The Middle East Insitute - Columbia University

 













     

The Middle East Institute
Columbia University
Phone: 212-854-2584
Fax: 212-854-1413
606 West 122 Street
Knox Hall - Third Floor
New York, New York 10027
Mail Code 9640
mei@columbia.edu

The Middle East Institute of Columbia University, founded in 1954, has helped to set the national pace in developing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the present, with a primary focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. Fostering an inter-regional and multi-disciplinary approach to the region, the Institute focuses on the Arab countries, Armenia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Central Asia, and Muslim Diaspora communities.

The Institute sponsors approximately 30 lunch-time talks per year on topics ranging from art and literature to current events, hosts conferences, and provides a neutral atmosphere for scholarly and student exchanges of views on issues concerning the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. It offers courses and outreach seminars to teachers and adult education groups, briefs journalists, and generally acts as a clearing-house for requests for information on the region and its peoples by the media, educational professionals, and the interested public, drawing upon the expertise of its own staff and the faculty of the School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia University.

Events – SPRING 2015

  • Wednesday, March 4 POSTPONED
    Palestine & Law Lecture Series
    Location: Jerome Greene Hall 101, Columbia Law School

    SUHAD BISHARA, Palestine & Law Fellow (2014-15), Center for Palestine Studies

    Suhad Bishara will present a lecture entitled, "Contested Normality: Bedouin 'Citizens' Under the Supreme Court of Israel." Moderated by Katherine Franke, Columbia's Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

    For more information click here.

    Sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies and the Middle East Institute.

  • Monday, March 9
    The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism
    Time: 12:30–2:00pm
    Location: Knox 208 (606 W. 122nd St.)

    Toby Matthiesen
    Author and Research Fellow
    Oxford University

    Join us for a lecture by Toby Matthiesen, on his 2012 APSA winning publication, The Other Saudis: Schiism, Dissent and Sectarianism. Here, he traces the politics of the Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from the nineteenth century until the present day. Using little-known Arabic sources, extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and interviews with key activists, Matthiesen outlines the difficult experiences of being Shia in a Wahhabi state, and casts new light on how the Shia have mobilized politically to change their position.

    Sponsored by the Middle East Institute, the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, and The Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

  • Wednesday March 25, Thursday March 26, and Friday March 27, 2015
    Permission to Narrate

    A Festival of three Palestinian plays over three nights

    Drawn from the newly published anthology Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora
    Location: Earl Hall, Columbia University

    Details forthcoming.

    The Center for Palestine Studies invites you to staged readings of three plays that embody the contemporary Palestinian playwright’s role in resisting historical, political and geographic erasures through art. Curated by playwright Ismail Khalidi. This ambitious drama programming is coordinated with the release of Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora, a landmark in the study of Palestinian theater, co-edited by Ismail Khalidi and award-winning playwright Naomi Wallace, and introduced by noted writer, poet and adjunct CU faculty member, Nathalie Handal.

  • Thursday, April 2
    "Modernities: Discontent and Alliances"
    Nada Shabout (University of North Texas), with discussant Zainab Bahrani (Columbia University)
    Time: 6:00pm
    Location: Room 612, Schermerhorn Hall

    This lecture is part of a series called "'Islamic' Art: Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures," which addresses the historiography of the field "Islamic Art" by scoring the particular moments of ruptures that fractured its foundation.

    Organized by Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

    For more information visit, click here.

    Sponsored by the Department of Art History and Archaeology in collaboration with the Middle East Institute.


    Events – FALL 2015

  • November 13
    Music of the Ottoman Empire Lecture & Demonstration
    Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30pm
    Location: Room 208, Knox Hall

    An outcome of hundreds of years of artistic development in a multicultural environment, geographically spread over three continents, Ottoman music left an indelible mark on world music today.

    Ahmet Erdogdular will give a lecture on music in the Ottoman Empire: its history, makam structure, forms, and the Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish musicians who contributed to the creation of the Ottoman musical heritage.

    Accompanied by Ali Osman Erdogdular, he will demonstrate singing and playing techniques and improvisation on several instruments.

