Carnegie Mellon University

Lives Uprooted: A Panel on the Transition in Afghanistan

Thursday, February 17, 2022
5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET

Watch a recording of the event here. 

This panel will discuss the Afghan transition that occurred when the United States withdrew their troops and the Taliban took over, displacing 80,000 Afghan citizens as refugees, with a focus on Afghan resettlement in the Pittsburgh area. The panel will include Ivonne Smith-Tapia, the Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services at Jewish Family and Community Services of Pittsburgh; Sohrab Bakhshi, contractor for the US Military and former Afghan refugee who personally experienced the transition when he was brought to the US under a Special Immigrant Visa; historian Emanuela Grama, Associate Professor and Director of Global Studies at CMU, who will discuss dislocation and its related side effects; and Daniel Silverman, IPS Assistant Professor. Ethan Pullman, Senior Lecturer of Arabic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages, will moderate the panel.

This event is presented by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion in partnership with the Institute for Politics and Strategy. 

About Ethan Pullman

Ethan Pullman is Senior Lecturer of Arabic Studies, Department of Modern Languages, and a First-Year Writing Support and Open Educational Resources Specialist, CMU Libraries

As adjunct instructor of Arabic, I strive to educate about Arabic, the language, culture, and art. Currently, I am introducing Arabic calligraphy to our students as a skill and a cultural treasure. My professional focus, however, is teaching and specifically online instruction. Most recently, I have become interested in open licensing of educational resources and earned certification in areas like research and data management and creative commons (CC) licensing. As a librarian, I am passionate about helping researchers and students clearly identify their needs, seek to inspire curiosity, and assist them in contributing new knowledge.

I am dedicated to supporting our First-Year Writing program’s learning goals and objectives by providing research and instructional services, from assisting students and faculty with planning for their courses, collaborating toward building successful learning experience. In addition, I assist our faculty, staff, and students in adopting an Open Educational Resources (OER) philosophy through activities such as identifying and locating potential tools and resources, building custom materials for learning, and advising on copyright and licensing. 

Education: MA Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University; MLIS University of Pittsburgh; BA French Youngstown State University

About Sohrab Bakhshi

Sohrab Bakhshi was the founder and CEO of the company Tatekan, established in Afghanistan in 2005. Tatekan is an Afghan network of experts working with clients, communities, and colleagues to develop and implement innovative solutions to Afghanistan’s most complex challenges related to engineering and construction. Projects include building structures; delivering power, energy, and clean water to communities; connecting villages and rural economies with roads, bridges, and transit systems; and helping international clients to execute construction projects for the military in Afghanistan. 

Sohrab graduated from Dunya University in Kabul in 2013 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. He was born and raised in the Afghan province of Panjshir, and was resettled in the US in 2016 under a Special Immigrant Visa. He witnessed firsthand the Afghan transition in August 2021 in Kabul, and is currently working with the US Military to help process new Afghan arrivals to the country. His wife Haida is a co-owner of Pittsburgh’s only Afghan catering business, Zafaron Afghan Cuisine, est. 2020. Sohrab lives in Pittsburgh with Haida and his four children. 

About Emanuela Grama

Emanuela Grama specializes in the history of 20th-century Central and Eastern Europe, with a focus on urban politics, processes of state-making, property, memory and cultural change in 20th- and 21st-century Romania. She received her PhD from the Interdisciplinary Program in Anthropology and History of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has conducted extensive archival and ethnographic research in different locations in Romania, and has published on a range of topics, including 1) the politics of archaeology and nationalism under socialism 2) urban planning, state-making and material practices, 3) petitions, intertextuality, and citizenship in socialism, and 4) plagiarism in post-socialism.

She is also a recipient of fellowships from the Wenner GrenFoundation For Anthropological Research (dissertation research grant), the American Council for Learned Societies (dissertation writing grant), and the Max Weber Postdoctoral Program of the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. 

Her first book, Socialist Heritage: The Politics of Past and Place in Romania (Indiana University Press, 2019) is the winner of the 2020 Ed Hewett book prize, offered by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies for "an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe." The book traces the transformation of a central district of Bucharest, the Old Town, from a socially and ethnically diverse place in the early 20th century, into an epitome of national history under socialism, and then, starting in the 2000s, into the historic center of a European capital. An archival and ethnographic research of the changing meanings of the Old Town reveals the fundamentally dual nature of heritage: Behind every search for the essence of an idealized past lie strategies of differentiation that can lead to further marginalization and exclusion.

Her second book manuscript in progress is a historical and anthropological study of property restitution, ethnic rights, and Europeanization, with a focus on the multiethnic region of Transylvania, Romania.  

About Daniel Silverman

Daniel is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on the dynamics of violent conflict, especially in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. He is particularly interested in the psychological factors – including the biases and misperceptions – that drive conflicts, and how they can be mitigated or leveraged to promote peace. 

To date, his research is published or forthcoming in International Organization, International Studies Quarterly (twice), the Journal of Conflict Resolution (twice), Security Studies, Political Research Quarterly, and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. Before arriving at CMU, he received his PhD in political science at the Ohio State University and his BA in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. 

About Ivonne Smith-Tapia

Smith-Tapia is a cultural anthropologist and social worker with fifteen years of experience working with local and international non-profits and governmental agencies on program design, monitoring, and evaluation to improve the quality of life in vulnerable communities. She came to Pittsburgh in 2013 and has worked with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh on programs that address issues facing refugees and immigrants.

Smith-Tapia leads the All for All Coalition, a network that helps refugees and immigrants in the region, and is a board member of the Casa San Jose, which supports the region’s Latino population.

She earned a Master’s in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, in addition to a Master’s in cultural anthropology from University of the Andes in Colombia.

Ivonne worked more than a decade with the Colombian government, think tanks, and international non-profits promoting community development, education, human rights, and leadership in diverse rural and urban communities. She moved to the United States in 2012 and to Pittsburgh in 2013. While in Pittsburgh, she has worked and volunteered in organizations where she contributed to advance knowledge and create positive changes within vulnerable communities, including immigrants and refugees. During this time, she has worked with different immigrant and refugee communities and provided trainings to organizations such as the Latino Family Center, SHIM Family Center, the Bhutanese Community Association, and Casa San Jose. 

Ivonne has a passion for exploring cultures and ways in which culture influences parenting, parents’ educational expectations of their children, leadership, and social participation. This passion has driven her to share her knowledge and experiences to motivate others to recognize the importance of cultural diversity as well as to create positive and productive relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. She is also an active member of different county initiatives in which she advocates for equal rights and culturally relevant opportunities and services for immigrants and refugees in Allegheny County.