BenU forum compares struggles of Palestinians with blacks in U.S.

January 20, 2016

Lisle, Illinois ~ There are many parallels that can be drawn between the fight for civil rights among blacks in the United States and the struggle for equality among Palestinians in Israel, according to Maha Nassar, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona.

Nassar will explore this overlooked comparison with her presentation, “Shared Solidarities: Palestinians and Black Americans in the 1960s and Today,” at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 4, in Goodwin Hall, Room 321, as part of Benedictine University’s Global Studies Forum. The event is free and open to the public.

Drawing from Arabic and English sources, Nassar will show how transformations in communication and geopolitical shifts in the 21st century have led a growing number of black and Palestinian activists to see themselves as engaged in a shared, yet complex struggle for equality and justice.

One recent example includes a large social media response to the unrest that unfolded in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014. Using the Twitter handle, “#FromPalestinetoFerguson,” hundreds of Palestinians posted messages of support and advice about how to handle tear gas and rubber bullets, illustrating a growing sense of solidarity between the two groups.

A specialist in 1950s-‘60s Palestinian history, Nassar’s research seeks to uncover how intellectuals constructed and contested nationalist narratives

Her recently completed monograph, “Resisting Isolation: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World,” examines the ways in which Palestinian cultural producers in Israel positioned themselves within a Third World cultural and political milieu that extended far beyond the confines of the nation-state. By mapping the strategies they deployed, her book demonstrates the importance of Arabic newspapers and literary journals in fostering transnational communities of solidarity.

Nassar earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature at Benedictine University and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

The Global Studies forum brings outstanding speakers to campus to analyze current world events with faculty and students in a systematic and interdisciplinary way, and is sponsored by Benedictine’s College of Liberal Arts, the Global Studies major and funds from a Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Education grant.

For more information about the Global Studies Forum, contact Lynn Dransoff at (630) 829-6250 or


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, and the University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area.

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