News & Events
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The Middle East Center at Penn sponsors and supports programs and initiatives across the disciplines and professional schools, and runs a dynamic outreach program in the Delaware Valley. Faculty and students at Penn are also active and prominent in the field of Middle East studies, making significant and highly regarded contributions to scholarly output in their areas of interest. We will continue to update news of the Center's activities and highlight the achievements of our faculty and students here.

Sep
15
Michelle Breslauer (Institute for Economics and Peace), Saif Al Saudi (2015 Davis Projects for Peace Recipient), and Farah Siraj (Musician) The Intercultural Leadership Series at International House Philadelphia is an ongoing project involving lectures, symposiums and live performances. The events aim at fostering discussion and offering insight on the competencies, behaviors and specific skills needed to be an effective leader in an intercultural environment. Michelle Breslauer manages the programs of the Institute for Economics and Peace in the Americas, working with diverse stakeholders to build IEP’s profile and partnerships. In this role, she produces events, report releases, and partnerships for the range of IEP research, including the Global Peace Index and Global Terrorism Index. Michelle also leads the development, program planning, and partnerships of the Mexico Peace Index. She works closely with UN agencies, contributing to consultations and global discussions on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Michelle speaks frequently on peace, violence, and development at public events and has presented at leading universities, think tanks, and multi-lateral organizations, including American University, the Wilson Center, the World Bank and the United Nations. Michelle has significant experience managing complex communication strategies on an international scale, including a 5-year tenure at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, where she was responsible for developing and executing public affairs programs from the $700 million capital project. Prior to that, Michelle worked with New York City’s 2012 Olympic Bid, coordinating international relations as well as a local campaign to engage nationality group leaders in NYC. Michelle holds a master’s degree in Urban Studies from The London School of Economics, where she researched the impact of social capital, and a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the American University of Paris. IHP resident Saif Al Saudi received a 2015 Davis Projects for Peace grant for a project that he hopes will bring people of all nationalities closer together and build a bridge to better understanding in his homeland of Iraq. Saif, 29, moved to International House Philadelphia in April 2014. He came to Philadelphia to pursue his Master’s degree in Business Administration at Drexel University. Using the $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, he will create a video that he plans to post on Facebook and social media. His goal is to reach thousands of people in Iraq and around the world with a message of peace and understanding. He has served as a resident advisor at International House. Named Jordan’s “Musical Ambassadress”, Jordanian virtuoso Farah Siraj balances a career that spans the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Farah has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious platforms, including the United Nations, Nobel Prize Hall, the World Economic Forum, The John F. Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Lincoln Center in New York, MTV, Coke Studio, the TV show Good Morning Live in the USA, MBC TV in the Middle East and the Antena de Oro Awards of Spain. Farah has performed before HM King Abdullah II and HM Queen Rania of Jordan, HM King Juan Carlos of Spain, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HE Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. In addition, Farah represents Jordan annually on United Nations World Peace Day.  To this date, Farah has toured the Middle East, Europe, India, South America and the United States, spreading the message of peace through her music.
12:45pm
International House, 3701 Chestnut St., South America Room
Sep
17
Fatima Agnaou Among the major shifting parameters of language policy in Morocco is the recent status of Amazigh as the official language besides Arabic, after its integration into the Moroccan educational system since 2003. One of the primary goals of this presentation is to overview the present-day Amazigh teaching in the context of the current socio-political changes that occurred in Morocco. A second is to present the achievements and constraints as to the process of implementing Amazigh in the educational system and address its challenges. The data for this presentation is drawn mostly from ministerial documents, fieldwork observations carried out in classrooms, and analysis of Amazigh teaching material. Fatima Agnaou is a pedagogical researcher at the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) in Rabat, Morocco and Member of the editorial board of the IRCAM’s Journal ASINAG. Her current projects include designing materials (textbooks, tales, picture dictionaries and CD's) for teaching Amazigh language in Moroccan primary schools; conducting training for supervisors and teachers of Amazigh language; and research on the didactics of Amazigh language. She is the author of Gender, Literacy, and Empowerment in Morocco, Routledge, (2004), co-author (with Ahmed Boukous) of Alphabetisation et development durable au Maroc: Réalité et perspectives, Publications de la Faculté des Lettres, Rabat, (2001). She directed in 2010 the 25th issue of Language and Linguistics on  L’enseignement de la langue amazighe au Maghreb, Imprimerie Universitaires Fès and in 2011 Le Lexique Scolaire, publications de l’IRCAM. She published many articles in national and international journals.
