The Center for Arab American Studies (CAAS) at the University of Michigan-Dearborn encourages understanding of the history and experiences of Arab Americans and Arabic-speaking immigrants to the United States.
CAAS advocates this understanding through education, research, public outreach, and cultural exchange programs. In addition to offering a minor and a certificate in Arab American Studies, CAAS provides internship opportunities for students with professional, public, and community-based agencies. We foster community partnerships, encourage academic fellowships, and serve as a center for academic inquiry for scholars to investigate and share their work on the Arab American experience.
Ongoing CAAS Projects
Halal Metropolis Project
Halal Metropolis is a series of exhibitions that explores the facts, fictions and the imaginaries of the Muslim population(s) in Detroit and South-east Michigan as viewed through historical/archival research, documentation of current conditions, and explorations of future desires. The Halal Metropolis alludes to the established and growing Muslim population in Detroit and its metro area, one of the largest and most diverse Muslim populations in the U.S., whose visibility is both pronounced and extremely present in the city, yet whose narrative seems unusually silent in the larger Detroit story. The exhibition moves beyond wanting to simply illustrate or document the current state of this Halal Metropolis into exploring the congruent and contradicting ideas, aesthetics and cultures working to make the halal metropolis both a real and imaginary entity.
More information about the project and upcoming events can be found on the Halal Metropolis website.
Unsettled Lives documents the history of Iraqi migration to metro Detroit in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Attracted by Dearborn’s many Arabic speakers, mosques, and service organizations, as well as the affordable housing of Detroit, roughly 10,000 Iraqis have settled in Wayne County since the 1990s. Many we interviewed spent the years immediately following the war in the large refugee camp in Rafha, Saudi Arabia, which was set up in the aftermath of the failed uprising against Saddam Hussein. The bonds their families built in Rafha, and in other refugee centers in Syria, Jordan, and Iran, were renewed in Detroit as families slowly came together again in this new environment.
Building Islam in Detroit (BIID)
Building Islam in Detroit (BIID) is a research project that explores the development of mosques in Detroit over the last century. The site also explores the devotional forms, design vocabularies, identity practices, and historical narratives that make these collective spaces Muslim. The BIID project focuses on how these aspects have shaped Detroit’s Muslim American communities. Since it began in 2004, over a dozen scholars and artists, and hundreds of area Muslims, have participated in BIID.
Yemenis on the Great Lakes
Yemenis on the Great Lakes is a project that explores the journey of Yemeni Americans who have worked on the Great Lakes. The project will concentrate on their lives as working men, the hardships they faced throughout their journey, as well as the advantages and benefits they gained from working on the Great Lakes. The project will also focus on family members of those who worked on the Great Lakes, to gain their perspective on the journey.
Environmental Health Research to Action Initiative
Through this UM-Dearborn-led program, partners from across the state show local youth how to collect and present research when advocating for cleaner air, healthier communities.