Joubin is proud of the community students have built, and when they find common ground, it’s magical.
Associate Professor of Arab Studies Rebecca Joubin is spending part of her summer (2015) in Lebanon with her eight-year-old daughter. She is meeting with a group of Syrians who are in exile and working on dramas set in Syria. Before joining Davidson in 2009 to lead the department of Arab studies, she lived and conducted research in Syria for close to a decade.

Joubin’s research is centered on gender studies and how topics of identity, family and social relationships are portrayed in contemporary Syrian art and the media. She also studies how the art forms of television drama, film and theatre create opportunities for open discussion on issues that would not otherwise be socially and politically permissible. Her summer research will expand this focus to include the role of art in revolution.

“Media images of violence and war in Syria leaves so much out,” said Joubin. “The media doesn’t portray the vibrant artistic community in Syria, which struggles to survive. Despite the current devastation, humor reigns in the Arabic language and provides an outlet for socio-political critique. I love to share these important parts of Syrian culture with my students both inside and outside the classroom.”

Joubin’s research and teaching are wholly intertwined, with upper level Arab studies courses focusing on politics and gender in Syrian art, culture and media. She has used her connections with the art community there to bring memorable experiences to Davidson. One artist painted with students using joint canvases. Authors have come to her classrooms and given campus talks.

“The arts are so unifying,” said Joubin, who says this introduction of the arts leads to an understanding of the region’s dialects, making connection building much easier when students travel to the Arab world with an understanding of people and culture. “My own research agenda and fieldwork helps me encourage students from early on to travel to the region, immerse themselves in the societies there and conduct unique research.”

The Arab studies major is housed in the college’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Arab Studies minors explore a wide variety of fields. What this means is that they all bring their unique perspectives to her classrooms. Attesting to the interdisciplinary nature of studies at Davidson, the seven Arab Studies minors who have received Fulbrights in the past six years to conduct research or teach in the Arab world have had majors in various other departments.

“We are a very diverse and close community,” she said. “Courses attract international students and a diverse American population. We always find common ground, and it’s actually magical. The community the students build together is something they are proud to be a part of, and I’m very proud of their generous spirit and how much they support each other.”

Joubin also encourages students to take ownership of the department. One student works as the Arab Studies cultural coordinator. They come together for dinners and other cultural events. Some students participate in what Joubin calls “peer practice” through the Center for Teaching and Learning. Looking ahead, students have requested classes in Persian, and she is working with the Middle East and North African Student Association to hold student research presentations and pull in peers from other departments. The still-evolving department is moving full speed ahead, and students are embracing the experience under Joubin’s leadership.

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