Center News

Paul M. Cobb's New Book on the Crusades

Paul M. Cobb, Professor of Islamic history in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, has just published *The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades* with Oxford University Press. The book is intended to offer a new and accessible history of the confrontations between Muslims and Europeans we now call the "Crusades," one that emphasizes the diversity of Muslim experiences of European holy war on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. In the process, Cobb shows that this is not a straightforward story of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land, but a more complicated tale of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage a new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world. When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a cultural encounter to ponder, a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, and as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad.

MMES Student Interns with the U.S. State Department 

Erica Ma, spent her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania working in a federal government internship that didn’t require her to live in Washington, D.C., or be based in any specific part of the world. That’s because she worked remotely as an e-intern in the State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service program.

Ma wrote about her year-long VSFS experience in an article posted on DipNote, the State Department’s official blog. 

She is an international relations and modern Middle Eastern studies major in the School of Arts & Sciences and learned about the internship through a post on Facebook. She has long been interested in international human rights. She applied for the internship last summer and started in September 2013 while studying abroad for a semester in Rabat, Morocco.

To read the full article please click here.

Public Outreach Highlights: Iranian-American Novelists Event

In partnership with multiple Penn entities and the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Middle East Center organized several public events to raise awareness on issues related to the Middle East through creative programming. On March 6, 2014, the Center brought five Iranian-American novelists to Kelly Writers House for an evening of book reading for an event entitled "Contemporary American Fiction: Five Women, Five Books." The event brought campus community together with literature enthusiast Philadelphiangs for a cosy evening of book reading. Anita Amirrezvani, Marjan Kamali, Persis Karim, Porochista Khakpour, and the Center Director Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet read excerpts from their works of fiction.

To watch a recording of this event please click here.

Community College Programs

The Center has been working with community colleges around Philadelphia area for the past years to enhance the understanding about the Middle Eastern cultures, history, languages, politics, and religions among community college students and instructors. For instance, in partnership with the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) and the Center for Civic Leadership at the Camden County College (CCC), the Center sponsored two lecture series at CCC. These lectures brought Penn faculty and other Middle East area specialists in conversation with community college constituencies. Jamal Elias, MEC affiliate faculty and professor or religion, can be see lecturing about the essentials of Islam in one of these lectures at CCC on March 1, 2012. 

Middle East Center Graduate Student Colloqium 13-14

The Middle East Center acts as a hub for promoting the study of the Middle East across various departments and encourages interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration at Penn. To create a platform and bring graduate students whose research focuses on the Middle East together, the Center organized a graduate colloquium this year. Ten graduate students from departments of Anthropology, History, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Political Science, Sociology, South Asia Studies, and Religion shared their research with their colleagues during the colloquium. Topics covered in colloquium ranged from Jewish doctors in medieval Islamic sources to hospitality industry in republican Turkey. 

Beeta Baghoolizadeh, PhD Candidate in History, can be seen presenting her research on slavery on Pahlavi Iran in the picture during the colloquium.

STEM Outreach at the Middle East Center

Through creative teacher training programs, the Middle East Center combines STEM outreach with area studies curriculum training for K-12 educators. This year the Center worked with the Franklin Institute and African Studies Center at Penn to organize a workshop on math education in Egypt and the United States. Dr. Idris Stovall, the Director of STEM Youth and School Programs at the Franklin Institute, discussed the similarities and differences in math curriculum in these countries throughout his presentation. Ten K-12 educators participated in the workshop to receive professional development credit. Dr. Stovall, who is also a lecturer at Penn's Mathematics department, can be seen sharing his insights with teachers during the workshop on May 1, 2014.

K-16 Educator Workshop on Media and Global Education

In partnership with South Asia, East Asia, and Africa Studies Centers at Penn, the Middle East Center organized a teacher training workshop on Media and Curriculum Design on May 31, 2014. 12 educators from Delaware Valley region participated in the workshop that opened with Meenoo Rami's presentation entitled "Teachers' Practice in a Connected World." Sameena K. Mughal discussed the Arabian nights in her talk "Shaherazade and Shaherazade's Daughters: Muslim, Feminist, Literary Icons of 21st Century." The Center Associate Director Dr. Darakcioglu and South Asia Center Assistant Director Dr. Roy were also in attendance to inform participants about various teacher training programs available through Penn's National Resource Centers.  

Congratulations to Recent MMES Graduates!

A new wave of Middle East specialists have emerged, completing their Modern Middle Eastern Studies (MMES) interdisciplinary program that combined in-depth understanding of Middle Eastern languages, cultures, history and politics. Congratulations to recent graduates of the MMES Major and Minor! 

The picture shows MMES Class of 2014 who particiapted in the graduation ceremony of the College of Arts & Sciences on May 18, 2014. We wish all MMES graduates success in future their careers! 

Shaj Mathew Wins the Middle East Center Undergraudate Essay Award 2014

The annual Middle East Center Undergraduate Essay Award continues to draw attention to study of the region among Penn students. This year's award winner Shaj Mathew is a senior Comparative Literature major at Penn, where he studies English, Spanish, and Middle Eastern literatures. An Andrew W. Mellon Fellow of the Penn Humanities Forum for the past two years, he has also published articles, essays, and literary criticism in The New York Times, The New Inquiry, Lapham's Quarterly, Guernica, and Sports Illustrated. In the fall, he will begin a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Yale. Shaj's essay was entitled Peripheral Peoples: Istanbul on the Margins of Modernity in Orhan Pamuk’s the Museum of Innocence offers a critical reading of Nobel laureate Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk. 

Creating a Global Citizen

The National Resource Centers outreach staff presented "Creating a Global Cititzen" at the EduCon 2.6 conference on Saturday January 25, 2014. The confernence was held at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Outreach staff examined the importance of area and languages studies for educators and their students while offering advice regarding access to resources at the Univertsity of Pennsylvania and beyond.

If you would like to watch the program follow this link: