Summer Institute 2021 Schedule

Yale Council on Middle East Studies Presents

The Middle East in America:
Expect the Unexpected
Summer Institute for Teachers 2021
Sunday June 20 to Thursday June 24

You are invited to this special virtual edition of the Yale Council on Middle East Studies Annual Summer Institute for Teachers!

We often talk about the role of America in the Middle East and North Africa - and rightfully so. From geopolitics to oil to a conflicted post 9/11 world, the Middle East holds special interest for the United States. But what if we flip the script? How about exploring the myriad of ways in which the people, cultures, faiths, languages and histories of the Middle East and North Africa have enriched America? From the 1777 recognition of the United States by Morocco to the presence of Arab American lawmakers in the halls of Congress, the story is much more interesting than we ever imagined. All we can say is: expect the unexpected! This year’s institute is funded by a Title VI grant from the United States Department of Education. 

Featuring artistic performances, daily interactive seminars, access to cutting edge films and drop-in coffee hours for networking - and conversation! 

This year’s Summer Institute will explore issues as diverse as:

  • the impact of Black Lives Matter in the Middle East
  • the role of comics and cartoons in shaping popular American perceptions of the Middle East
  • the extraordinary story of  the Yazidi community in Nebraska
  • the incredible journey Arabic and Persian speaking Jewish immigrants to the United States; and
  • the origin story of Coachella Valley’s date palms and the orientalist fantasies that accompanied them

We will feature performances and conversations from Palestinian-American multi-instrumentalist Ronnie Malley (, Syrian-American MC and Poet Omar Offendum (, and Sudanese-American singer-songwriter Alsarah and her incredible band The Nubahtones ( 

Attendees will have free access to three incredible films: 

  • Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf (Dir. Susan Youssef , 2019)

    • A teenager in Arkansas searches for identity in the headscarf and a motorcycle in the aftermath of her father’s imprisonment on dubious terrorist-related charges.

  • There is a Field (Dir. Jen Marlowe, 2020)

    • In October 2000, a police officer shot and killed unarmed 17-year old Asel Asleh. His story is tragically familiar for Americans, but Asel was not killed in Ferguson, New York City, Atlanta, or Minneapolis. Asel was a Palestinian teenager who was murdered by Israeli police as he participated in a demonstration, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and settler-colonization. 

  • Brooklyn Inshallah (Dir. Ahmed Mansour, 2019)

    • Father Khader El-Yateem, an Arab American Pastor from Palestine, and Linda Sarsour, organizer of the Women’s March on Washington, come together in the wake of President Trump’s anti-Muslim policies. With Sarsour’s support, El-Yateem runs for New York City council. Will he be the first Arab American to ever win a seat in the race?

Especially designed for public school teachers and educational leaders, this year’s program is open to all!

Curriculum resources will be provided, and a special set of resource books will be sent to all New Haven Public School educators who join us. 

Register at:

Summer Institute 2021 Schedule

*All times EDT

Sunday, June 20

7:00-8:30pm: Opening Performance! MC Omar Offendum & Multi-Instrumentalist maestro Ronnie Malley tell the story of Palestinian and Syrian diasporas through music, memories and conversation. Watch these two cultural visionaries weave stories of the past, present and future!

Monday, June 21

10:30am-12:00pm: Opening Keynote:  BLM in the MENA: The Global Impact of an American Movement with Dr. Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen (Postdoctoral Associate with the Council for African Studies, Yale University)

1:00pm-2:30pm: Seminar: Coachella Valley’s Improbable Date Palsm: Orientalist Fantasies in the California’s Desert with Professor Sarah Seekatz (Professor, Mexican American and U.S. Histor; Chair, Cultural Awareness Program & Latinx Heritage Month Committee, San Joaquin Delta College) 

Tuesday, June 22

10:30am-12:00pm: Seminar:  Cartoons, Comicstrips and Graphic Novels: American Visions of the Middle East with Professor Maryanne Rhett (Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and World History, Monmouth University) and Professor Toufic El Rassi (Writer, Artist, Graphic Novelist and Adjunct Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, Oakton College)  

Wednesday, June 23

11:00am-12:30pm: Seminar:  The Yazidis of Lincoln, Nebraska: Communities of Resilience with Hadi Pir (PhD candidate, University of Nebraska; Founder of Yazda NGO)

Thursday, June 24

2:30pm-4:00pm: Seminar: Centering the Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewish Experiences: with Dr. Saba Soomekh (Associate Director at the American Jewish Committee-Los Angeles, and a lecturer at The Academy for Jewish Religion) 

7:00-8:30pm: Closing Performance! Black, Arab, African, American: Alsarah & the Nubatones - performance video followed by a moderated conversation 

All attendees will receive exclusive online access to relevant curriculum resources. All New Haven Public School teachers and educators will receive a special set of book resources for their classrooms!