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Musharaka [ Cooperation ]  Calligraphy by Khaled Al-Saai

Ethnicity and Identity

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A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


This section contains video and audio materials, most of which have not appeared online before. While we have made an effort to keep the file sizes and running times small, some of the clips may take a long time to download, particularly from a dialup connection. Each clip comes with a text description, and many of the interviews have been transcribed. To view clips on our site, you will need the free QuickTime plugin

Collections of related audio and video materials are listed in tan. Items listed in grey are in the process of being digitized, and will be available soon.

QuickTime Audio and Video Clips

Interview with Ammiel Alcalay
Poet, scholar and critic Ammiel Alcalay discusses the Jewish population of the Middle East from a historical perspective. He outlines the interactions between Arabs and Jews throughout history as well as the disruption caused by competing Nationalists agendas in the 19th and 20th centuries. He also addresses the status of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jews in Israel today and the work he has done on Mizrahi literature.

Interview with Halim Barakat
In this interview conducted in the summer of 2002, Halim Barakat, novelist and professor of Sociology at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, elaborates in some detail on many of the ideas discussed in his essay “Arab Identity: E Pluribus Unum”explaining what Arabs might see as the foundations of their identity and unity: language, culture, external challenges. He also elaborates on the challenges to Arab unity and the status of religious and ethnic minorities.

Interview with Amal Rassam
In this interview, professor of Anthropology Amal Rassam discusses the identity of the Arabs, the factors which unify this people, and the challenges to this unity, as well as the status of minority communities in the region. For a reading in which Rassam discusses issues of Identity and Ethnicity, click here.

Rachid Aadnani, The "Berber Issue" in North Africa
In this interview Rachid Aadnani, a scholar of Maghrebi (Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian) literature and the Amazigh (Berber) cultural movement who teaches Arabic at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, discusses the situation of the Amazigh populations of North Africa and, in particular, their efforts to sustain and revitalize their culture in the region. The Amazigh communities of the region are the indigenous inhabitants. Islam came to the region with the Islamic conquest in the 7th century, bringing with it the Arabic language. Because of its status as the language of Islam, its ability to function as a lingua franca for trade and commerce, and its strong literary and artistic tradition, Arabic became the main language in much of the region, especially in the cities. Arab and Amazigh communities also mixed to a degree that in urban areas over much of the region the two communities became indistinguishable. In rural areas, however, the inhabitants maintained their attachment to their culture and their language, Tamazight (the language also referred to as Berber). With colonization the French tried to exploit this division in policies that sought to divide the Tamazight-speaking communities from the Arabic-speaking ones, but it was only after the countries of the Maghreb achieved their independence from France that the issue became a real problem. All three countries of the Maghreb adopted an ideology that was exclusively Arab, adopting Arabic as the official language. It is this situation and the Tamazight-speaking communities response to it that Rachid Aadnani discusses in this interview.

Interview with Ali Mazrui on Arabs and Africa
Throughout his career, Ali A. Mazrui Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, has written extensively on the long history of connections between the Arab World and the African continent, coining the term “Afrabia” to describe what he sees as virtually organic and ancient links that are becoming stronger in the contemporary era. In this interview Mazrui discusses notions of “Africanity” and “Arabness” and, in particular the confluence of the two. He provides detailed examples of Arab influence on the African continent in terms of language, aesthetics, dress, and other areas. He also traces the diverging processes of Arabization and Islamization in Africa, offering some explanation as to how North Africa became part of the Arab World, while Sub-Saharan Africa did not.

Clip from the Tunisian film "A Summer in La Goulette" [Video Clip: 4 M]
is set in the resort town of La Goulette in Tunisia, just before the Six Day War between the Arabs and Israel. The story revolves around three friends, and Muslim, a Christian and a   more...

St. George's Church in Madaba, Jordan [Video Clip: 2 M]
St. George’s Church, often referred to in guide books as "The Church of the Mosaic Map of the Holy Land," has been in continual use since 1884. It was, however, built on the site of a much older Byzantine church and in it one can view a spectacular   more...

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