You say MENA, I say SWANA. What’s in an Acronym?

Presented with:

Presented with UBC Middle East Studies

Every name is the affirmation of an identity and the erasure of another. This panel will explore the uses and abuses of terms that refer to a vast geographical region stretching from northwestern Africa to central Asia and home to diverse political, economic, ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities and cultures. These terms will be discussed in relation to their historical origins, political connotations, and social significance.


Dr. Pheroze Unwalla
Dr. Pheroze Unwalla is Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of History and Chair of the Middle East Studies program at the University of British Columbia. A historian of Turkey by training, he is currently working on the intersection of MES and SoTl and the creation of new pedagogical approaches and innovations in Middle East Studies.

Dr. Sarah Ann Knutson
Dr. Sara Ann Knutson is a historian and anthropological archaeologist working on the premodern world and an Assistant Professor of Teaching at UBC. Her work explores the connections between the Islamic World and Northern Eurasia including in the context of the “Silk Road.” Her current teaching and research projects examine the enduring influence of the ‘Abbāsid Caliphate in present-day Islamic cultural heritage, including through the many meanings attached to Islamic coins. Her previous research examined questions of religious change in Islam, ancient trade and exchange, materiality, and diasporas. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Salma Amer
Salma Amer is a social sciences researcher and communications instructor pursuing a PhD covering gender and race representations in contemporary Arab & Muslim cinema studies at Simon Fraser University. Her background as a journalist and producer entails working in the Middle East for local and international TV networks on long form political investigations, feature length documentaries and breaking news since 2010 in Egypt. Following a degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, her work has been centred in teaching and research at the American University in Cairo and SFU. Salma has also worked with refugee centres in Vancouver and Cairo in support of female refugees from North Africa dealing with the aftermath of forced immigration and their continued experiences of violence.

Meryem Belkadi
Meryem Belkadi is a Ph.D. candidate Vanier scholar at the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. Her PhD research investigates ways to improve the design and implementation of affordable housing policies in Morocco so that the risk of job loss or precarity post-displacement is mitigated and/or prevented. She also worked an architect and urban designer before starting her Ph.D. and have accumulated more than six years of professional experience in Morocco, South Africa and U.S.A.


Dr. Hicham Safieddine
Hicham Safieddine is Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. He is author of Banking on the State: The Financial Foundations of Lebanon (Stanford University Press, 2019) and editor of Arab Marxism and National Liberation: Selected Writings of Mahdi Amel (Leftword, 2022) Trans. Angela Giordani.


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Land Greetings



Meet our Jury



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 and Gifts
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Sunday, November 27, 2022
12:30 pm
Online Only
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Online Only