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CCC Guest Speaker Series: Alia Malek

Alia Malek

In November 2020, the Community Change Collaborative (CCC) welcomed Alia Malek for a presentation and panel discussion with guests Katherine Randall, Nadine Sinno, and Jake Keyel. Professor Malek’s talk was entitled, “When Home is Unattainable, What Replaces it?” and the group explored questions regarding the meaning of home, as well as relevant local, national and international policies and programs, positive and negative, that affect refugees. The event was co-sponsored by VTIPG’s Community Change Collaborative, the VT Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies and the Center for Rhetoric in Society.

In 2015, Malek traveled from Greece to Germany with a group of Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war. The refugees whom she accompanied met while marooned on a raft together in the Aegean Sea. Each had fled a different part of Syria and they also came from different socio-economic classes. Their sights were set on seeking asylum in Sweden and the Netherlands. Some, however, were forced by circumstances to request asylum in Germany. Malek has been reporting on their lives and displacement as part of a 10-year project. Drawing on this work for her talk, Professor Malek considered what replaces the idea of home when home itself becomes unattainable and its permanence illusory.

Alia Malek is Director of the International Reporting Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, a journalist and a former civil rights lawyer. She is the author of A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives (Simon & Schuster 2009) and editor of Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices (McSweeney's 2011). With the Magnum Foundation and Al Liquidoi as collaborators, Alia edited and co-conceived EUROPA: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees, released in Europe in 2016. Her narrative nonfiction book, The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria, was published to acclaim in 2017. Her reportage has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy,, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, Jadaliyya, McSweeney’s, Guernica and other publications.

Katherine Randall is a PhD Candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing program at Virginia Tech and also volunteers as a medical coordinator for the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Nadine Sinno is currently an Associate Professor of Arabic and Director of the Arabic Language program at Virginia Tech. Dr. Jake Keyel is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation at Virginia Tech.

You can watch the presentation and panel with Alia Malek here, or on YouTube.