    Sponsored by Makam New York and the Middle East Institute


  • Past Events of SPRING 2015


  • Wednesday, January 22
    Writing across Borders and Languages
    Time: 6:00pm – 7:30pm
    Location: East Gallery, Buell Hall

    Writing across Borders and Languages
    A conversation with Italian-Algerian Author Amara Lakhous

    Author joined by Madeleine Dobie, Elizabeth Leake, and Pier Mattia Tommasino

    Born in Algiers in 1970, Amara Lakhous departed for Italy during the violence that ravaged Algeria in the 1990s. His critically acclaimed novels in Arabic and Italian include Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio (2010), Divorce Islamic Style (2012) and Dispute over a Very Italian Piglet (2014). Using humor to explore the encounter of cultures, religions and languages, Lakhous's work explores the experience of exile and the dynamics of migration in the contemporary Mediterranean. His novels have won major literary prizes, including Premio Flaiano per la narrativa in 2006 and Algeria's most prestigious literary award, the Prix des libraires algériens in 2008. Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio has been adopted by Cornell University as the New Student Reading Project text for 2014.

    He will discuss his novels, the practice of bilingual writing and translation, literary culture in Algeria and Italy, and the social and political framework of contemporary migration, with Columbia Professors Madeleine Dobie (French and Comparative Literature), Elizabeth Leake (Italian) and Pier Mattia Tommasino (Italian).

    Co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Institute of African Studies, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, European Institute, Middle East Institute, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and Department of Italian

  • Thursday, January 29
    "How Modern was made 'Islamic': Recruiting a category for late 20th-century architecture in the Middle East"
    Time: 6:00pm
    Location: Room 612, Schermerhorn Hall

    Esra Akcan, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Cornell University

    This lecture is part of a series called "'Islamic' Art: Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures," which addresses the historiography of the field "Islamic Art" by scoring the particular moments of ruptures that fractured its foundation.

    Organized by Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

    For more information visit, click here.

    Sponsored by the Department of Art History and Archaeology in collaboration with the Middle East Institute.

  • Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7
    WHY PRAYER? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer
    Location: Italian Academy, Columbia University

    What can the study of prayer tell us about social life, religious institutions and practices, ethical self-formation, and our concepts of communication, both shared and unique? The Social Science Research Council's Program on Religion and the Public Sphere announces Why Prayer?

    A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer, a two-day gathering that will showcase the work of over 30 scholars and journalists who have explored these questions and more.

    Please join us February 6-7, 2015, for panels and presentations on topics including religious technologies, embodiment, material culture, language, politics, and the mind. Beginning Friday afternoon, the conference will also feature the Prayer Expo-a pop-up installation of multi-media presentations and material objects that call attention to the myriad representations of prayer shaping discourse and practice. On Saturday, two plenary events will highlight the multiple registers of engagement occasioned by new, transdisciplinary research on the practice of prayer.

    Presented by the Social Science Research Council, Program on Religion and the Public Sphere, and the following Columbia University co-sponsors: the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL); the Middle East Institute; the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS); and the departments Anthropology and Psychology.

    For conference programs and detailed information visit the Social Science Research Council, Program on Religion and the Public Sphere.

    REGISTER NOW

  • Thursday, February 12
    A Poetics of Conversion: Crossing and Transgressing Religious Boundaries in Persian Literature
    Time: 12:30-2:00pm
    Location: 208 Knox

    Franklin Lewis, Associate Professor of Persian, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

    Professor Franklin Lewis is an Associate Professor of Persian Language and Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and Deputy Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. He teaches classes on Persian language and literature, Islamic thought, Sufism, Baha'i Studies, translation studies, and Middle Eastern cinema.

    Professor Lewis studied at U.C. Berkeley and did his graduate work in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His dissertation on the life and works of the 12th-century mystical poet Sana'i, and the establishment of the ghazal genre in Persian literature, won the Foundation of Iranian Studies best dissertation prize in 1995. Prof. Lewis previously taught Persian a tEmory University, in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. He founded Adabiyat, an international discussion forum on the literatures of the Islamic World (including Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu) and is former President of the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

    Introduction by Hossein Kamaly, Assistant Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College of Columbia University

    Sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 12
    Foreign Policy as an Identity Marker: Understanding Turkey's De-Alignment from the EU
    Time: 6:00–7:30 pm
    Location: Room 707, International Affairs Building

    Senem Aydin-Düzgit, Associate Professor of International Relations, Istanbul Bilgi University

    This talk begins with the argument that despite the burgeoning literature on Turkish foreign policy, there has been little theoretically informed study on the identity-related implications of Turkish foreign policy in the Davutoglu era. Prof. Aydin-Düzgit argues that discourses on key events and issues in Turkish foreign policy enable the construction of a national identity, which has implications for policies at the domestic level as well as for Turkey's relations with the European Union.

    Senem Aydin-Düzgit is an Associate Professor and Jean Monnet Chair in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University. Her main research interests include EU enlargement, EU-Turkey relations, discourse studies, politics of identity and democratization. She is the author of Constructions of European Identity: Debates and Discourses on Turkey and the EU (Palgrave, 2013).

    Register here.

    Co-sponsored by the European Institute and the Middle East Institute.

  • Friday, February 13
    The Place of Islamic Literature and Thought in the Humanities Curriculum
    Time: 4:00-6:00pm
    Location: 509 Knox

    Franklin Lewis, Associate Professor of Persian, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

    Veli N. Yashin, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University

    What is the place of Islamic literature and thought in the American university, here and now? Is there an "Islamic humanities"? Does it have a place within the general humanities curriculum? If so what can be said about this place from within the critical space of humanities today? This panel discussion brings together both prominent and emerging scholars to debate and reconceive the larger role of "Islamic Humanities" within the general humanities. In addition to responding to the urgency of revising the teaching of "major texts" as part of the departmental major, then, this panel discussion begins to re-envision the role of the next generation of scholars in continuing the tradition of the "Core" at Columbia and beyond, availing itself of the European, American, and the West-Asian traditions. In this sense, the event also addresses the more general question: how to teach "non-Western" textual traditions in the American university?

    Co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching Center.

  • Monday, February 23 CANCELLED
    "Ex-Libris: Chronicles of Theft, Preservation, and Appropriating at the Jewish National Library – The Case of the Palestinian and Yemenite Looted Books"
    Time: 12:00–1:30pm
    Location: Room 208, Knox Hall

    Gish Amit, Mandel Leadership Institute (Jerusalem)

    Gish Amit has been involved in non-formal education for some twenty years. He taught cinema and literature at the Arab Democratic School in Jaffa, and lectured in philosophy and critical theory at Tel-Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Amit is a co-author (with Gadi Avidan and Chen Lampert) of The Unheard Voice: A Different View on Children at Schools (in Hebrew, HaKibbutz HaMeuchad, 2005), and author of Ex-Libris: the Jewish National and University Library 1945-1955 (in Hebrew, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute). Amit holds a BA and an MA from Tel-Aviv University in philosophy and literature, and a doctorate from the Hebrew literature department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He was recently a post-doctoral fellow at "The Middle East in Europe" program in Berlin.

    During the 1948 war, the staff of the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University collected some 30,000 books, manuscripts and newspapers that were left behind by the Palestinian residents of western Jerusalem. About 6,000 of those book were "loaned" to the National Library's Eastern Studies Department. Furthermore, the Custodian of Absentee Property gathered some 40,000-50,000 books from the cities of Jaffa, Haifa, Tiberias, Nazareth and other places.

    Many Jews from Yemen who arrived in the fledgling state of Israel in the late 1940s and early 1950s brought with them hand-written books, scrolls, and other precious possessions. On arrival they were asked to deposit these objects with state officials who promised that their belongings would be returned. Most of these artifacts were subsequently appropriated by the state via the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its library. Owners were later told that the artifacts had unaccountably disappeared or been destroyed by fire; still later some of these objects were put up for sale by book dealers; some continue to appear in unlikely places.

