Center News

Congratulations to faculty member Mbarek Sryfi for taking first place in The Moonstone Arts Center's Annual Chapbook Contest! 

On Sryfi's collection of poetry, The Trace of a Smile, Margaret Randall said, "In this collection, Mbarek Sryfi returns the reader to the human register. These times evoke a loud response from poets and others, an urge to deal with weighty "end-time" questions and dangers. Too often the result is great emotion in a poetry that is too temporal or obvious to lift off the page. In contrast, Sryfi, brings us back down to daily observation: an old man leaning against a tree stump, a tall red house, a small girl in blue PJs, and the “sounds of bullets, / bombs, / smell of / blood / Under the rubble.” These poems remind us of our human landscape, what is truly at stake. Sryfi's language appears deceptively simple as it captivates in its hidden complexity. Sometimes it takes someone from somewhere else to show us the subtleties of our world. This is a collection to read and reread, savoring the details that make up the larger picture."

The Middle East Center hosts Journalist Reza Sayah

On Thursday Oct. 11 the Middle East Center hosted veteran CNN correspondent and current freelance journalist in Tehran, Reza Sayah for a discussion about his experiences and the current state of reporting in the Middle East, as well as the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran. Reza Sayah provided a more nuanced and more complex perspective of the region and of Iran than the one traditionally projected by the media and US decision-makers. 

Professor Juan Cole visits Penn

On October 16, Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan visited Penn's campus for a talk in conjunction with the publication of his latest book Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. In his lecture which honed in on specific passages in the Koran, the subject of peace was addressed from different perspectives. Professor Cole argued in favor of the idea of Mecca as a city of peace during during a time fraught with tensions and of the centrality of the concept of peace in original Islam.

Eisenhower Fellows Fatimah Alhamlan, Deema AlSekait, and Abdulwahab Al Betairi joined us for an engaging panel on the current state of Saudi Arabian society and its future.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Anna Viden, Program Coordinator of the Middle East Center. Topics covered included women in STEM, Saudi education, projects intended to transform and better Saudi society, and Saudi Vision 2030.

Journalist Emily Feldman and Senior Education manager Fareed Mostoufi from the Pulitzer Center held workshop on how to challenge stereotypes about women in the Middle East

On Tuesday August 14 thirteen K-12 educators took part in a stimulating workshop on how to challenge stereotypes about women in the Middle East in the classroom. The workshop was led by journalist Emily Feldman and Senior Education Manager Fareed Mostoufi from the Pulizer Center on Crisis Reporting. The workshop was sponsored by the Middle East Center and the Pulitzer Center.        

Penn PhD-Students Presented at the 2018 Global Leadership Seminar: Islam, Politics & Change in the Middle East organized for Philadelphia high school students by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and sponsored by the Middle East Center.

NELC Ph.D. Candidate Raha Rafii, Anthropology Ph.D. Candidate Robert Vigar and Political Science Ph.D. Candidate Victoria Gilbert all gave lectures during the Global Leadership Seminar which took place Monday July 9 - Friday July 13 at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Raha gave a talk titled "Islam:Exploring the Faith and Religious Identity of the World's Second-Largest Religion". Robert Vigar's talk was titled "From the Iranian Revolution and Salafism to Moderates in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Many Faces of Political Islam in the Middle East" and Victoria Gilbert's talk dealt with "A Clash of Civilizations? Political Islam's Relationship with the West". The Seminar also featured a trip to Washington D.C. where the students met with various representatives of policy think tanks and foreign embassies.             

Professor Heather Sharkey Publishes New Book, A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East

Dr. Heather Sharkey, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and affiliate of the Middle East Center at University of Pennsylvania, has recently published a well received book entitled A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East. Sharkey argues that while these groups are often associated in the modern era with sectarian conflict, they also have a long and complex history of mutual interaction and exchange. Her book examines societies in the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I, at a time when Christian and Jewish communities in the Middle East were more numerous than they are today. Central to her book is an attempt to “unlearn” the common idea that Muslim-Jewish tensions are historically rooted and longstanding; while social hierarchies and inequalities did exist, “relations between Muslims, Jews, and Christians were calm in most places and times.” Sharkey also explores how tensions increased and exploded in the pre-war era, as non-Muslims began to subscribe to ideas of citizenship and civil rights, which created a backlash from mainstream Muslim society. Connections between Western powers and non-Muslim religious minorities only served to exacerbate these tensions. Eventually they led to a series of religious and ethnic conflicts and massacres, such as the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the 1890s, an event that many today refer to as the Armenian genocide. All of this led to the emergence of modern nation-states that were far less religiously diverse than they had been in the past.

Congratulations, Dr. Sharkey!

An Azeri-Uzbek language workshop was organized by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania April 26-27, 2018.

The workshop counted participants from Penn and outside Penn. The workshop covered alphabet reform movements in these languages and their writing systems, comparisons in their grammar structures, sample speaking exercises, and a case study on an Uzbek class at Penn.The workshop was led by Dr. Feride Hatiboglu, Dr. Daisy Braverman and Dr. Mahyar Entezari all language instructors at the Department for Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Visiting Scholar Dr. Erika Gilson, together with Bianca Brown, PhD-student at the Graduate School of Education, NELC graduate students Furkat Sharipov and Elif Sayar and Wharton undegraduate student Aychin Sultan.      

Wharton Business School Graduate of Class of 2018, Loujeine Boutar, is the winner of the 2017-2018 Middle East Center Translation Contest for her translation of an excerpt of the Algerian female author Ahlan Mosteghanemi's book The Art of Forgetting from 2011.

Mosteghanemi's boldness when talking about love, desire and femininity and when criticizing the politics in the Arab World was what motivated Loujeine's choice of author.

This year the Middle East Center Translation Contest welcomed entries of original translations of Arabic texts from the 20th and the 21st centuries.     

Congratulations to Nour Halabi!

She has accepted a job at Leeds University's School of Media and Communication and will be teaching race and media. 

Nour Halabi is a PhD Candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication (August '18). Her research focuses on race and representation in the media, migration and social movements. She has published her work in Arab Media & Society, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and the International Journal of Communication.

Her dissertation focuses on what she has dubbed "immigration hospitality." She provides a historical policy and discourse analysis, contrasting comtemporary US immigration policy and discourse with that of the Chinese Exclusion Era, the 1920s, and the post-9/11 immigration environment. Examining the regulatory and media environements within these three representative periods of American immigration history has demonstrated that hospitality has been extended to some categories of immmigrants over others. This restrictive environment clashes with the enduring myth that the United States is a "nation of immigrants"