The newly established Association for the Study of Middle East and Africa, established only six months ago, held its inaugural conference in Washington DC 24-26, 2008. The "non-partisan, non-profit academic society [was] founded with the goal of providing an interdisciplinary response to the burgeoning interest in the fields of Middle Eastern studies, African studies and related disciplines..." It's website is http://www.asmeascholars.org/ . Its academic council includes: Bernard Lewis, Fouad Ajami, Leslie Gelb, Victor Davis Hanson, Richard Gelb, Robert Leiber, Fedwar Malti-Douglas, George Schultz and Kenneth Stein.
The following panels and presenters addressed the conference theme of Evolution of Islamic Politics, Philosophy and Culture in the Middle East and Africa: From Traditional Limits to Modern Extremes.]
Panel themes included: Islamic Politics, Philosophy and Culture: Theological and Practical Traditons; Religious Obligation, Political Expression or Post-Modern Development; The New Jihad; Religion Tribalism, Nationalism or Profit: Explaining the Current Instability in Africa; The Middle East and Africa; Regional Case Studies; The Role of Islam in Politics: Regional Case Studies; A Closer Look: Approached to the Apocalyptic Politics of Modern Jihadism; Mediating and Other Influences in Societies Influenced by Islam; Current Trends in the Middle East and Africa: Regional Case Studies.
Dr. Bernard Lewis offered his thoughts on Studying the Other: Different Ways of Looking at the Middle East and Africa. Other presenters included: Philip Carl Salzman, David B. Cook, Norman Stillman, Edward T. Barrett, Terence Kleven, Sherko Kirmanj, Robert Barnidge, Jr., Joseph C. Myers, J. Peter Pham, Richard F. Vercauteren, Michael Vlahos, Kim Sheinbaum, G. Mark Jones, Hamid Kusha, Ofira Seliktar, Daniel J. Law, Tristan James Mabry, John R. Schindler, Timothy Furnish, George L. Simpson, Walid Phares, Meddi Khalaji, Raymond Ibrahim, Kemel Silay, Liora Lukitz, Patrick Clawson, Sara-Jane Chehab, Dalit Atrachi, Richard Saccone, Benjamin Acosta, Maryam Ben Salem, Derek Catsam.
Commenting on ASMEA's inaugural conference, ASMEA President Prof. Mark T. Clark, Director of the National Security Studies at California State University San Bernadino said, "In our inaugural effort, ASMEA gathered over 200 scholars from around the world to discuss pressing issues of concern to the academic and policy communities. That we managed to attract so many participants just six months after opening our doors speaks to the hunger for unbiased scholarship in academia.
"ASMEA now counts some 500 members from 40 countries and over 35 academic disciplines. Our immediate goal is to continue expanding the organization in terms of members and services. Among other things, we hope to publish an annual journal, provide funds for research, stage regional conferences, and generally promote the good efforts of our members in order to make ASMEA the academic society of choice for those concerned with the Middle East and Africa."
Dr. Ed Beck attended this inaugural conference on behalf of SPME and expressed his hopes and desires that there can be cooperative and collaborative relations with ASMEA and encourages all of SPME's members who are actively engaged in Middle Eastern and African studies to support this new academic society.