Clarke Initiative Header Image Short

Conferences, Lectures, and Other Events

Brooklyn College

February 8, 2017, 6:00pm, Cornell Law School

Mostafa Bayoumi is the author of two critically acclaimed books, How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, and This Muslim-American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror, both winners of the Arab-American Book Award for Non-Fiction. Bayoumi is an accomplished journalist and a columnist for The Guardian. He has been featured on media outlets from around the globe.

(Back to Top)

Syria and the Middle East: Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers in Long-Term Global Crises May 4, 2016
Cornell Law School

More than four years after the start of the Syrian conflict, refugees now number in the millions and face increasingly desperate circumstances. Tragically, the Syrian refugee population only adds to the waves of displacement in the Middle East in the modern era stemming from conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other neighboring countries. 

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special Envoy to Syria, along with panelists Alex Aleinikoff and Lisel Hintz and moderator Chantal Thomas, highlighted the challenges of protracted conflict and displacement March 22, 2016 at a roundtable discussion in Myron Taylor Hall.

Chantal Thomas is a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and director of the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa. Alex Aleinikoff is a former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and a Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia University. Lisel Hintz is a postdoctoral fellow at the Einaudi Center. 

The event was hosted by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Berger Center for International Legal Studies, and the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa. 

To view this event, please click here.

(Back to Top)

Beyond Survival: Livelihood Strategies for Refugees in the Middle East

November 4-6, 2015

Cornell Law School

The conference, "Beyond Survival: Livelihood Strategies for Refugees in the Middle East," was hosted by the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, and co-sponsored by Cornell University Law School, Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division, and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative. The aim of the conference was to engage academics and practitioners in a multi-disciplinary exploration of strategies to improve short and long term livelihood opportunities for refugees in the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin. Discussions focused on evidence-based interventions for overcoming legal barriers and policy impediments to refugees' access to education, health care and work. The conference also sought to draw attention to the role that universities can play to help improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers at a time of surging global population displacement crises.

Photos and information about participants and speakers can be found here.

(Back to Top)

Incremental Success:  African Constitutionalism and Islam

PROFESSOR ABDULLAHI AHMED AN-NA'IM Charles Howard Candler, Professor of Law

April 18th, 2014 Room 390 Myron Taylor Hall, Cornell Law School

The Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, in Collaboration with the Institute for Comparative Modernities and The Institute for African Development is proud to support a seminar on African Constitutionalism and Islam.

Constitutional governance is increasingly becoming common in Africa. However, the process of implementing constitutionalized forms of government is fraught with challenges. One such challenge is reconciling constitutional law and religious principles. Recent developments highlight a role for Islam in the process of adaptation of the concept of the secular state.

The featured keynote speaker for this event is Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, an internationally recognized scholar of Islam and human rights and human rights in cross-cultural perspectives. Professor An-Na'im is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory Law, associated professor in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences and faculty affiliate at the Emory University Center for Ethics. Senior Faculty Fellow; Center for the Study of Law and Religion; Senior Fellow, Center for Ethics, Emory University.His recent projects include a study of American Muslims and the secular state, and of human rights, universality and sovereignty.

Professor An-Naim will discuss recent constitutional developments in Africa and its broader relationship to Islam. He will examine the incremental successes that some African nations have achieved in recent years which reveal a potentially crucial role for Islam in the development of constitutionalism. The seminar will examine these recent success stories and highlight the role of Muslims as potential agents for adapting constitutionalism to the values and practices of their own societies. Although, Islam's role in these endeavors will remain open to challenges and should not be presumed to be perfect. However, critical examination of these issues will determine the long-term sustainability of constitutionalism in Africa.

(Back to Top)

The Next FourYears in Counterterrorism Policy

Monday, March 25, 2013 – 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Room 285, Myron Taylor Hall

The Clarke Initiative hosted a panel discussion on the future of Obama Administration's approach to counterterrorism policies.

