Yale to Hold Middle Eastern Environmental Conference

The Council on Middle East Studies at Yale will host a conference to assess the complex relationship between human beings and nature in a region that is rich in many resources but perennially short of water. Titled “Transformations of Middle Eastern Natural Environments: Legacies and Lessons,” the meeting will bring to Yale a broad range of scholars and specialists from the Middle East, Europe and North America. The conference will be held at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies (YCIAS), Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Ave., Oct. 30-Nov. 1. It is free and open to the public.

Organizers are Abbas Amanat, professor of history and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies; and graduate students Magnus Thorkell Bernhardsson and Roger Kenna.

“The Council on Middle East Studies is pleased to host this unprecedented meeting which will serve as a catalyst for future research on this important subject,” says Professor Amanat.

“Due to the region’s long history, the Middle East offers a remarkable array of legacies and lessons of human interactions with the natural environment,” notes Mr. Bernhardsson.

“Recent concerns about water scarcity and the potential for conflict, as well as the Gulf War oil spills, have focused attention on Middle Eastern environmental issues,” says Mr. Kenna. “We aim to use the conference to examine these and a host of related issues in an effort to assess the state of the field and to map out future research.”

Among the participants are Saif M. al-Ghais of the Environmental Research and Development Agency of Abu Dhabi; J.A. Allan, University of London; Abdul Rahman al-Awadi of the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment, Kuwait; Lois Beck, Washington University; Peter Christensen, University of Copenhagen; Keith Cressman and Izzat Feidi of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome; Paul English, University of Texas-Austin; Daniel Hillel, Center for Environmental Studies, Israel, and emeritus professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Attilio Petruccioli, MIT; and Aaron Wolf, University of Alabama.

Yale participants include Karen Polinger Foster, lecturer in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization; Frank Hole, professor of anthropology; Nancy Ruther, associate director of the YCIAS; and Harvey Weiss, professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, Near Eastern languages and civilizations, and anthropology.

Brian Spooner, professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. His talk, titled “History and Ecology at Cross-purposes,” will present an overview of the ways in which the study of Middle Eastern society might be fortified through increased attention to the region’s natural environment.

Panels will consider the recent environmental history of the region, climate change, economic and political issues in water management, the idea of the garden and related topics. Energy use, urbanization, air pollution in Teheran and irrigation in Turkey are among the papers to be presented at poster sessions.

During the conference, a series of 16 landscape photographs of the Middle East by Luke Powell will be on display in Luce Hall.

Conference sponsors are the Council on Middle East Studies, the YCIAS, the Kempf Memorial Fund, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

For further information, call the Council on Middle East Studies at 432-6252 or send e-mail to magnus.bernhardsson@yale.edu or roger.kenna@yale.edu. Additional information is available on the web site, www.yale.edu/ycias/cmes/environment.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325