Writer, activist, and educator Mohja Kahf is UM-Flint’s December commencement speaker

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Mohja Kahf will speak at UM-Flint's December commencement | Photo by Russell Cothren, courtesy of University of Arkansas
Mohja Kahf will speak at UM-Flint's December commencement | Photo by Russell Cothren, courtesy of University of Arkansas

Dr. Mohja Kahf will be the keynote speaker at the December 17 University of Michigan-Flint Commencement Ceremony.

Kahf is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas, an accomplished author, and a social justice activist.
Kahf was born in Syria, grew up in Indiana, and has taught at the University in Arkansas since 1995. She also lived in Utah and New Jersey during her youth.

Her novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, has been selected for the “One Book” project in several locations, including Bloomington, Indiana and Indiana University East. It is about a Syrian girl growing up in Indiana. Her most recent poetry book, Hagar Poems, is a feminist exploration of figures common to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Her essay, The Caul of Inshallah, won a Pushcart Prize in 2011.

Dr. Kahf said she was humbled to speak in Flint, with both its historical and current state of activism. She pointed to the Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 and the current social justice work being done related to the Flint water crisis as just two examples.

“I am amazed by the activism in Flint,” she said. “I am delighted and impressed with UM-Flint wanting a poet and activist as its commencement speaker.”

Kahf’s teaching interests include comparative literature, modern Arabic literature, postcolonial studies, Arab and Arab American feminism, Arab American literature, the Quran; postcolonial women’s writing in comparative perspective, literatures of the Iberian peninsula from 711 to 1615 C.E., and classical Arabic literature.

Kahf is a founding member of the Radius of Arab American Writers. She has served on the board of the Ozark Poets & Writers Collective in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is also the author of the scholarly monograph Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque, and the book of poems, E-mails from Scheherazad.

“Dr. Kahf is a wonderful example of a person whose scholarship, creative work, and life is pursued with a powerful understanding of our common humanity,” said UM-Flint Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Douglas G. Knerr. “We want our graduates to know such people and to be inspired and challenged by them.”

Robert is a staff writer in the Office of University Relations. Contact him with comments, questions, and story ideas.