Scapes Faculty Conference

Scapes Conference

A Message from the Conference Chairperson

Reza Pirbhai

On behalf of the faculty of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to Doha.This is an especially momentous occasion for our institution as we celebrate ten years of academic excellence in the region and beyond—a decade in which we have hosted a variety of programs and conferences that represent both timely and meaningful scholarly discussions on topics of contemporary relevance. Such events have brought together leading academics and scholars from around the world, representative of a vast swath of disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. They have played a vital role in helping to educate the young in Qatar and connect the community at large with scholars and their multiple perspectives. This conference, titled Scapes of Power: A Critical Appraisal, builds upon and forwards that tradition.

The planning of this conference began as a series of conversations between myself, an Associate Professor of History, and a number of colleagues, particularly our Faculty Chair and Professor of History, Amira Sonbol, Assistant Professor of American Literature and Poetics, Amy Nestor, and the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Anne Nebel. Each of us felt that the School of Foreign Service in Qatar is uniquely placed, as a center of multidisciplinary study, to think beyond the disciplines in which we individually specialize and begin to consider the benefits and pitfalls of interdisciplinarity. Firat Orac, Assistant Professor of World Literatures, Jose Asturias, Assistant Professor of Economics, and Ahmad Alqassas, Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Linguistics, then joined the discussion and thus formed the Conference Working Committee. All members sharing the same interest in interdisciplinarity from the start, the first order of discussion was a topic that bridged our multiple disciplines. It required no more than one meeting to decide that if there is one thread that binds each of us in the Humanities and Social Sciences, it is the study of power. I relate these beginnings to highlight the fact that the planning of this conference has been a truly collaborative effort. Each member of the Conference Working Committee has contributed their time, energy and expertise in equal measure, and I owe each of them my heartfelt thanks and gratitude. The same is due from us members of the committee to the Chairs of each curricular group and other faculty members for their many recommendations in meeting our goal of interdisciplinarity. The committee owes no less to the administrative departments for so diligently giving our conference shape and exposure. And last but not least, countless thanks to our dean, Gerd Nonneman, whose enthusiastic and steadfast support from the first murmur of planning allowed the rest of us to assemble the group of luminary scholars now gathered to discuss the topic at hand.

What is power? How is it exercised and by whom? What changes over space and time? These are the central questions posed by this conference, and holistic answers can only be found by turning to a variety of disciplines. Yet, a multidisciplinary approach to the role of power in determining the efficacy of individual agency, collective action, institutions, non-human affect, and so forth, is not merely important to considerations of whether an interdisciplinary conception of power is possible. At this particular time and in this unique setting, understanding the varied manifestations of power, past and present, its holders and those disempowered, as well as the variety of ways in which scholars define power within their disciplines, is essential to preparing for the inevitable changes in the exercise and distribution of power to come. Thus, on behalf of all of us who have worked to make this gathering happen and those joining us in the audience, my final thanks must go to those of you who have journeyed from near and far to speak and  enlighten us with your perspectives.


Mohammed Reza Pirbhai
Chair, Conference Working Committee

Conference Working Committee: