West Shore Community College’s Humankind Series on the Middle East continues with journalist Robert Worth, author of A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS, on March 13, at 12 noon and 7 p.m., in the College’s Center Stage Theater.
Robert Worth, who writes for the “New York Times,” the “New York Review of Books,” and other magazines, will discuss his observations on events in the Middle East, integrating interviews and stories from people living and fighting there.
In its second year, WSCC’s Humankind series explores a different part of the world and a different topic each year. Brooke Portmann, Dean of Liberal Arts, explains, “Last year, we looked at West Africa and how science is conducted there, comparing cultural, ecological, and other influences that shape science in West Africa and how they shape it here in the U.S. and Michigan. This year, our focus is the Middle East. We are asking, ‘Who’s place is it?’ and we are attempting to look at it from multiple points of view—insiders and outsiders, residents and guests, friends and strangers. As we examine how diverse people in the Middle East experience these issues, we’re also looking at how anyone of us living here in the U.S. might be both insider and outsider, resident and guest.”
Portmann comments, “Answering questions about place and who ‘belongs’ in a country is complex. In almost any locale, who lives there has changed over time. So the series this year is also asking, ‘Why and how do any of us claim ‘rights’ to a location?’”
“In part, as we look at the Middle East with Robert Worth, we are exploring the question, ‘Who gets to decide how a place is governed?’ Clearly,” Portmann observes, “one of the take-aways from the Arab Spring is idealism gets you going, but it doesn’t sustain a new way of life. It is exciting to have Robert Worth here to be a witness and a reporter on how people there struggled to sustain a new way of life, and what they have done after attempts failed.”
Sean Henne, Professor of English and Education at WSCC, finds Worth compelling especially because of his storytelling ability, noting, “At its heart, our Humankind project is a storytelling endeavor.”
Henne explains, “What we are up to is trying to find, hear, and tell human stories from many different perspectives so that we can better understand the key issues facing us as a species. Robert Worth is, above all, a master collector and teller of poignant stories. His book, “A Rage for Order,” relates the 2011 Arab Spring beautifully and powerfully through the lenses of folks who experienced its heady exhilarations and crushing defeats.” More than that, Henne notes, “Worth’s skill at listening to and incorporating interview content is invaluable to our students at WSCC who are just beginning to explore that technique.”
Worth has been a two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award and won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Arthur Ross book Award given by the Council on Foreign Relations for his book.
“We are both pleased and honored that Robert Worth is a part of our exploration this year about the Middle East,” comments President Scott Ward. “I am excited that we’re offering these opportunities through our Humankind Series to our community and students. In addition to his two public presentations, Worth will also work with students in our composition classes on how to conduct interviews and weave people’s stories seamlessly into writing, a skill, as Professor Henne describes, is as powerful as they come.”
Books are available for purchase and will be signed by the author. Both presentations are free and open to the public.
The Humankind Series will close the year on April 16, with Lucian Stone, professor of philosophy at South Dakota University. Stone will first present at 12:30 p.m., in the Center Stage Theater, “The Middle East Does Not Exist: A Cosmopolitan Reckoning,” examining whether a specific “Middle Eastern” identity is possible. At 6 p.m., at Manistee’s Vogue Theater, the movie “A Moment of Innocence” will be shown followed at 7:45 p.m., by Stone’s presentation, “Personhood, Identity, and Change,” exploring how people, whether from the Middle East or the US, evolve and change who they are.
Check out the series’ Facebook page or contact Brooke Portmann at 231-843-5866 for further information.