Center News

Middle East Center hosts Arab Journalists as they cover U.S. elections

Robert I. Williams Professor of History and Director of the Middle East Center, Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet spoke with ten journalists from the Arab world in October as part of the U.S. State Department’s Arabic-language Election 2012 tour. The meeting was well received and covered internationally in places such as Tunisia & Egypt. The journalists also visited the headquarters at the University of Pennsylvania, during the tour.

You find full details here

Attn!: Due to Hurricane Sandy this event has been rescheduled to Wedndesday, November 14, 2012. Venue details will be released soon

Teacher Workshop: Muslims and Islam in the United States

The focus of this workshop will be on Islam and Muslims in America. With immigration from the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and growth of the Muslim African-American community in the greater Philadelphia region; the number of students in diverse religious community in growing. This workshop will give educators knowledge and tools for teaching about this community in their classrooms. Space is very limited and the first 15 registrants will be accepted (with others place on a waiting list). This workshop will be best suited for educators in Middle & High Schools. Teaching materials will be provided to those that attend. *This workshop is free of cost!*

For more information/ to register follow this link

Affliated Professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department Dr. Jamal Elias Presents: Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam. Thursday, November 6, 2012 at 6pm. Penn Bookstore

Two Exciting New Courses for Fall 2012: Undergraduate & Graduate

We would like to alert you to a new courses available this fall that will be taught by Professor Kashani-Sabet:

HISTORY 188: T/Th, 12-1:20 pm, Undergraduate Course

Revolutionary Ideas, Ideologies of Revolution
in the Middle East

Ideas play an intangible role in defining culture and politics. In the contemporary Middle East, mass movements and revolutions have become a familiar feature of social and political life. This course surveys some of the major revolutions and ideologies that have caused significant change in the Middle East over the last century. We will examine icons of imperialism and consider varying sources of conflict within and between states. Novels, essays, and secondary works will comprise the bulk of the readings. The weekly assignments will focus on particular themes or on works that show the nature of political change in various contexts and geographic settings. Thematic texts will be supplemented with factual information to help the students put the ideas of revolt and protest in the proper historical context.


HISTORY 640: Tuesdays, 1:30-4:20 pm, Graduate Course

From Coffeehouses to Internet Cafes: Consumer Culture in the Middle East

Why does consumer culture matter? Situated at the crossroads of economic, social, and cultural history, the history of consumption considers both the production of goods and patterns of expenditure deriving in part from consumer needs and tastes. Traditional economic historians did not always grapple with the ways in which people’s preferences for goods and services affected commerce and trade. Critics of these ideas have pointed out that, even when large economic processes such as mercantilism and imperialism imposed top-down economic policies, people showed agency in their consumer choices. The readings in this course will help us to identify consumer trends in Middle Eastern societies and to explain their significance in discourses of modernity.

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.