The Obama Administration in many ways resembles its predecessor on counterterrorism policies. These include the characterization of the fight against al-Qaeda as a "war" rather than crime-fighting, the continued detention of suspected terrorists without trial, maintaining overseas prisons, use of drones in countries with which the U.S. is not at war, targeted assassinations often upon American citizens, increased surveillance and secrecy etc.

Do these measures have the effect of normalizing extra-constitutional checks justified by an apparently novel "war"? Or is America experiencing an extraordinary constitutional revolution that is checking and legitimating presidential power? Has President Barack Obama institutionalized and legitimated aspects of his predecessor's approach, or has he made significant changes?


The panelists discussed a range of issues including Guantanamo, rendition, government secrecy and accountability for past abuses, drone warfare, and targeted assassinations.


Panel discussion moderated by Chantal Thomas (Cornell Law School).

Sarah Kreps, Cornell Department of Government

Jens Ohlin, Cornell Law School

Aziz Rana, Cornell Law School

Wadie Said, University of South Carolina Law

(Back to Top)

Workshop on Law, Revolution and Reform in the Arab World

April 20-21, 2012

This workshop will consider constitutional, legal and political aspects of ongoing transitions (or transition efforts) in the Arab world. 2011 saw profound uprisings, struggles, and transformative moments in several nations of the region, linked to remarkable popular movements. These movements framed their cause at least in part in the language of law, calling for the institution of the rule of law against corrupt and antidemocratic regimes. Against these revolutionary and reformist movements, counterrevolutionary and counterreformist dynamics increasingly manifested themselves as 2011 wore on.

The workshop will assess the contours of these vocabularies of resistance, and their relationship to structures of governance.The objective of the workshop is to support new and interdisciplinary approaches to these questions amongst scholars of law and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. As such, the participants comprise a vibrant group of scholars from law and the social sciences.

We anticipate that participants will place the events of 2011 in the region in a variety of analytical contexts, investigating the ways in which current dynamics of legal and political change are shaped, enabled or constrained by histories of authoritarianism, legal modernization initiatives, and social movements such as organized labor, women's movements, and Islamist movements.


A gap exists in the literature for studies of legal modernization in the Middle East and North Africa such as the one proposed by this conference.

It is still the case that most scholarship of law in the Arab world centers on Islamic law and questions that are internal to it, focusing on theological matters and medieval history. This genre, eminently worthy in its own right, often does not engage with the modern history and politics of the region, whose legal systems actually reflect complex negotiations across a variety of juridical styles and provenances.

This gap in the literature is unfortunate, because the study of law and the modern history of legal change in the region yields richly textured results. In the legal systems of today's Arab world, we find structures and debates informed not only by Islamic perspectives, but also by the Western legal traditions that influenced the region's early modern legislation and codification efforts (primarily Napoleonic but also from German civil law and British common law); postcolonial and developmental politics; the more recent "good governance" and Washington Consensus-style legal and regulatory reforms; and contemporary human rights campaigns.


Invitees to this spring 2012 workshop will present works-in-progress. The 2012 workshop will consider putting together a detailed framework for an edited volume, for which the participants would reconvene for a conference the following academic year of 2012-2013, which would feature finished drafts, which would thereafter be prepared for publication.

For these reasons, the objective of this conference is to further the research of scholars doing exciting new work on these topics, with the goal of generating a productive and useful contribution to academic work on the region.



  • Chantal Thomas, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
    J.D. Harvard
  • Aziz Rana, Assistant Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
    J.D. Yale, PhD Harvard

Confirmed participants include:

