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This project is designed to create a digital oral history collection of the Arab-American community in central Ohio. This large community is diverse in its cultural, social, economic, linguistic and educational backgrounds and has been concentrated in cities like Columbus (e.g., Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Somalis), Dayton (Palestinian and Libyans), Toledo, Cleveland (Yamani, Lebanese, Syrians) and Dearborn, MI (Iraqis- Chaldeans, Assyrians-, Lebanese and now Syrians).

The goal of this project is to broaden understanding of Arab Americans and to bring visibility to their contributions to and engagement with their local communities. The project is based on face-to-face interviews and videos that have been digitized and archived to highlight the lives, activities and cultural practices of the migrant Arab-American community. Topics of these interviews will cover broad themes on mobility and migration, identity formation, cultural practices, family, food, clothes, etc.

The values of this project are many. On a general level, the project will enhance our students’ engagement with their surrounding local communities to build a sense of understanding and empathy. The project will also provide the Arab American community with cultural visibility and will introduce their values, norms and customs to a wider audience. On an academic level, this digital collection project will provide an open resource of lively pedagogical materials that will enhance and supplement the teaching and learning of various aspects of Arabs’ cultures within a formal classroom context.

This is an open resource that has potential for curricular integration by other Arabic programs within and beyond the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) consortium as well as other disciplines related to the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Finally, since this project is pedagogically oriented, and is based on students’ involvement, it aims at achieving the following specific academic/scholarly goals:

  1. Equip students with the skills necessary to conduct oral interviews, ask important questions, dig deeper with great follow up questions and critically think about claims and calls for action that dehumanize others.
  2. Develop students’ linguistic skills, both productive and interpretive. Students will continue building and developing their oral/aural skills to enhance their production and communication skills through conducting parts of the interviews in Arabic. Students will also continue practicing their listening skills and benefit immensely from the writing exercise through the process of interview transcription and translation.
  3. Develop student’s cultural competencies. The project fits right in with the ACTFL 5 Cs and the P21 framework (Partnership for 21st Century Skills). Students will learn best by doing the interviews and seeing the communities in Columbus. Then they can compare their research and interviews with other online resources.
  4. Extend scholarly opportunities for students to conduct field research in areas of their interest that have not been possible via regular course work.
  5. Offer MENA students the opportunity to fulfill their MENA experience requirement (equivalent to a study abroad program).