Past Events | First Voices Lecture Series | Summer 2013

Sponsored by:
The Sociology Department
Coca-Cola Project Founding

First Voices Lecture Series 2013-Summer Semester

Lecture No. 1

Romanticizing the Land: Agriculturally Imagined Communities in Palestine-Israel

Jennifer Shutek
Simon Fraser University, BA; Oxford University, MA Student 

When: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Surrey Main, Room 3820

Agriculture is an enduring facet of life with symbolic and material value among Palestinians and Israelis, contributing materially and ideologically to identities and claims to land disseminated by Zionist and Palestinian organizations. This paper argues that agricultural images played a significant role in the imaginings of Israeli and Palestinian communities. Anderson’s assertions regarding the primacy of print in the imagination of a community deals relatively briefly with non-textual imaginings of nations; this paper is an attempt to bring non-textual elements of nation building to the fore in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by exploring the physical and ideological creation and dissemination of propaganda posters. Tracing the emergence and evolution of agricultural images used for propagandistic and economic purposes reveals the shared symbols used by Palestinians and Israelis in self-identification and the justification of an exclusive claim to land. Despite being common symbols from a shared past, agricultural images were and continue to be crucial in creating and perpetuating a divide between Israelis and Palestinians, and in constructing an argument for an organic link between each group and the land of Palestine-Israel. These ideas will be explored via case studies of political organizations representing Israelis and Palestinians, specifically the Jewish National Fund and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, respectively.

Jennifer has just completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree at Simon Fraser University. She majored in History with a concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic History, and also completed an English minor. During her undergraduate degree, she served as an executive member of SFU’s History Student Union for two years, worked as a research assistant for professors in varying fields of History (including early-modern English, World, and modern French History), and presented at several conferences on a variety of topics including Islam in early-modern Southeast Asia and “culinary Orientalism.” Jennifer studied Arabic for six weeks in the summer of 2012 at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez, and will be returning to Fez from late May to July of 2013 to continue her study of Arabic. She will be commencing her MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern History at Oxford University in October 2013, and will be focusing her studies upon the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

To register for this lecture, click here: Registration.

Lecture No. 2

History 12: Through a Different Lens

Hardeep Kaur Khosa
Simon Fraser University, BA & BEd; Surrey School District, Teacher-On-Call

When: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Time: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Surrey Main, Room 3820

History 12 covers the time period from 1919-1991. It focuses on the great wars and the creation of nation states. Teachers try to show students how major events in this time period have left lasting effects. History 12 includes a study of the Middle East; however it focuses mainly on post 1945 Middle East. I have examined the government prescribed learning outcomes, the conventional textbooks, some course syllabuses, and other educational resources used in the classroom. My presentation includes a project I made that might help teachers bring in more perspectives on historical events , including teaching from a Middle East point of view.

My full name is Hardeep Kaur Khosa. I am born and raised in Surrey. I went to Queen Elizabeth Secondary then SFU Surrey and Burnaby. I have a Major in History with an Islamic Middle East Concentration and Sociology Minor. I have worked as a research assistant at The Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (CCSMSC) for Dr. Derryl MacLean of the Department of History.I have also completed a BEd with a concentration in curriculum and development. I am a certified high school Social Studies teacher. I used to TOC at Khalsa School and currently I am a Teacher-on-Call for the Surrey school district. I come from a Punjabi Sikh family and I am first generation Canadian.

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Lecture No. 3

Iran's entry into POLITICAL modernity, constitutional movement, oil nationalization, repression, revolution, and post-revolutionary social movements

Peyman Vahabzadeh, Ph.D.
University of Victoria, Professor of Sociology

When: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Time: 1:00 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.
Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Surrey Main, Room 3820 

In this presentation, I explore the "spirit of democracy" behind Iran's movements in the past century.

Peyman Vahabzadeh is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Victoria, Canada. He is the author of Articulated Experiences: Toward a Radical Phenomenology of Contemporary Social Movements (2003), A Guerrilla Odyssey: Modernization, Secularism, Democracy, and the Fadai Discourse of National Liberation in Iran, 1971-1979 (2010), Exilic Meditations: Essays on A Displaced Life (2013), as well as six books of fiction, poetry, memoir, and literary criticism in Persian.

Lecture No. 4

The Notion of Subhuman Identity in the U.S. Government’s War on Terror

Jessica Singh
Undergraduate Student, University of Victoria
When: Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Time: 1:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Surrey Main, Room 3820

Twenty-first century Americans are living in an age of Islamophobia, in which the enemy has been explicitly labeled. The Bush Administration’s War on Terror and the Obama Administration’s drone war in Afghanistan have each produced a subhuman status for al Qaida and Taliban combatants. The criminal nature of the combatants’ actions is too often overlooked, and instead, the American Government focuses on the supposed inhumanity of their actions, and what it implies about their essence as human beings. Evident through these combatants’ degrading treatment under the Bush Administration’s 2001 Military Order and 2006 Military Commissions Act, as well as the Obama Administration’s drone war in Afghanistan, the American Government has acquired the ultimate authority in determining the humanness of these combatants. Carl Schmitt’s theory on sovereignty explains the circumstances that have allowed the American Government to establish itself as the legal determinant of the humanness of suspected terrorists.

I am a 4th year Political Science student at the University of Victoria. I am interested in contemporary politics of the Middle East, specifically post 9/11 foreign policies and the War on Terror. My research approach towards Middle Eastern politics incorporates different kinds of political thought; Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben, Edward Said, and Thomas Hobbes are all influences in my studies of the contested notions of "Islamophobia" and "Orientalism". Upon completion of my B.A., I intend to do graduate work pertaining to my interests in Political Science.

