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panel discussion featuring Mohamed Asem, Dana Ghazi, Ramzy Farouki, and Dr. Priya Kapoor
July, 2016: Three days after the terror attack on Bastille Day, Mohamed Asem is detained overnight by British immigration officials without cause. In an elegantly digressive, self-interrogative style, Asem describes the boredom and uncertainty of confinement, and how this specific kind of helplessness leads, inevitably, to a self-reckoning. What series of events has led to this moment? As a teenager, he was stranded in Paris with his mother during the first Gulf War, while his father remained in Kuwait. He spent his twenties dutifully trying to follow the blueprint for manhood back home in the Middle East, only to cast it all aside after his mother’s early death. Stranger in the Pen examines the burden of being disconnected from one’s homeland, unpacks the emotional toll of racial profiling, and illuminates the quietly surprising ways in which grief can change one’s life.
The panel discussion will focus on the major themes addressed in Stranger in the Pen: immigration, detention, profiling, home (as a concept and how it is understood), sense of belonging to a place. Drawing from their far-reaching personal and professional lives, the panelists will help contextualize Asem’s book in the larger cultural moment.
Dana Ghazi – born in Syria, Ghazi has a background in conflict resolution, and is currently an Arabic mental health counselor at OHSU, providing direct mental health services to refugees and victims of torture and war.
Ramzy Farouki – the only child of Palestinian refugees, Farouki grew up in Kuwait and St Louis. He has been frequently detained, as he identifies very strongly as a Palestinian. A fiction writer, poet, and translator, he has also worked as a forest ranger, wildland firefighter, and a freelance architectural designer.
Dr. Priya Kapoor – associate professor of International Studies at PSU, with a focus on Asia. Social justice, Intersectionality, and Multiculturalism are frames for her research, teaching and community outreach work. Kapoor worked as a broadcast journalist in India, and is currently working collaboratively with students on a critical discourse analysis of court trial documents and the coverage in local newspapers of homegrown terrorism and the entrapment of a local Somali immigrant.
Mohamed Asem – author of Stranger in the Pen
*This event was made possible by a grant from the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition*