Center News

Announcement and Call for Applications: Iran Graduate Student Workshop

To build bridges across Persian and Iranian Studies programs, scholars from New York University’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department and the Gallatin School (ISI-NYU), Princeton University’s Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center announce the Iran Graduate Student Workshop (IGSW). The workshop will provide a valuable venue for academic exchange and production, giving distinguished young scholars of the field an unrivalled opportunity to present and promote their research.

On May 4-5, 2018, the University of Pennsylvania will host the second gathering of this joint workshop, to be followed by similar meetings at the other campuses every two years. This second workshop in 2018 will consist of PhD students that are near ABD status and preparing their dissertation proposals (i.e., typically in their 2nd or 3rd year of graduate work). In addition, the first cohort will participate again, as discussants, in the 2018 workshop, as they approach the end of their graduate work.

Applicants for the second round, in 2018, must focus on modern Iran (roughly 18th-20th centuries), other countries of the Persianate world, or diasporas, or conduct relational histories and comparative work; and will be drawn from disciplines and programs in the humanities and social sciences, including anthropology, art history, economics, history, literature, politics, sociology, and related fields.


IGSW Purpose:

  • To provide graduate students with intellectual feedback on their research, encompassing both area studies and disciplinary critiques, twice in their graduate student careers.
  • To ensure that graduate students of Iran are aware of, and make their work accessible to, scholars from other parts of “their” area (i.e., the Middle East broadly defined) as well as from 
their own discipline, whether it be history, literature, or the social sciences.
  • To use the above points to make sure that graduating scholars who focus on modern Iran will continue to be placed, if not more frequently placed, in both area studies and disciplinary departments.
  • To help doctoral students improve skills in scholarship and teaching.

To apply, please send to the following materials by August 15, 2017:

  • One letter of recommendation from an advisor or committee member supporting the research project and attesting to the student's good standing in their program of study.
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Research proposal of 1,000 words on argument, methods, and evidence to be used in 
Decisions on applications will be sent out by September 30, 2017. If selected by the IGSW committee, participants will be expected to attend workshops in years 2018 and 2020. Travel and accommodation for accepted applicants will be provided by the IGSW.
This event is co-organized by New York University’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department and the Gallatin School (ISI-NYU), Princeton University’s Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center.

Ida Nitter Wins the Middle East Center Translation Contest for Turkish

 Ida Nitter won the Middle East Center Translation Contest for Turkish this year. Ida Nitter is a doctoral student in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) department. Her research focuses on nineteenth and early twentieth century Arab intellectual history and literature. She is particularly interested in how Arab writers responded to Western tropes of the Arab “Other” during the colonial and post-colonial era.

The Middle East Center Co-Organizes Workshop on Migration, Culture and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts

On May 19, 2017, Dr Joyce Pittman (Associate clinical professor at Drexel University, School of Education), Rebecca Clothey (Assistant professor, Drexel University, School of Education) and Mr. Andrew Peterson (Lecturer, English Language Program, University of Pennsylvania) led a a workshop titled Migration, Culture, Language and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts. The workshop was organized in connection with Penn-Drexel Connect Global Education Project.

The first session of the workshop focused on culture, literacy and pedagogy of learning and teaching, while the second session dealt with linguistics, less commonly taught languages and communication technologies. The second session contained hands-on activities and several presentations by students.

PhD candidate Gareth Smail is the recipient of the 2017 University of Pennsylvania-Pulitzer Consortium International Reporting Fellowship for the Middle East

Gareth Smail is a researcher and educator interested in language, teaching, and cultural politics, especially in North Africa. At Penn, he is pursuing his PhD in Educational Linguistics at the Graduate School of Education. He has lived in Morocco and Algeria.

Michael Karam is awarded an honorable mention for the undergraduate essay "The Lebanese M Community: Identities Lost (or) Found in Translation.

Michael Karam is a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying economics and International Relations with a minor in math. Over the past year, he was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Undergraduate Humanities Forum Research Fellowship, which enabled him to study queer language in Lebanon. Michael is passionate about building understanding and bringing people together. He loves studying literature, the relationship between media and politics, and international topics in general. Michael knows Arabic, English, and French, and hopes to one day be fluent in all 6 official UN languages. 