  • Asli Bâli, Acting Professor, UCLA School of Law
    J.D. Yale, PhD Princeton
  • Shiva Balaghi, Fellow, Brown University Cogut Center for the Humanities
    PhD, University of Michigan
  • Omar Dajani, Professor of Law, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific
    J.D. Yale
  • Mona El Ghobashy, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Barnard College
    PhD, Columbia
  • Rabab El Mahdi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, American University in Cairo
    PhD, McGill University
  • Ellis Goldberg, Professor of Political Science and International Studies, University of Washington
    PhD, UC Berkeley
  • Lisa Hajjar, Associate Professor, University of California-Santa Barbara
    PhD, American University
  • Darryl Li, PhD candidate, Harvard
  • Asem Khalil, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Public Administration, Birzeit University
    PhD in Public Law, University of Fribourg
  • Marc Michael, Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Cambridge.
    M.Phil, University of Cambridge;
    B.A., Yale University
  • Zina Miller, PhD candidate, Tufts University
    J.D. Harvard
  • Tamir Moustafa, Associate Professor and Stephen Jarislowsky Chair, Simon Fraser University
    PhD, University of Washington
  • Moria Paz, Stanford Law School
    SJD, Harvard
  • Amr Shalakany, Associate Professor of Law, American University in Cairo
    SJD, Harvard
  • Raef Zreik, Visiting Fellow, Minerva Humanities Center, Tel Aviv University
    SJD, Harvard

The workshop will also be joined by several Cornell University colleagues, including:

  • Golnoosh Hakimdavar LL.M. Candidate, Cornell Law School
  • Salah Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor and Director of the Africana Studies and Research Center
  • David Stephan Powers, Professor, Near Eastern Studies Department
  • Eric Tagliacozzo, Associate Professor, History Department

(Back to Top)

Labor and Migration in the Middle EastMarch 16-17, 2012

The Clarke Initiative is partnering with the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and the journal Middle East Law and Governance to host a conference on migration in the Middle East and North Africa, March 16-17, 2012, at the University of Toronto.

This workshop, also supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, will feature interdisciplinary research by an international group of scholars addressing the theme of labour and migration in the Middle East.This topic is of growing concern given the enormity of human rights violations that can and do occur against migrant labourers in the region.

Papers will be published in an upcoming volume of Middle East Law and Governance.

The symposium will bring together scholars of labour and migration in order to:

  • Increase comparative understanding of the dynamics peculiar to the region;
  • Develop theoretical rigor in the study of labour and migration in the Middle East; and
  • Appreciate how the regional dynamics of the Middle East contribute to the broader study of labour and migration.

Commentators from the University of Toronto will include Joseph Carens and Audrey Macklin. Symposium presenters and topics will include:

  • Philippe Fargues, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute
    The Governance of International Migration in the Arab Region and Its Challenges
  • Ray Jureidini, Department of Social Sciences, Lebanese American University
    : The Kafala Sponsorship System and State Complicity in Labour Trafficking
  • Kevin Kolben,Rutgers Business School
    : The U.S.-Jordan Trade Agreement and Its Effects on Trade, Labour and Development
  • Pardis Mahdavi, Department of Anthropology, Pomona College
    : The "Traffick" in Parenting: Motherhood, Forced Labour, and Deportability in Dubai
  • Guy Mundlak & Hila Shamir, Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law
    Topic: Spheres of Migration: Migrant Labour in Israel/Palestine
  • Nasra K. Shah, Kuwait University Faculty of Medicine
    : Trends, Patterns and Policies Regarding Employment of Asian Labour Migrants in GCC Countries
  • Chantal Thomas, Cornell Law School|
    : Migration, Sovereignty and Territoriality: Implications of Trends in the Middle East and North Africa
  • David Weissbrodt, University of Minnesota School of Law
    : An Assessment of United Nations Work with Migrants and Refugees

(Back to Top)

Forces Without Borders: Non-State Actors in a Changing Middle EastFebruary 17-18, 2012

The Clarke Initiative is pleased to support as a co-sponsor the Cornell International Law Journal symposium, "Forces Without Borders: Non-State Actors in a Changing Middle East," at Cornell Law School on February 17-18, 2012. The objective of the conference: to bring together scholars and commentators from around the world to consider the role and legal status of non-state actors in the recent historic events in the Middle East and North Africa.  More information on speakers, programs and papers can be found here.

(Back to Top)

Water Scarcity and Policy in the Middle East and Mediterranean

November 4-6, 2011

The Clarke Initiative hosted a conference on water law and governance in the Middle East and Mediterranean at Cornell Law School on November 4-6, 2011.

