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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.

Nahid Siamdoust Please join us for a talk by Nahid Siamdoust for a talk about her recent book, "Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran".
College Hall 200 (Class of 1954 Lecture Hall)
Rayya El Zein In discussions of art and cultural production in and from the Arab world, neoliberal orientalism structures a set of expectations and a framework for political representation. This talk recognizes a systemic political pattern of representation that makes Arab artists objects of desire and the places they call home exotic spaces of experimentation. Neoliberal orientalism can be found in international art circles, academe, mainstream journalism, among humanitarian players, and in the cultural programming of government agencies. It is particularly prominent in the expectation that a form of music, performance, or art express or enact a particular kind of creative, non-violent resistance. This celebratory expectation of resistance strips emergent politics out from creative political expression or experience and substitutes instead liberal and neoliberal narratives of political change. That is, neoliberal orientalism and the discourses of resistance it employs depoliticizes Arab artists and musicians and their work while celebrating what seems like exciting political content or voice. The exuberant enthusiasm in recent years about so-called hybrid artistic expression and cultural production in the Arab world – like Arabic rap and hip hop, graffiti, or street art – is a concrete archive of this attempt to tame emergent and unknown politics by putting them in familiar and non-threatening frames. Neoliberal orientalism offers students of Arab culture, art, media, and politics a specific deepening of the framework Edward Said made popular with his landmark 1978 text. Tracing discourses of resistance that correspond with the shift in globalizing markets associated with the rise of neoliberalism, this talk illustrates patterns of the construction of Arab and Muslim others that are less attached to geographic location (West/East) than they are affiliated with economic class and other assemblages of material access. In this way, the orientalization of class emerges as an important cross section through debates about political struggle and cultural representation in the art and activist centers of the Global South and Global North alike. Rayya El Zein is a a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns processes of live cultural production, popular culture and media, and audiences in urban Arab contexts and diasporas. In her work, she examines the political economy of consumption and leisure as an important part of the politics of reception and spectatorship. Ongoing ethnographic projects supported by the Winner-Gren Foundation, the Palestinian American Research Center, and an IIE Fulbright center on live music and the media representations of hybrid cultural phenomena amid patterns of neoliberal growth in the Levant. Her writing has appeared in Lateral, the Journal of Palestine Studies, Theatre Journal, Ethnomusicology Forum and on the e-zine Jadaliyya. She holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Stiteler Hall B26, 208 South 37th street, 19104 Philadelphia
 Penn’s Middle East Center (MEC) is pleased to announce the opening of submissions for the 2016 MEC Translation Contest and award for $500.   The Middle East Center (MEC) Translation Contest for 2016 is now accepting submissions. This year the contest will consider original translations of Arabic texts from the 20th and 21st centuries. Translations must be one full page of text. Submissions exceeding this length will not be judged. Use texts that currently do not have published English translation. Submissions will be judged on accuracy, style and grammar.  Entries must be submitted to with the subject, “MEC Translation Contest: Arabic,” by January 16, 2018 at 11:59 PM.  NOTE: By submitting an entry, contestants agree that the translation is their original work.  Along with their translations, entrants should also truthfully indicate their level of Arabic (one year, two years, heritage speaker, native speaker, etc.). This competition is open to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. Past Awards:  2014-2015 Persian Translation: Yasaman Givi, "Light, Myself, Flower, Water," Orginally written by Sohrab Sepehri's Poem "Roshani, Man, Goi, Ab." 2015-2016 Modern Hebrew Translation: Ariel Resnikoff, "Siftah," Orginally written by Avoth Yeshurun.
The Middle Center (MEC) at the University of Pennsylvania is now accepting submissions for our 2018 Essay Contest. The competition is open to all current Penn undergraduates. Essays may deal with any topic within the context of the modern Middle East/North Africa. Papers addressing any aspect of the region from the late 18th century to present will be considered for the prize. All entries should be the student’s original work and previously not published elsewhere. There will be a first place prize of $500 awarded to the winner. The Center will also award one honorable mention prize of $200. Please submit entries to with the subject, “Undergraduate Essay Contest,” no later than Monday, March 16, 2018 by 11:59 p.m. Essays should range from 3000 to 5000 words, not including notes, charts, appendices and bibliography. Please use MLA citation when submitting papers. Essay Contest Winners:  2012, Ellen Frierson, "Gift of Nile: Egypt's Hydropolitical Dominance of the Nile Vallet in the Modern Era." 2013, Autumn Patterson, "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The Fate of Regime Change in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria." 2014, Shaj Mathew, "Peripheral Peoples: Istanbul on the Margins of Modernity in Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence." 2015, Nicolò Marzaro, "History Reocurring in Afganistan: How the US Failed to Lean from the Past.” 2016, Anna Hess, "The Shopping Festival:Guilded Fanfare and the Emirati Economy."    Honorable Mention Award: 2015, Alex DeBerardinis, "Drone Warfare and the Attack on Nation-State Sovereignty." 2016, Angela Perfetti, "Morocco (1930):Marlene Dietrich and the Queer Visage of American Orientalist Cinema."