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Director's Message

Dear CMENAS Community,

We are delighted to finally commemorate the CMENAS@60 milestone. At its founding in 1961, the center’s mission was to promote area knowledge through scholarship and teaching, and CMENAS became one of the leading nodes in an emerging system of knowledge production, called “area studies.” It was the era of the Cold War and national independence movements in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Area studies was in its infancy, and scholars across the country had come to believe that rigorous research and knowledge of global regions was needed, with a renewed emphasis on accuracy, context, and knowledge of languages. 

The intervening 60 years are what we wish to understand and commemorate here, but there are many ways to explore and mark an anniversary like this. I’m proud to say that the CMENAS team on campus made the decision to honor the people who made (and make) CMENAS what it is over the decades. Using an oral history approach, we’re partnering with the Bentley Historical Library to archive and share the past by first collecting stories of, from, and about our people, both living and dead, who came together around the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, who wrote a chapter of their life at UM and contributed to the Center’s six decades. 

We begin this commemoration mindful of our moment in history and the hardships of the pandemic. Due to the constraints of the pandemic at UM and globally, and after much deliberation, we’ve decided we’re going to take it slow: While focusing on stories now, we will give ourselves and everyone else time. We will extend our CMENAS@60 commemorations beyond the calendrically-relevant 2021, in order to honor this milestone properly and ensure the involvement of our intellectual community in a series of appropriately-funded retrospective events. We will keep you updated on this website as plans develop in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

For now, our historical moment calls upon CMENAS to draw on the inspiration of the people who contributed to the CMENAS hive of activity over the years. This is our intellectual community, constituting thousands of faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors -- worldwide -- whose memories and stories demand preservation and the attention of researchers in the decades ahead. In partnership with the Bentley, we actively seek out your stories -- your photos, experiences, and memories -- whatever they may be. These stories will inform and position us together to sort through the past and meet the challenges of the future. So, call upon your inner storyteller and reach out to us, and contribute to our CMENAS oral history project.


Kind regards,

Samer Ali
Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature
CMENAS Director