News & Events
section1 center image

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.

Feb
27
Dr. Alan Verskin, University of Rhode Island Love, Dreams and the Afterlife in Medieval Aleppo: An Episode in ʿAlī b. Yūsuf Ibn al-Qifṭī's Taʾrīkh al-Ḥukamāʾ This lecture examines the remarkable friendship between a prominent Muslim and Jew, both residents of Ayyubid Aleppo: Rabbi Yūsuf Ibn Shamʿūn (d. 1226), a philosopher, poet, physician and merchant, and ʿAlī b. Yūsuf Ibn al-Qifṭī (d. 1248), a Muslim scholar and leading Ayyubid official. Dr. Verskin will present what is known about this seemingly unlikely friendship, and discuss the various factors that fostered it. Many scholars understand such interfaith friendships as the product of philosophical humanism, or even as a triumph of proto-secularism over religious particularism. Dr. Verskin demonstrates, however, that there is nothing post-religious or secular about Ibn al-Qifṭī and Yūsuf. They were trained in religious law and they cared about the ultimate religious questions. Moreover, according to what is known of their discussions, they were both concerned about which of them was right and which was wrong. Dr. Verskin demonstrates that it was that very interest in religious truth and falsehood that bound them together, despite their differing religions. Finally, Dr. Vesrkin considers the political background of their friendship. He also discusses how Yūsuf’s foundational education in philosophy was accomplished in Almohad lands and what this can tell us about the ambiguous relationship between cultural enlightenment and religious coexistence. Meanwhile in Syria, which on account of being the site of the Crusades might appear to be the very epitome of the “clash of civilizations,” there was still a sphere for interreligious coexistence in lands ruled by Muslims. Alan Verskin is an assistant professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and an M.A. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of two books discussing Muslim experiences of non-Muslim rule: Islamic Law and the Crisis of the Reconquista: The Debate on the Status of Muslim Communities in Christendom (Brill, 2015) and Oppressed in the Land? Fatwas on Muslims Living under Non-Muslim Rule from the Middle Ages to the Present (Markus Wiener, 2013). His academic work ranges in topic from nineteenth-century Yemen to medieval Spain, and from Islamic law to Jewish philosophy. He is an avid translator of Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, and Hebrew. He is currently at work on a book entitled, Discovery and Deceit: The Travels of a European Orientalist and his Jewish Native Guide in Nineteenth-Century Yemen.
5:30pm
Fisher-Bennet Hall 224, 3340 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Mar
3
Dr. Dick Davis, Professor Emeritus of Persian at Ohio State University Lecture and Poetry Reading Please join us for an event organized by the Department for Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Middle East Center. Dr. Dick Davis will give a lecture entitled "Princesses Who Protest". The lecture will be followed by a poetry reading. Dr. Davis, is Professor Emeritus in Persian at Ohio State University. He has published scholarly works on both English and Persian literature, as well as eight volumes of his own poetry, and has been the recipient of numerous academic and literary awards, including the Ingram Merrill and Heineman awards for poetry.
12:00pm
ARCH 108, 3601 Locust Walk, Philadelphia 19104
Mar
7
Dr. Hassan Farhang Ansari, The Institute for Advance Studies Dr. Hassan Farhang Ansari is the Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow at the Institute for Advanced  Studies at Princeton University. Dr. Ansari earned his doctorate at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) of the Sorbonne, Paris. He also studied at the Ḥawza ʿIlmiyya, Tehran and Qum, where his work focused on the study of philosophy, theology, canon law, and legal theory. He is currently a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His publications include Accusations of Unbelief in Islam: A Diachronic Perspective on Takfīr, eds. Camilla Adang, Hassan Ansari, Maribel Fierro, and Sabine Schmidtke, Islamic History and Civilization series (Leiden: Brill [in press]; L’imamat et l’Occultation selon l’imamisme: Étude bibliographique et histoire des textes (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming); and a critical edition of Ibn al-Malāḥimī’s Tuḥfat al-mutakallimīn fī l-radd ʿalā l-falāsifa (Tehran 2008, with Wilferd Madelung). Dr. Ansari's talk focuses on  Sunnīsm in Rayy during the Saljuq period. A work in point during this period is  Kitāb al-Naqḍ by ʿAbdu-l Jalīl al-Qazwīnī al-Rāzī.During the Seljuq period Rayy was a Ḥanafī /Muʿtazilī, Shīʿī, and Shāfiʿī/Ashʿarī city. The intellectual life of the Sunni scholars of Rayy in the Saljūqid period, be they of Ḥanafī or Shāfiʿī Schools, is interconnected with their coreligionists’ situation in other parts of Iran – especially Nayshābūr and Iṣfahān – which is, as a whole, a reflection of the vacillatory, and occasionally paradoxical, policies of Saljūq kings and viziers vis-à-vis these two Schools. There are very rare independent and documentary evidence of the intellectual tradition in Rayy. According to Dr. Ansari, we are thus left with a handful of sources for the activities of the Sunni scholars of Rayy at this time and their relationships with each other and also with the Zaydīs and the Imāmīs.        
5:30pm
Fisher-Bennet Hall 244, 3340 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Mar
8
Dr. Shadi Hamid, The Brookings Insitution In Islamic Exceptionalism, Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is, in fact, “exceptional” in how it relates to politics, with profound implications for how we understand the future of the Middle East. Divides among citizens aren’t just about power but are products of fundamental disagreements over the very nature and purpose of the modern nation state—and the vexing problem of religion’s role in public life. Hamid argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics by examining different models of reckoning with the problem of religion and state, including the terrifying—and alarmingly successful—example of ISIS.  With unprecedented access to Islamist activists and leaders across the region, Hamid offers a panoramic and ambitious interpretation of the region’s descent into violence. Islamic Exceptionalism is a vital contribution to our understanding of Islam’s past and present, and its outsized role in modern politics. We don’t have to like it, but we have to understand it—because Islam, as a religion and as an idea, will continue to be a force that shapes not just the region, but the West as well in the decades to come.   For more information please view the attached PDF below.   Sponsored by the Middle East Center and Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility
7:00pm
Civic Hall, Connector Building, Blackwood Campus, Camden County College
Mar
13
Shalini Kantayya (Director) Please join us for the Global Distinguished Lecture 2017. Film maker Shalini Kantayya will discuss her award winning short film “A Drop of Life” on the global water crisis and its impact on women. She will be introduced by Dr. Wendy Grube (School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania. Please see the attached flyer and full list of co-sponsors. 
6:00pm
International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Mar
27
Film Festival | Middle East Film Festival 2017 Monday, March 27, 2017 - 6:00pm - Friday, March 31, 2017 - 6:00pm Stiteler Hall, B21 | Penn campus NEW MIDDLE EAST CINEMA | 27-31 MARCH 2017 The Cinema and Media Studies Program, the Jewish Studies Program, the Middle East Center, and the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at the University of Pennsylvania, are pleased to present the 2017 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.  Our festival is free-admission and open to all! Monday, 27 March @ 6:00pm   A Tale of Love and Darkness The story of Amos Oz's youth. The film details a young man's relationship with his mother and his beginnings as a writer. Tuesday, 28 March @ 6:00pm   Taxi  Jafar Panahi is banned from making movies by the Iranian government, he poses as a taxi driver and makes a movie about social challenges   Wednesday, 29 March @ 6:00pm  Mustang When five orphan girls are seen innocently playing with boys on a beach, their scandalized conservative guardians confine them while forced marriages are arranged.  Thursday, 30 March @ 6:00pm | Introduction by Rabih Moussawi Go Home Nada is going home but she is a foreigner in her own country. Friday, 31 March @ 6:00pm   Idol Mohammed Assaf, an aspring musician living in Gaza, sets a seemingly impossible goal: to compete on the program Arab Idol.
6:00pm
Stiteler Hall B21, 208 South 37th Street, Philadelphia PA, 19104
Mar
29
Dr. Ian Lustick, University of Pennsylvania For at least three and a half decades US foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has been organized around “the peace process.” Originally the idea was that the process, guided and helped along by American diplomats and their “good offices,” would enable Arab and Israeli negotiators to follow a path from conflict to peace. The idea was that the process would lead to somewhere different, somewhere better than the place where it began. But instead of a road leading from here to there, the peace process has been a carousel, in constant movement, but never moving. Fruitless negotiations stagger on, end, then restart under a slightly different name, and with a slowly changing cast of characters. This lecture will offer specific illustrations of this pattern and offer an explanation for why it continues, despite its failures, but, in a very real sense, because of the knowledge of those involved in each go-round, that they, too, will fail.    For more information please review the PDF attached below. Sponsored by the Middle East Center and the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility
7:00pm
Camden County College, Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility
Apr
3
Middle East Center Staff Are you a student interested in becoming a Modern Middle East studies major or minor or are you a current MMES student? If so, please join the Middle East Center for an informational lunch on April 3rd. Members of the Middle East Center staff will host the lunch and be available to answer your questions. If you have friends who are interested in studying the Modern Middle East, please feel free to invite them. We look forward to seeing you there! 
12:00pm
Arch Building Room 108
Apr
5
Dr. Samuel Helfont, University of Pennsylvania Iraq has been at the center of American foreign policy for over a quarter century. Will it continue to play such a pivotal role? This talk will discuss the future of Iraq and what that means for the United States. For more information please review the attached PDF below. Sponsored by the Middle East Center and the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility.
