Arab Refugee Crisis Conference Begins at Duke Thursday

Local and visiting scholars and students, activists, journalists, artists and local refugees will come together for a public conference at Duke University Jan. 28-29 to address the urgency of the Syrian, Iraqi and Sudanese refugee crises. 

This interactive conference -- “The Arab Refugee Crisis in the 21st Century” -- will cover the way the crisis is being interpreted in the international arena through the lens of international law, domestic U.S. policy and traditional and social media. It will also explore the vibrant arts scene that has emerged from this besieged population. 

All conference events are free and open to the public.

“At a time when half of Syria’s population is out of their homes and over 4 million are scattered around the world, it is crucial for us all to learn what has led to this crisis, how refugees are coping and what are the possible outcomes,” said conference organizer miriam cooke, Braxton Craven Distinguished Professor of Arab Cultures at Duke. 

The two-day conference, in the Holsti-Anderson Room at Rubenstein Library, will consist of an opening address, documentary film screening, poetry recitation, four panels and a closing keynote. 

At 5 p.m. Jan. 28, Lebanese scholar Ziad Majed (American University in Paris) will deliver the opening address on "Revolutions, Counter-Revolutions and Proxy Wars: Observations on Syria, the Refugee Crisis and the Struggle for the Levant." This follows a screening of “Art of Resilience” by the film’s director, Raghad Mardini, at 4:30 p.m. 

The conference continues at 9 a.m. Jan. 29 with opening remarks by cooke. There will be panel discussions on “Global Hospitality” (10-11:30 a.m.); “Between Statistic and Survivor: Media Representations” (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.); “Crisis Culture” (2-4 p.m); and “States of Exception” (4:15–5:30 p.m.). 

At 6 p.m. Anne-Marie McManus (Washington University, St. Louis) will deliver the closing keynote: “Dirty Words: On the Possibility of Language After Assad’s Syria.” McManus is a scholar of Arabic literature who has explored how language captures the experiences of dispossession, loss, migration and hope. 

Full program details can be found here ( 

At Duke, attendees may park in the Bryan Center Parking Garage for a fee. 

The conference is a Mellon Humanities Writ Large Project and is sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center. It is co-sponsored by FHI, the Duke Islamic Studies Center; Duke Global Health Institute; Duke University Center for International Studies; and The Center for French and Francophone Studies.