamic Yemen’s Sacred National Charter(1948): Failed Interpretations of an Established Social Compact, Fernando R. Carvejal, Saturday 12/3/11, 8:30am, in the session: Intellectuals and their Impact on the Middle East [P2901]

Unraveling the Gender/Poverty/Employment Puzzle in the Arab World, Jennifer Olmsted, Saturday, 12/3/11. 8:30am, in the session: New Perspectives on Women, Work and Islam from Recent Field Work [P2761]

Fiscal Reform, Sovereignty and Economic Subjectivity in Neoliberal Yemen, John G. Warner. Saturday, 12/3/11, 11:00am, in the session: Rethinking State Formation: Changing Variables, Alternative Frameworks [P2691]


Great Expectations. Southern Yemeni Youth, Unemployment and Marriage Crisis. Susanne Dahlgren, Saturday, 12/3/11, 2:30pm, in the session: The Ambiguity of Great Expectations: Ethnographic Approaches to Living a Life in the Middle East [P2794]


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Merchant Princes and Proto-States: Life in Motion in the Gulf and Indian Ocean, c. 1850-1920, Fahad A. Bishara, Sunday, 12/4/11, 8:30 am, in the session: Portable States and Liminal Populations: Assessing Mobility in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. 1800-2010 [P2787]

Depictions of Middle Eastern Medical Travelers: Wealth, Extravagance, and Special Needs, Beth Kangas. Sunday, 12/4/11, 8:30am, in the session: High-tech Horizons in the Middle East: The Anthropology of Science and Medicine, Part I [P2876]

What Do We Know about Yemen? Ottoman Politics of Knowledge Production and Imperial Government in Southwest Arabia, 1872-1914, Thomas Kuehn, Sunday, 12/4/11, 8:30am, in the session: Bureaucracy and Colonial Administration [P2950]

The Politics Surrounding Female-Friendly Legislation in the Arab World: Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, Vickie Langohr, Sunday, 12/4/11, 8:30am, in the session: Agency, Modernity and Gender [P2854]

Emergency Contraception in the Middle East and North Africa, Angel M. Foster, Sunday, 12/4/11, 11:00am, in the session: High-tech Horizons in the Middle East: The Anthropology of Science and Medicine, Part II [P2877]

The following four papers will be in the session: Superpower Antagonism on the Periphery: The Two Yemens during the Cold War [P2675]. Sunday December 4, 2011, 11:00am:

  1. Anti-Imperial Turning Point, Imperial Starting Point? Aden’s General Strike of April 25th, 1958, James Esdaile.
  2. Komer’s War: U.S. Policy during the North Yemeni Civil War (1962-1970), Asher Orkaby.
  3. Superpower Responses to Regional Challenges: Nasser’s Role and Britain in South Arabia, by Thanos Petouris.
  4. Turning Point in South Arabia? The Soviet Union, the U.S. and the PDRY. Leadership Struggle 1986-1987, Roland Popp.

The PDRY and South Yemen Today, Noel Brehony, Sunday, 12/4/11, 1:30pm, in the session: Pacts, Parties and Policies: The Middle East and the Cold War [2906]


Sessions of Interest

Superpower Antagonism on the Periphery: The Two Yemens during the Cold War [P2675]

Created by Roland Popp

Sunday, 12/4/2011, 11:00am


The recent surge in historical studies on the course of the superpower conflict in the Middle East has unsurprisingly concentrated on external involvements in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Persian Gulf security. Other parts of the region have often been ignored or treated as second-rate to the above conflict settings with their presumed global strategic importance.

This panel starts from the assumption that the lesser-known and peripheral superpower interventions along the periphery of the region had momentous consequences both for the affected countries and for the course of the regional competition between the Blocs. During the dormant phases of the main Middle Eastern antagonisms, global and regional Cold War(s) centred upon peripheral regions, thereby superimposing their rivalries on local actors. South Arabia experienced this development during the (North) Yemeni Civil War in the 1960s and the escalating Cold War confrontations of the 1970s and 1980s between the two Yemen(s).

Using South Arabia as an example, this panel will assess recent influential interpretations by Odd Arne Westad and Rashid Khalidi that superpower interventions in the non-European world were predominantly ideology-driven and that they at the same time exerted decisive influence on political, economic and social developments of the societies targeted by them. South Arabia offers the unique example of a Middle Eastern sub-region where Soviet influence was predominant for a limited period of time with the PDRY often regarded as the only fully-fledged Soviet client state in the region. The papers comprising this panel will examine these claims by analyzing the interactions between external great powers, regional antagonists and local actors during the Cold War phase. Using recently declassified archival evidence from both Western and Eastern origin, they will shed light oft the attempts of peripheral actors to draw in bigger external powers in order to get support for their own objectives and the effect of these processes on the progress of both the Arab and the global Cold War.


(For the list of papers and participants see the section above, Other Papers of Interest.)

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