Center News

Call for Papers

Ottoman-Persian Exchanges, 16th – 20th Centuries

The Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania is putting out a call for papers on cultural, social, political, economic, and intellectual exchanges between the Ottoman and Persian empires 16th through 20th centuries for a day-long symposium to be held in Friday, April 26, 2013 to be held at the University of Pennsylvania.  Championing different expressions of Islam and sharing a long and turbulent border, the Ottoman and Persian empires rivaled each other since the rise of the Safavid state in Persia in the 16th century until the fall of Qajars and the Ottoman dynasties at the turn of the 20th century. This regular contact produced rich historical encounters between the two states. 

Traditional historiography had portrayed the Ottoman and Persian histories as a narrative of struggle against European encroachment and attempts at “modernization” that derived inspiration from Europe since the early 19th century. Until recently, such a portrayal had overlooked the rich historical interactions between the two empires, including but not limited to trade, smuggling, pilgrimage (or religious tourism), intellectual exchanges, nomadic border tribes, and expatriate communities that inhabited the Ottoman-Iranian territories. 

The symposium hopes to bring together scholars working on issues at the intersection of Ottoman and Persian relations to shift the focus of the debate to the eastern fault line of Middle Eastern history and to shed light on the historical interactions between the two empires, which governed almost the entire Middle East up until the end of World War I. Please submit your abstracts (300 words maximum) by Thursday, November 1, 2012. Selected scholars will be contacted in December 2012, and Penn’s Middle East Center will publish the papers presented in the symposium as an edited volume.

Possible topics may include the following:

  • Territorial claims and counter-claims
  • Ethnic and religious minorities in national boundaries
  • Tribal dynamics and religious tensions
  • Comparative gender issues 
  • Cultural and literary nationalism
  • Great power rivalries in the 19th century (British, Ottoman, Russian, and Persian ambitions)
  • Social and economic consequences of oil
  • Trade patterns and economic development

All communication and abstracts should be submitted ONLY to this email:

*Information flyer is attached*

The Middle East Center would like to congratulate Heather Sharkey, an affiliated Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She has been chosen to be a Visiting Professor during the 2012-13 year at the Institut d'études de l'islam et des sociétés du monde musulman (IISMM) of the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. There, she will deliver four lectures at various French institutions throughout a one-month period.

University of Pennsylvania alumnus Max Reibman has written an article on the recent elections that took place in Egypt. To read his article in its entirety, click on the attached PDF file.

Max Reibman holds a B.A. in History from the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 2009, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned an M.Phil in Historical Studies in 2010 from Cambridge, where he is now completing his PhD as a Gates Scholar. His main research interests are Egypt and the Middle East in the era of the First World War. He spent this past year in Egypt where he worked predominantly in the Egyptian National Archives and where he was an affiliated fellow at the American University in Cairo.

2012 Janet Lee Stevens Award Winners

Congratulations to Elias Saba and Cecile Evers, the winners of the 2012 Janet Lee Stevens Award. This award is given annually to graduate students in Arabic and Islamic Studies who, in addition to showing exceptional merit in their academic performance, fulfill the spirit of the award by working to improve relations with and understanding of the Arab world. Elias is a graduate student in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and Cecile is completing graduate studies at the Graduate School of Education.

Congratulations to Ellen Frierson, the winner of the 2012 Middle East Center undergraduate award contest, with her entry entitled "Gift of Nile: Eygpt's Hydropolitical Dominance of the Nile Valley in the Modern Era."

The Middle East Center congratulates affiliated Professor Jamal J. Elias (Religious Studies) for receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship for the Humanities. Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.

Jamal J. Elias is Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a secondary appointment in the Department of South Asia Studies, and is a member of the Graduate Groups in Ancient History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

While a Guggenheim Fellow, he will pursue a major research project on the history of the Mevlevi Sufi order (sometimes called the "Whirling Dervishes") from its inception in the 13th century until the advent of the modern era.

The Greater Philadelphia Global Education Network website has been launched! To check out the new website go to:

We at the Middle East Center welcome David Giovacchini as Penn Library's new Middle East Studies Librarian. David manages Penn's print and electronic collections related to the Middle East, both in Middle Eastern and west European languages. In addition to selecting materials, David is available for research consultations and provides library support to Middle East studies classes.

David holds a B.A. from Cornell University with a double major in History and Middle East Studies. He received a Master s degree and completed all coursework up to his dissertation at Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies, specializing in Muslim extremist groups, and the Islamic concept of the Mahdi, or messiah, as these developed over time. David has a broad knowledge of both the modern Middle East and the culture and history of the Classical Islamic world. His current interests include Middle East popular culture and its political implications.

Training Session for Departing Armed Forces Members: On June 1, 2011 the Middle East Center hosted a workshop for military offices preparing to be deployed to Iraq on the history and politics of Kurds in Iraq featuring Prof. Brendan O'Leary (PSCI) and Visiting Scholar Prof. Khaled Salih. The session answered many of the soldier's questions about the new Iraqi constitution as well as resource management in the area. 

Teachers' Workshop: Battlegrounds: Tour Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan, a traveling exhibition arranged by the Textile Museum of Canada, and the newly re-installed Iraq's Ancient Past: Rediscovering the Royal Tombs of Ur.  Meet a speaker from Iraq affiliated with the Museum's International Classroom program.  Learn how you can dialogue with your students about war when you meet an artist affiliated with the American Friends Service Committee's "Windows and Mirrors" exhibition.  Enhance your understanding of Afghanistan through a presentation by Penn professor Dr. James Caron.
Registration is required by Monday, May 9, 2011. A $15 non-refundable deposit is due at time of registration.

Saturday, May 14, 2011
9:00am - 3:00pm
Penn Museum
Fee: $30

Lunch provided
6 Act 48 credit hours and NJ Professional Development Certification available for educators
Co-sponsored by the Middle East Center