Furthering the Clarke Initiative's commitment to interdisclipinary scholarship and research, this conference brought together organizations across campus, and was co-sponsored by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, and the Mediterranean Initiative of the Cornell Institute for European Studies. Participants traveled from Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Spain, and Tunisia; and presentations drew from law, political science, sociology, cultural studies, and engineering.


(Back to Top)

AUC-Cornell Forum on Global Legal Education

June 18-20, 2010

The Clarke Initiative hosted a delegation of Cornell legal experts in Cairo on June 18-20, 2010.

Activities of the delegation included a private session with the Hon. Margaret Scobey, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt , and US Embassy human rights attachés to discuss the rule of law and human rights in Egypt; meetings at the Egyptian Ministry of Justice and Commercial Courts to discuss commercial legal reforms in Egypt; and meetings with the NGO AMIDEAST to discuss reforms in legal education in Egypt.

The Cornell delegation also participated in a special session on global legal education with counterparts from the  American University in Cairo, with which Cornell Law School has a new exchange program.

Workshop participants included:

  •     Professor Greg Alexander, Cornell Law School
  •     Dr. Lisa Anderson, Provost, American University in Cairo (AUC)
  •     Dr. Nabil El-Araby, Former Judge, International Court of Justice
  •     Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Dean, AUC School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
  •     Dr. Aly El-Ghatit, Editor, Revue Egyptienne du Droit International
  •     Dr. Taher Helmy, Partner, Baker McKenzie Cairo
  •     Professor Outi Korhonen, American University in Cairo Department of Law
  •     Professor Jens Ohlin, Cornell Law School
  •     Professor Jeff Rachlinski, Cornell Law School
  •     Dean Stewart Schwab, Cornell Law School
  •     Professor Amr Shalakany, American University in Cairo Department of Law
  •     Professor Thomas Skouteris, American University in Cairo Department of Law
  •     Professor Chantal Thomas, Cornell Law School

(Back to Top)

Modernization and Development in the Middle East, Africa, and Beyond: New Studies in the Household and the Market

Apr. 9-10, 2010

The Clarke Initiative is pleased to co-sponsor this 2-day event at Cornell University, along with Cornell’s Near Eastern Studies Department, the Harvard Law School Program on Law and Social Thought, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.A full program can be found here.

Speakers include:

Mounira Charrad, University of Texas at Austin - Common Heritage of the Maghrib

Hani Sayed, American University in Cairo's Faculty of Law - The Family and the Market in Law and Development

Lilia Labidi, University of Tunis - The Nature of Transnational Alliances in Women's Associations in the Maghreb: The Case of Afturd and Atfd in Tunisia

Elizabeth Anker, Cornell University - Women's Rights and the Alibi of Self-Determination in Nawal El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero

Hila Shamir, Tel Aviv University - The State of Care: Rethinking the Distributive Effects of Familial Care Policies in Liberal Welfare States

David Powers, Cornell University - Muhammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men

Janet Halley, Harvard Law School - Family Law in America: A Genealogy

Fernanda Nicola, American University Washington College of Law (Commentator) - Family Law Exceptionalism in Comparative Law

Isabel Jaramillo, Universidad de los Andes (Commentator) - The Social Approach in Family Law: A Study of the Family Treatise Tradition of Latin America

Chantal Thomas, Cornell Law School (Moderator) - The Economic Family in a Global Context of Inequality and Instability - A Case study of African Migrant Domestic Workers in Egypt

(Back to Top)


A Conference on Human Rights: Theory, Narrative, Post-ColonialityOct. 16-17, 2009

The Clarke Initiative seeks to support and engage with interdisciplinary discourse of relevance to law and development. As part of this objective, the Clarke Initiative was pleased to co-sponsor a conference at Cornell University on the crucially important topic of human rights. The conference, organized by the English Department, brought together noted authorities from both law, and literary and cultural studies, to investigate aspects of emerging human right discourse. A full program can be found here: (PDF)

Description of the Conference, "Human Rights: Theory, Narrative, Postcoloniality"
The philosophical, political, and legal construct of human rights has recently inspired significant debate among literary, cultural, and other theorists, especially in terms of rights' status within post-colonial societies. While human rights have become the world's dominant language for pursuing social justice, their globalization to the non-western world has not been without substantial costs. At the same time, various critics have posited the intimate relationship of literature to human rights, calling attention to how narrative enacts individual and communal recovery, as well as naturalizes the broader ideals accompanying rights.

This day and a half conference will investigate from multiple disciplinary perspectives these and related questions about human rights with particular emphasis on theoretical approaches to rights. The conference begins Friday afternoon with a keynote address, followed by a reception. Saturday's events include morning and afternoon sessions, a round-table discussion, and a concluding reception.

Speakers include:

Homi Bhabha, Harvard University (keynote) - "Affects and Interests: Some Thoughts on the Culture of Human Rights"
Elizabeth Anker, Cornell University - "Taking Paradox Seriously: Toward an Embodied Theory of Human Rights"
Joseph Slaughter, Columbia University - "Pathetic Fallacies, or, A Drinkard's Vision of Human Rights"
Pheng Cheah, U.C. Berkeley - "Acceptable Uses of People"
Peter Fitzpatrick, School of Law, Birbeck College, University of London - "Necessary Deceptions: Indigenous Claims and the Humanity of Rights"
Chantal Thomas, Cornell Law School - Chair of the Clarke Initiative for the Middle East and North Africa
Grant Farred, Cornell Africana Studies and English - Chair

(Back to Top)

Conference for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa:

Identifying New Directions in Research
September 11-12, 2009

View Photos of the Conference

The Clarke Initiative is proud to announce a two-day conference for Law and Development in the Middle East. During Sept. 11-12, Cornell Law School, hosting Middle East scholars from the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and from our own Cornell community, who will explore new directions in research for law and development in the Middle East and North Africa.

On Friday, Sept. 11, the Law School will host a public lecture on Islam and Democracy, delivered by Prof. Mohammad Fadel from the University of Toronto Law School, with commentary provided by Prof. David Patel from Cornell's Department of Government and chaired by Prof. David Powers from Cornell's Near Eastern Studies Department. This conference will be held in Room G85, Myron Taylor Hall (the Law School).

On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Law School will host an all-day conference with speakers from universities across the US, and from as far away as Birzeit University, the University of Tel Aviv, and the American University in Cairo; several speakers are also from such international organizations as the United Nations Development Programme, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for the Study of United Nations Systems. The conference will include individual panelists as well as round-table discussions. Topics will include, among others, an exploration of different frameworks for law and development in the Middle East and North Africa; legal frameworks for the Islamic world; law and development in Palestine; a case-study of Egypt; and the role of the city in the legal development of the Middle East.

The participants for the second day of the conference are:
Amr Shalakany (American University in Cairo)
Alvaro Santos (Georgetown Law Center)
Asem Khalil(Birzeit University)
Linda Mansour (National Lawyers' Guild)
Zina Miller (Tufts University)
Raef Zreik (Georgetown Law Center)
Shiva Balaghi (Brown University)
Yishai Blank (University of Tel Aviv)
Annelise Riles (Cornell Law School)
Aziz Rana (Cornell Law School)
Jerry Frug (Harvard Law School)
Mitchell Lasser (Cornell Law School)
Chantal Thomas (Clarke Initiative Chair, Cornell Law School)
Ziad Fahmy (Cornell)
Adel Abdellatif (Chief of the United Nations Development Programme's Regional Programme Division for the Regional Bureau of Arab States)
Yassin El-Ayouty (Center for the Study of United Nations Systems and the Global Legal Order)
Sital Kalantry (Cornell Law School)

View Photos of the Conference

For more information about Saturday's conferences, please contact Dawne Peacock at (607) 255- 5978.  

(Back to Top)