7:00pm
Civic Hall, Connector Building, Blackwood Campus, Camden County College
Apr
8
The Choices Program, Brown University Please join the the Middle East Center, the Penn Museum and the South Asia Center for the Brown Choices Program teacher training, which will take place on Saturday, April 8, 2017 8:30 am-3:00 pm at the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 Cost: $145 per person. Fee includes two Choices curriculum units, six Act 48 credits, lunch, and all workshop materials. Partial scholarships are available for preservice teachers.  Target Audience: History, civics, geography, government and other social studies teachers, as well as humanities teachers.  Materials are appropriate for grades 7-12.  During the workshop, you will: Be introduced to the Choices Program’s award-winning resources and approach to teaching about contested international issues;  Examine and work with the Choices units The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy and Indian Independence and the Question of Partition (provided); Attend a special talk by Dr. Salam Al Kuntar, Associate Faculty and Co-Curator of the exhibit at Penn Museum. Participants will view the new exhibition, Protecting Cultural Heritage in Syria and Iraq, highlighting cultural heritage protection. To sign up for this participatoty workshop, please click here      
8:30am
Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Apr
12
Dr. Narges Bajoughli Please join us for a screening of "The Skin That Burns". The film tells the story of Iran's volunteer soldiers who were exposed to chemical bombs during the Iran-Iraq War. It follows veteran Ahmed, who is legally blind and suffers from the exposure to chemical weapons 20 years ago. "The Skin That Burns" explores the controversial issues of chemical warfare, disability and illness, and the will to overcome these issues. Director Nargues Bajoughli will be present during the secreening and will be answering questions during the following discussion. About the Director: Nargues Bajoughli is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Watson Institute at Brown University. She received her PhD in socio-cultural anthropology from New York University where she was also trained as a documentary filmmaker.       
5:30pm
Stiteler Hall B21, 208 South 37th Street, Philadelphia PA, 19104
Apr
12
James Ryan, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania Since the parliamentary elections of June 2015, which dealt a minor setback to Justice and Development Party, Turkey has experienced two of the most tumultuous years in its history. Turkey has become increasingly involved in the Syrian conflict, suffered several of the worst terror attacks the country has ever endured, re-ignited a decades-old conflict with Kurdish separatists in the country’s southeast region, and, most recently, survived an attempted coup on July 15, 2016. As the country undergoes a serious transformation in the wake of the coup attempt and with a constitutional referendum on the horizon, this talk will recap the last two years of current events, and offer some preliminary analysis of the ongoing transformation occurring in Turkey.  For more information please review the attached PDF below. Sponsored by the Midde East Center and the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility.
7:00pm
Civic Hall, Connector Building, Blackwood Campus, Camden County College
Apr
18
Dr. Joyce Pittman, Associate Clinical Professor at Drexel University, School of Education Please join us for a lecture with Dr. Joyce Pittman (Drexel University, School of Education). Dr. Pittman's lecture will examine the unique partnership between a prominent U.S. based consulting firm led by corporate and educational researchers and high level United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education leaders to reform the educational infrastructure of the UAE using Information Technology in Support of the Ministry of Education’s Educational Change/Reform Vision. Dr. Pittman, will use the lens of intersectionality to explain how the project emerged, was implemented and what she learned about this 21st century global partnership by sharing the various factors that fostered its triumph. Dr. Joyce Pittman is an associate clinical professor at Drexel University, School of Education. She is the Principal Investigator for the-sub-grant, U-Penn-Drexel Global-Teach Connect, Title VI funded project at the University of Pennsylvania, the Middle East Center and the South Asia Center.
12:00pm
CHEM Building 514, 231 South 34th Street
Apr
19
Dr. Brian Spooner, University of Pennsylvania The Middle East as we know it today was formed by Western intervention, resulting from competition between the British and Russian Empires in the 19th century at the eastern end of the region and by the British and French division of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War at the Western end. The “national” boundaries drawn by the Western powers, and the new governments that they supported, are not working any more. The Afghan and Persian governments were overthrown by revolutions in 1978 and 1979; America terminated the Iraqi regime in 2003, and Syria has been in conflict since 2011 as a result of what came to be known as The Arab Spring. The results of Western intervention are being transformed into new social and political currents that derive from the earlier history of the region. For more information please review the PDF posted below. Sponsored by the Middle East Center and the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility.
7:00pm
Civic Hall, Connector Building, Blackwood Campus, Camden County College
Apr
26
Dr. Anna Viden, International Relations Program. University of Pennsylvania The talk will shed light on Saudi Arabia’s new more assertive foreign policy and how it affects current and future relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. It will address the conflict in Syria, the ongoing war in Yemen, arms transfers, and the relationship between the members of OPEC on the one hand, and between OPEC and the West on the other. The talk will also focus on the internal political situation in Saudi Arabia, which of course significantly may impact Saudi Arabia’s ability to carry out its ambitious foreign policy and new economic global compact which was announced by the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman last April. For more information about the event please open the attached PDF below. Sponsored ByCenter for Civic Leadership and Responsibility (Camden County College) and the Middle East Center (University of Pennsylvania)
7:00pm
Civic Hall, Connector Building, Blackwood Campus, Camden County College