Center News

Journalist Emily Feldman and Senior Education manager Fareed Mostoufi from the Pulitzer Center hold 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 Present 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"

Iran Graduate Students Workshop

This past weekend (May 4-5) the Middle East Center welcomed graduate students, early career scholars and senior scholars from Princeton, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, New York, Austin, Freiburg (Germany) and Basel (Switzerland) for what turned out to be an intellectually stimulating and productive workshop. The Iranian Graduate Student Workshop is a very exciting patnership that MEC has developed with NYU and Princeton, which gives graduate students from all over the world, working on all aspects of Iranian and Persianate studies, the opportunity to present their work to one another, and to receive feedback from senior scholars, over the course of an intensive, biannual two-day workshop. The idea is that, each time, the cohort from the previous worshop returns and gives feedback to the new cohort of graduate students.

In this picture PhD candidate Maral Sahabjeme from the University of Washington is presenting her research titled, "'A Low-cost marriage': Discourse of Unmarried Cohabitation (White Marriage) in Iran".  She is joined in this picture by the discussants, Penn Professors Jamal Elias and Brian Spooner. The panel was chaired by NYU Professor Arang Keshavarzian.    

Congratulations Katherine Burge! Her photo won this year's Modern Middle East Studies (MMES) Photography Contest. Taken in 2015, her photo depicts the marshes around Basra, Iraq. You can find her photo hanging in the MEC office.

Read more about the photo contest at https://www.sas.upenn.edu/mec/opportunities/photo-contest. 

Iran and the USA

On May 3rd, 2018, Raha Rafii delivered a lecture at the George Washington Carver High School in Philadelphia as part of the University of Pennsylvania Speakers' Bureau program. The subject of the lecture was Iran's relationship with the United States. K-12 teachers in the greater Philadelphia area can request a PhD student from Penn to provide a lecture on a Middle Eastern topic. The Middle East Center will organize the lecture and pay a speaker fee to the PhD student. For more information on the Speakers' bureau visit the Resources tab on the Middle East Center website.

Congratulations Kim Pulliam! This FLAS recipient has received a well-earned spotlight on our FLAS page. We wish you all the best.

 Read her bio by going to https://www.sas.upenn.edu/mec/opportunities/flas, where you can also learn about the FLAS fellowship and how to apply.