Middle East Center Supported Bilingualism Workshop at the Graduate School Education 

Partnering with the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, the Middle East Center supported the organization of a workshop on bilingualism in K-12 education on May 2, 2017. Approximately, 30 students, who are about to graduate and begin their teaching careers participated in this workshop. Dr. Donna Sharer who is currently curriculum development specialist at Philadelphia School District gave a presentation entitled: “Learning from and with Emergent Bilingual Students (English Learners).” Five former students of Dr. Sharer also shared their experiences as bilingual students studying in Philadelphia School District. 

Lauren Beard: Winner of the 2017 Undergraduate Essay competition with the essay "Mental Health Conditions of Syrian Refugees in Turkey" 

Lauren Beard is a senior from Buford, Ga studying Modern Middle Eastern Studies and Biological Basis of Behavior. She spent three years studying Turkish at Penn and went on to study at Bogazici University in Istanbul on a FLAS Fellowship. She is interested in healthcare access, the intersections of health and culture, and access to healthcare services for refugees. Following graduation, she will be working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as a data analyst.

The Choices Program Brings K-12 Educators to Penn Museum

On Saturday April 8 the Middle East Center in partnership with the Choices Program, Brown University, the South Asia Center, and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host 25 K-12 educators for the interactive workshop Engaging Students in International Issues: The Choices Approach. The participating teachers had the opportunity to examine and work with the Choices units The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy and Indian Independence and the Question of Partition which both were led by Sarah McDowell, Chair of the department of History at the Chestnut Hill Academy. The teachers also attended a lecture given by Penn Museum archeologist Dr. Salam Al Kuntar and had the chance to tour the brand new exhibit – Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Iraq and Syria curated by Dr. Al Kuntar. Contemporary artwork from Syrian artist Issam Korbaj is interwoven throughout the exhibition, which creates a powerful link between the past and the present. 

War Correspondent Scott Anderson Visits Penn

On February 21 at 6: 00 pm, Scott Anderson, a journalist and war correspondent, delivered a lecture entitled “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart” in Perry World House, which drew a large audience. The talk which was co-organized by the Middle East Center, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis reporting, and the South Asia Center, was based on the article with the same name; the longest published article to be featured in New York Times Magazine. The article is the fruit of three years of reporting of the developments in the Middle East from the 2003 intervention in Iraq until today. Around sixty attendees listened to Scott Anderson’s talk. The audience consisted mainly of Penn students and their professors. Two classes “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East after the Arab Uprisings” and “Finding Voice: Perspectives On Race, Class & Gender were present with their professors during the talk. After the talk Scott gave generously of his time to the students who posed many thoughtful and interesting questions. The following morning Scott gave a lecture in a more intimate setting in Dr. Almallah’s morning class “Arabic Readings in the Social Sciences and the Media”. 

Asia Day Brings K-12 Students and Teachers to Penn

On Friday February 24 the Middle East Center in partnership with the South Asia Center and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host approximately one hundred forty K-12 students and their teachers at Penn Museum for “Asia Day: Understanding Asia through the lens of Media”. The students from six different high schools from the greater Philadelphia area (Penn-Crest High School, Academy at Palumbo, Central High School, Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Bodine High School, and Master Charter Thomas) were present during Asia Day. Asia Day started out with a lecture delivered by Dr. Rahul Mukherjee entitled “Reading Between the Lines of Popular Media: A South Asian Perspective”. Following this lecture, the students had opportunities to study ancient forms of mass communication during a museum tour. They also took part in international classroom sessions. At noon staff members from the Middle East Center and the South Asia Center accompanied students to Penn’s campus where a Middle Eastern and Asian inspired lunch was being served in the Arch building. The students and the teachers had the opportunity to listen to a lecture entitled “Islam and the Middle East: How the News Media Shapes perception” by PhD student Mohammed Salih. Mohammed previously worked as a journalist covering the Middle East. There was also a Sufi performance given by Juan Castrillon, a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Penn.