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Alia Malek, Director of the International Reporting Program at the Craig Newmark

Graduate School of Journalism
March 24, 2020

When Home is Unattainable, What Replaces it?
Public Lecture and Roundtable Featuring Alia Malek

Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM · Fralin Hall Auditorium 
360 W. Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

6:00 PM - 6:30 PM: Refreshments

6:30 PM - 7:30 PM: Public Lecture Featuring Alia Malek
In 2015, Malek traveled from Greece to Germany with a group of Syrians fleeing their country’s disintegration. The refugees had met while marooned on the same raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Each of them came from a different part of Syria and from different socio-economic classes. Their sights were set on making it to Sweden and the Netherlands. Some of them would be forced to ask for asylum in Germany. Since then, Malek has been reporting on their lives and displacement across these three countries as part of a 10 year reporting project. Drawing on this work, she will consider what replaces the very idea of home when home itself becomes unattainable and its permanence illusory.

7:30 PM - 8:30 PM: Panel Moderated by Katherine Randall with Alia Malek, Jake Keyel and Nadine Sinno
How can working with displaced populations be a mutually enriching experience, rather than one of “saving” others? Panelists will discuss the refugee experience from a variety of perspectives.


Alia Malek is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy,, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, Jadaliyya, McSweeney’s, Guernica and other publications.

She is the author of two books: “The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria” and “A Country Called Amreeka: U.S History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives. She also served as the editor of “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices” and “EUROPA أوروپا : An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees.”

Born in Baltimore to Syrian immigrant parents, Alia began her legal career as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. She has worked in the legal field in the United States, Lebanon and the West Bank.

Katherine Randall volunteers as a medical coordinator for the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, and is also a PhD Candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing program at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation work focuses on medical resettlement for refugees in the United States, specifically looking at how health communication works through community volunteers. She is most recently from Florida (she’s just barely gotten used to Blacksburg winter), though she considers Charleston, South Carolina home. She, her husband, their four-year-old daughter, and their three cats have lived in Blacksburg since 2016. Currently she enjoys both cross-stitching and watching YouTube videos about how to be good at cross-stitching.

Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Nadine Sinno is currently an Associate Professor of Arabic and Director of the Arabic program at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include modern Arabic literature and cultural studies. More specifically, her research explores Arab and Muslim feminisms (including representations of Muslim women in literature and film, Muslim mothering, and Arab women’s war diaries), gender and sexuality, and visual culture. She has experience interpreting for Iraqi, Sudanese, and Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the United States.

Jake Keyel received his PhD in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization program in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. His research interests include critical migration and refugee studies, democratic theory, and global ethics. Prior to enrolling at Virginia Tech, he worked for five years in the non-profit sector focused on integration of new immigrants, particularly from the Middle East and North Africa. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Nazareth College in Sociology and a Master’s degree in International Relations with a concentration in Middle Eastern Affairs from Syracuse University. Jake serves on the editorial board of Community Change, a peer-reviewed journal housed at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance. He is also a board member and treasurer for the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership.

Parking is available in the Hillcrest Extension Lot, Lot 11 and across campus.

Presented in partnership with the Virginia Tech Center for Rhetoric in Society