10:00am
Penn GSE Room 427
Sep
17
Dr. Ahmed Boukous Dr. Ahmed Boukous is a professor of Linguistics at University Mohammed V. He is also a Rector of the Royal Institute for Amazingh Culture (IRCAM) and a member of the Higher Council for Education, Rabat. Dr. Boukous holds a doctorate in Sociology of Culture from Université René Descartes and a Ph.D in Language Science from Université Saint-Denis. Dr. Boukouss is an expert in language and education issues at many national and international organizations. He is also a member of the Comité Scientifique du Réseau Sociolinguistique et Dynamique des Langues (Scientific Socio-Linguistic and Dynamic Network for Languages), AUPELF-UREF and the Permanent Committee on Programmes of the Ministry of National Education and Youth. He is also President of Fonds d’aide à la Production Cinématographique (Fund of promoting Cinema production) and member of the Higher Council for Education (CSE) (2006 – 2007). Among his books are: Langage et culture populaires au Maroc; Société, langues et cultures au Maroc; Dominance et différence: Essais sur les enjeux symboliques au Maroc;Sociolinguistique marocaine; and Alphabétisation et développement durable au Maroc.
2:00pm
GSE Room 200
Oct
13
Dr. Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College The Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region is incredibly diverse-- and its LGBTQ communities are just as heterogeneous. How does queer subjectivity differ across the region? What are the challenges to local and international LGBTQ rights organizing in the Middle East? What successes and advances have we witnessed over the past decade? While the case of Queer Palestine will serve as a key area of discussion, this lecture, presented by Sa'ed Atshan, will also address the broader regional context. Sa’ed Atshan is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He previously served as a Postdoctoral Fellow in International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He holds a PhD (2013) and an MA (2010) in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. He also received an MPP (2008) from the Harvard Kennedy School and a BA (2006) from Swarthmore College. Atshan has served as a Lecturer in Peace and Justice Studies for more than five years at Tufts University and he has earned four “distinction in teaching” and several advising and mentoring prizes from Harvard for his work as a head teaching fellow and resident tutor there. He has been awarded multiple graduate fellowships, including from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. He is also the recipient of a Soros Fellowship and a Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace. He has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, the UN High Commission on Refugees, Human Rights Watch, Seeds of Peace, the Palestinian Negotiations Affairs Department, and the Government of Dubai. Atshan is also a member of Al-Qaws, an organization promoting LGBTQ Palestinian rights.
5:30pm
TBA
Oct
19
Dr. Arang Keshavarzian, New York University Arang Keshavarzian will examine the changing urban morphology of the Persian Gulf port cities as a vehicle to trace the shifts in the global and local political economy.  He will explore how the forces that de-couple ports from cities, namely containerization and state-building, reconfigured both the cities and the social relationships within and across the Gulf region. Thus, the Gulf was an arena and participant in the fashioning of multiple waves of globalization and forms of cosmopolitan urbanism and their attendant exclusions and inclusions.  Arang Keshavarzian is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU.  He earned his PhD in Politics from Princeton University.  He is the author of Bazaar and State in Iran: the Politics of the Tehran Marketplace and articles in edited volumes and journals, including Politics and Society, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Geopolitics, Middle East Report, and Economy and Society.  He is currently conducting research on a project examining imperialism and capitalist integration from the vantage point of the circuits of exchange, movement, and control in the Persian Gulf.  
5:30pm
208 South 37th Street Stiteler Hall B21
Oct
26
The Cinema Studies Program, the Jewish Studies Program, the Middle East Center, and the Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Department at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival and International House Philadelphia, present the 2015 edition of NEW MIDDLE EAST CINEMA. Recently released feature films have been selected to represent Middle Eastern societies and cultures through cinema. Each film will be introduced by a presenter with special knowledge of the country, culture, and issues addressed in the film. Learn More by visiting the film festival website. Monday, 26 October @ 5:30pm | SYRIA The Shebabs of Yarmouk (Axel Salvatori-Sinz, 2013, 78 min) In Yarmouk (Syria), the Shebabs, a small group of boys & girls, have been friends since they were teens. Monday, 26 October @ 8:30pm | JORDAN Theeb (Naji Abu Nowar, 2014, 100 min) In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming of age. Tuesday, 27 October @ 5:30pm | ISRAEL Zero Motivation (Talya Lavie, 2014, 97 min) A unit of female Israeli soldiers at a remote desert base bide their time as they count down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Tuesday, 27 October @ 8:3pm | IRAN Boys With Broken Ears (Nima Shayeghi, 2013, 78 min) A look at the hopes and struggles of a handful of young Iranians wrestlers as they prepare for the biggest event of their lives. Wednesday, 28 October @ 5:30pm | LEBANON Ghadi (Amin Dora, 2013, 100 min) Ghadi is different from other kids… Could he be an angel? Wednesday, 28 October @ 8:30pm | MOROCCO Traitors (Sean Gullette, 2013, 83 min) Malika is the leader of the all-female punk rock band Traitors. Thursday, 29 October @ 5:30pm | PALESTINE Eye of a Thief (Najwa Najjar, 2014, 98 min) A father with a dangerous secret searching for his daughter. Thursday, 29 October @ 8:30pm | TURKEY Sivas (Kaan Müjdeci, 2014, 97 min) 11-year-old Aslan saves an injured Kangal sheepdog named Sivas.
5:30pm
International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street
Nov
5
Dr. Janet Klein, Akron University About the speaker: Dr. Janet Klein joined the University of Akron’s History Department in the fall of 2005.  Her research has focused on state-society relations as well as nationalism, identity, and gender dynamics from a historical perspective, and her primary area of focus—late-Ottoman Kurdistan—has served as a lens through which she explores wider issues that extend beyond this geography and time period. Dr. Klein is the author of The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone (Stanford University Press, 2011) and numerous other articles and book chapters. Her current work explores the dynamics surrounding state-sponsored Kurdish militias in the late-Ottoman period, a topic she believes is timely and relevant for understanding—and hopefully solving—problems that arise when states sponsor militias elsewhere in the world.  Dr. Klein created the University of Akron’s Certificates in Middle Eastern and Asian Studies, and continues to serve as director of the Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies.  She is also the director of the World Civilizations program at the University of Akron.
5:30pm
255 S. 36th Street, Williams Hall, Rm. 421
Jan
25
Dr. Ranin Kazemi, San Diego State University Join the Middle East Center for an evening with Professor Ranin Kazemi. In this lecture Dr. Kazemi will discuss the Tobacco Protest which swept across Iran and the broader Shi'ite world in 1891-92 and examine its environmental causes. Professor Kazemi earned a Ph.D. in History at Yale University in December 2012. He is interested in social and environmental history with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Caucasus, and Central and South Asia. In August 2012, he joined the Department of History at Kansas State University where he taught courses in a wide variety of topics concerning the history of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as world history, historical methodology, and the international and social history of the Cold War. Beginning this fall, he will join the Department of History at San Diego State University where he will continue teaching and researching on the broader Middle East and North Africa. Professor Kazemi has published in leading journals in his field and is currently working on a book manuscript entitled "The Ecology of Conflict: Privation, Protest, and Populism in Iran, 1850-1892." This project traces the economic, environmental, social, and political origins of one of the earliest national revolutionary movements in the modern Middle East. To complete this work, he has conducted research in Iranian, Turkish, British, French, Dutch, and American archives. His research has been supported by, among others, the International Institute of Social History and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, and the Yale University Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.
5:30pm
TBA
Mar
16
Erika Gilson, Princeton University About the Lecture:After briefly talking about alphabets and writing systems, Dr. Erika Gilson, will present the Turkic languages in history, their geographic spread, and principal linguistic markers, as well as the alphabets used for Turkic languages in history. Focusing next on the quest for a Common Alphabet, Dr. Gilson will discuss some of its historic background, namely the 1926 Baku Conference, and the 1991 International Symposium on Contemporary Turkic alphabets, and summarize the current state and discussions relating to alphabet matters amongst the Turkic peoples.  About the Speaker:Erika Gilson taught Turkish and Ottoman Turkish for the Near Eastern Studies department at Princeton University for 26 years before retiring in 2014. Committed to teaching Middle Eastern languages, she was a founding member of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) and the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages. She received the A. Ronald Walton Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Less Commonly Taught Languages in 2008 and the Jere L. Bacharach Service Award from the Middle East Studies Association in 2012. Gilson is currently working on a database to study the effectiveness of writing as an enabling activity for language learning and on the Turkic Notations in Afanasii Nikitin's Voyage Beyond the Three Seas. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
12:00am
TBA
Apr
7
Dr. Jacob Mundy About the Film Learn more about what many have dubbed, “the forgotten occupation”, at the Middle East Center screening of the short documentary, “Life is Waiting”. The film is based on the contested territory of Western Sahara. Forty years after its people were promised freedom by departing Spanish colonialists, Western Sahara remains Africa’s last colony. While the 1991 UN-brokered ceasefire put an end to armed hostilities in the area, the Sahrawi people have continued to live under the Moroccan armed forces' rigid occupation. This film explores the diverse cultures of resistance that have developed within Sahrawi communities in Western Sahara and the hope kept alive through large and small acts of rebellion. Pre-Screening Talk and Discussion with Special Guest Dr. Jacob Mundy Dr. Jacob Mundy will provide the audience with an in depth explanation of thegeo-political context that surrounds the region. After the screening he will then lead a discussion about the film where audience members will have a chance to examine a more critical look at the conflict.   About Jacob Mundy Jacob Mundy is an Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University where he also contributes to courses on Middle Eastern and African studies. He holds a PhD from the University of Exeter's institute of Arab and Islamic Studies where he completed a dissertation on the international dimensions of Algeria's civil conflict of the 1990s. He is coeditor of The Post-Conflict Environment (University of Michigan Press, 2014) and coauthor of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010). His monograph, Imaginative Geographies of Algerian Violence: Conflict Science, Conflict Management, Antipolitics, will be published by Standford University Press in 2015.
5:30am
TBA