    The untold story of the fate of both Palestinian and Yemenite 'abandoned' books will be discussed in this lecture. Both cases demonstrate how occupation and colonization is not limited to the taking over of physical space, but also to the occupation and control of cultural spaces.


    Co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute, the Department of Art History and Archaeology, and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University.

  • Tuesday, February 24

    What Went Wrong in Libya?: A Look at Key Actors, Events, and the International Community's Role in Libya's Downward Spiral

    Time: 4:15 - 6:00pm
    Location: International Affairs Building, Room 1302, 420 West 118th Street

    with Hanan Salah, Libya Researcher, Human Rights Watch

    moderated by Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, SIPA

    About the speaker: Hanan Salah, Libya researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division, investigates human rights abuses in Libya. She produces detailed reports, news releases, and op-eds based on her findings and conducts local and international advocacy. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Salah worked as protection team leader for western Libya at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), supervising a team of delegates and visiting scores of detention facilities. Prior to working in Libya, she was the ICRC detention team leader in Algeria and a delegate in Chad and Iraq. She has also served as the regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa at Hilfswerk, an Austrian humanitarian organization. Salah holds a Master’s degree from Vienna University in Economics and Business Administration. She is a native speaker of Arabic and German and also fluent in English and French.

    Sponsored by the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War & Peace Studies and Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 26
    IMAC Brownbag Series with Fatima El-Assawi
    Time: 12:45–2pm
    Location: 1302 International Affairs Building

    Fatima El-Issawi is a research fellow at the LSE (London School of Economics) Middle East Centre.

    Sponsored by the Middle East Institute and IMAC (International Media, Advocacy and Communications).

  • Thursday, February 26
    Palestine & Law Lecture Series
    Time: 4:30pm-6:00pm
    Location: Jerome Greene Hall 105, Columbia Law School

    Attorney Hassan Jabareen, founder and director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, will give a talk on the legal dimensions of Palestinian citizen's political participation in the 2015 Israeli elections.

    Respondent: Darryl Li, Associate Research Scholar at Yale University, PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University and JD from Yale.

    Moderated by Katherine Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

    For more information click here.

    Sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies, Center for Gender and Sexuality, and the Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 26
    "Scratching on things I could disavow: From the Louvre's Département des Arts de l'Islam"
    Walid Raad (Cooper Union)
    Time: 6:00pm
    Location: Room 612, Schermerhorn Hall

    This lecture is part of a series called "'Islamic' Art: Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures," which addresses the historiography of the field "Islamic Art" by scoring the particular moments of ruptures that fractured its foundation.

    Organized by Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

    For more information visit, click here.

    Sponsored by the Department of Art History and Archaeology in collaboration with the Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 26
    Film Screening: The Other Town – Why Do Nations Clash?
    Time: 8:00–9:30pm
    Location: Schermerhorn 501

    With Filmmaker Nefin Dinç

    Introduction by Christine Philliou
    Associate Professor at the Department of History, Columbia University

    "The Other Town" is a documentary film about Turks and Greeks and the source of stereotypes, misunderstandings and prejudices against the "Other." It is about how the stereotypes and misunderstandings are perpetuated in education in a broader sense in Greece and Turkey countries. In this film, the filmmakers have collaborated with the writer Hercules Millas to see where these prejudices are still coming from even though the last war between the two nations took place about a 100 years ago. They filmed the national celebrations, religious ceremonies and history lessons in both countries throughout a year to find an answer to this question.

    The film has won the "Audience Award" at Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and the "Best Historical Documentary" at Greek Film Festival, Chicago.

    To find more information on the film, and watch the trailer, click here.

    Sponsored by the Middle East Institute, the Program in Hellenic Studies, and the Harriman Institute

  • Monday, March 2
    Open House: M.A. in Islamic Studies
    Time: 6:00 pm
    Location: Knox Hall, Room 301

    Explore the options for pursuing an M.A. in Islamic Studies.
    Early admission for current Columbia undergraduates.

    Application Deadline: March 12, 2015

    For detailed information click here or contact Astrid Benedek M.A. Coordinator


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