To register for this lecture, click here: Registration.

Lecture No. 5
“What do you mean my perfect academic record won’t get me into any university in the country?” 

Bobby Fahandez, Arash Abbassi, and Tiana Sharifi
Activists and Members of the Baha'i Community in Vancouver, Surrey, and Langley 
 When: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
 Time: 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
 Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Surrey Main, Room 3820

The notion of universal human rights shared by all citizens, irrespective of nationality, creed, wealth, religion or geography has an undoubtedly powerful grip on the sentiments many people hold about justice, order and global politics. No one should be subjected to torture, starvation, economic exploitation or biased treatment under the law. Regrettably, however, in terms of actually enforcing these rights, the results often drastically fall short of the ideal. One can look no further than the recent atrocities plaguing Syria and Sudan as evidences of profound and appalling human rights violations. While the world is closely following the developments of such occurrences with a keen eye, an elaborate yet inconspicuous agenda of civil repression – as advanced by the Iranian government – is flying under the proverbial international radar.

The Iranian government, for quite some time in its history, has failed to exemplify a robust record of civil rights traditions and has enshrined a culture of deep-seated and pervasive discrimination against its masses. What we are witnessing in Iran today is simple – a systematic, unremitting and state-sanctioned attack on basic, universal human rights. Religious minorities, human rights defenders, political activists and supporters of women’s rights have all been marginalized, merely due to the fact that their respective beliefs, ideologies and political standpoints are at variance with those of the authoritative Iranian government.

We as Canadians are afforded with civil liberties that are meager glimmers of hope for the Iranian people. Our very livelihood rests upon the taken for granted supposition that our basic rights, as human beings, are safeguarded without reserve. It comes as no surprise then, that the notion of, say, being denied access to higher education may seem outlandish to us. This, however, is the stark reality for many students in Iran – most notably, the Bahá’ís.

Adherents of the Bahá’í Faith, which amount to roughly 300,000 throughout the country, represent the largest religious minority in Iran. Since its inception in 19th-century Persia, members of the religion have been subjected to unwarranted and arbitrary persecution; in wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and under the vindictive regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the present-day  condition of the Bahá’ís in Iran has escalated to egregious levels. Bahá’ís have been consistently accused of a myriad of offences, including espionage for foreign entities, propaganda against the state, and the defilement of religiosity. It is rather extraordinary that such substantial allegations have fallen on the shoulders of the adherents of a faith who stand wholly for the oneness and unity of mankind.

The Iranian government has committed to a state policy to bar any Bahá’í from attending any domestic university. Since 1979, young Bahá’ís have been denied access to pursue higher education. Instead of resorting to loquacious demonstrations of public protest and denunciation of the state, the Iranian Bahá’í community – in an act of constructive resiliency – established its own means of pursuing the education that they have been so sorely deprived of. In 1987, the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE for short) was created. What initially started as an informal university quickly transformed into an elaborate network of makeshift classrooms situated in the living rooms and kitchens of homes across Iran. The BIHE represented a safe haven and the only recourse that young Bahá’ís had to pursue higher education. In May 2011, however, the government orchestrated a coordinated attack against the BIHE; dozens of homes were raided, materials and computers were sequestered, and 18 professors and academics were detained, seven of which being the recipients of four or five year prison terms – their crime: educating the youth in their community.

The plight of the Bahá’ís can be viewed as a microcosm of the wide-ranging human rights violations that have pervaded the country of Iran. Such episodes necessitate a call for action. Education Under Fire is a campaign designed to not only raise awareness of these contraventions, but to aid in curtailing the effects of such discriminatory policies.
Education is universal, it unites us no one should be deprived of it.

Bobby Fahandez works as a Medical Radiation Technologist at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and is currently completing his degree in Health Science. He is a member of the Baha'i Community of Langley District.

Arash Abbassi holds a BBA from Simon Fraser University and has served as a research and teaching assistant for the Beedie Melville School of Business. He will be pursuing his JD in international law this fall. He is a member of the Baha'i Community of Coquitlam.

Tiana Sharifi will be finished her BA majoring in psychology and minoring in counselling from Kwantlen University. She plans to work in youth counselling services before pursuing her masters. She is a member of the White Rock Bahai Community.

To register for this lecture, click here: Registration.

Lecture No. 6

The F-Word and Kwantlen

Sim Badesha
Undergraduate Student, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

When: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 9:50 a.m. & 10:00 a.m. - 11:20 a.m.
Where: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond Campus, Room 1840

The fate of feminism is periodically questioned every few years. “Post feminism” refers to the era after the last major wave of feminism in the 1970s. Anti-feminism refers to having beliefs that are against the feminist ideology of gender equality. Since one can believe in both anti and post-feminist discourse, I have included the two as the same. Both are similar in believing that feminism should not exist in the present. In the 1980s there were backlashes towards feminists and the notion of needing equality (Showden, 2009). Women were entering the workforce at much larger numbers than ever before and post-secondary education had become a norm for both genders. In the 1990s there was another movement of feminists focusing on the freedom and ownership of the female body. However, at this point the term ‘feminist’ was beginning to be seen as a negative label. By now the word feminist simply is referred to by some as “the f word”. What do Kwantlen female students think of feminism? How do they define it? Do we need feminism?!

Sim Badesha is currently enrolled at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and majoring in Sociology. Sim's areas of interest include anti-racism, women's sexuality and gender, and feminist theories.

To register for this lecture, click here: Registration.