College of the Canyons professor, activist and scholar Dr. Ali Akbar Mahdi will present a sociological analysis of the century long history of political challenges, regional crises and ongoing hostilities associated with United States interests in the region, during the spring 2013 Scholarly Presentation “The U.S. in the Middle East: A Century of Friendship and Hostility,” taking place April 17, at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The presentation will begin with a geographical explanation of the region being discussed, as well a brief overview of the United States’ historical background with several key Middle Eastern nations, including Iran, Iraq, Israel.
“The United States has been involved in the Middle East since the late 19th century,” said Mahdi. “Whether it be establishing a military footing in the region, attempting to engineer social change, or simply securing an interest in the region’s vast oil reserves, the U.S. has had longstanding interests in maintaining its influence in this part of the world.”
Mahdi will then discuss several of the most current, and politically relevant, issues facing the United States in the region today, including some of the altering points of view and criticisms other nations point to concerning contradictions of the current U.S. foreign policy in the region.
“The Middle East is a diverse region in which our continued interests face serious challenges as we approach countries with different traditions, cultures, and national interests,” Mahdi said. “Our policies and relationships in the Middle East have often appeared contradictory, and as a result the U.S. is sometimes viewed as hypocritical.”
Other topics/areas of focus will include: the Iranian nuclear program; ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; Islamic extremists and jihadist groups; the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the U.S. response to Arab Spring and current challenges in countries like Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain.
“It is clear that the United States has had to deal with numerous regional crises, contradictory demands from allies, and difficult challenges from forces opposed to our presence in the region,” Mahdi said. “As a result, the U.S. engagement in the Middle East has become much more tasking than ever imagined. So today we find ourselves in a very difficult situation.”
Mahdi is a critical sociologist specializing in the political economy of change, gender, and development in the Middle East. He received his Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Sociology from Michigan State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from The National University of Iran, in Tehran.
In addition to teaching at College of the Canyons, Mahdi is an adjunct faculty member at California State University, Northridge and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University. He has also taught at Michigan State University, Adrian College, and Central State University.
Mahdi is a former recipient of Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award at Ohio Wesleyan University (2008), Marvin E. Olsen Service Award from the North Central Sociological Association (1994), Teaching Excellence Award from Michigan Sociological Association (1990), the Sears Foundation Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award at Adrian College (1990), and Excellence-in-Teaching Citation Award at Michigan State University (1983).
He has authored books including “Culture and Customs of Iran” (co-author), “Sociology in Iran”(co-author), "Sociology of the Iranian Family,” and “Iranian Culture, Civil Society, and Concern for Democracy” and has written numerous articles and reviews on topics ranging from sociology of knowledge to the political economy of Iran and Islam.
In addition, Mahdi is regularly interviewed by American and Middle Eastern media, supplying expert opinion and commentary to journalists from a wide range of news programs and print publications.
He is a frequent public lecturer, and has also served as the executive director of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis, Editor of Michigan Sociological Review, and President of Michigan Sociological Association.
The College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation “The U.S. in the Middle East: A Century of Friendship and Hostility,” will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, on the main stage of the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.
Admission to this event is free and open to the public. Seating will begin 30 minutes prior to the program’s start time, and is available on a first come, first served basis. Attendees can park for free in college lots 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, located off Rockwell Canyon Road adjacent to the PAC.