MENA x YAAA talk: “Defining MENA”

Event time: 
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - 4:00am to 5:30am
Linsly-Chittenden Hall (LC ), 101 See map
63 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Calendar Speaker/Performer: 
Thomas Simsarian Dolan
Event description: 

This talk will examine the Middle East as simultaneously a foreign policy and domestic concern for diaspora communities. Frequently, a site of ambiguity and contention within domestic law and international institutions, the census rollout of the category demands careful attention to historical nuances, long-standing community activism, and the pitfalls of any kind of institutionalization that excludes. Taking a deconstructive approach to race science, discriminatory US policies, and community voices, the talk will interrogate the historical record while affirming the necessity of a MENA category.

Thomas Simsarian Dolan is currently an American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices Fellow in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, and Faculty Affiliate in the University of Florida’s Center for Arts, Migration, and Entrepreneurship. His research focuses on MENA migrations across the Atlantic World, and especially the racialization of these migrants across academia, popular culture and the law. His work has been supported by a range of national research organizations, and he previously completed a year as a Fulbright US Teaching Scholar History at American University in Cairo, after earning degrees from George Washington University, NYU, and Yale.

In the past year, he has worked with a range of Arab, Armenian and Iranian American organizations to support the creation of a Census MENA category, and has offered expert testimony to the Census Bureau and Federal Interagency Working Group on Race and Ethnicity Standards multiple times. Notable current leadership positions include Academic Advisor to the MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition, Board Member of SAG-AFTRA’s National MENA Committee, and Co-Coordinator of the Critical SWANA Diaspora Studies section in the Association for Asian American Studies. He has also been active as an alumni leader: as a board member of the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors, Co-Chair of his 15-year reunion, and on the board of Yale GALA, Yale Arab Alumni Association, and Yale Whiffenpoofs. Last month, he was quoted in a landmark NYTimes article “No Box to Check: When the Census Doesn’t Reflect You,” and this month was featured discussing Shakira’s Arab roots on NPR’s 1A, and a Variety article “‘Dune 2’ Criticized for Lack of Middle Eastern and North African Inclusion and Influences: ‘A Missed Opportunity.’”