The Middle East Institute’s weekly Arabic Circle provides extra language practice for Arabic language students in a conversational setting. Its core group of 5-11 attendees is composed of Columbia University and Barnard College students as well as some non-university affiliated individuals. Ghada Jerfel – a rising junior at Barnard – moderates the sessions and provides feedback. The Arabic Circle is primarily held in Modern Standard Arabic, with some use of the Shami, Egyptian and Tunisian dialects. During the conversations, Ghada emphasizes vocabulary acquisition and reinforces grammar and conjugation skill sets. This year’s activities ranged from discussions on political and social issues to listening to music to watching an Arabic film.
The MEI offers regular programing on topics related to Islamic law through its own “Sharīʿa Workshop,” launched in 2015. With faculty members in three different departments (MESAAS, Religion, Anthropology) regularly offering courses on “Islamic Law,” the university is uniquely well positioned in this field. The workshop brings together faculty and graduate students from Columbia and other universities in New York, and from Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, for intensive discussions of pre-circulated papers by scholars invited from the US and abroad. The MEI has also begun to co-sponsor the longstanding spring conference organized at NYU on “Islamic Law in Society,” in which Columbia faculty and graduate students have been regular participants.
Adab as an Interdisciplinary Pursuit
In Arabic, adab encompasses multiple fields of knowledge, resisting compartmentalization and circumscription. Adab points to both our modern sense of literature, as well as a much longer prose heritage associated with modes of proper comportment, courtly edification, and eloquence.
How do authors and readers inhabit different discourses and understandings of adab? How is textual authority in Arabic generated through competing disciplinary senses of interpretation and citation? How does this all relate to literary form? And when isn’t it adab anymore?
The April 14th, 2017 session of the conference included a special roundtable on “Adab and the Contemporary Arab Press,” with distinguished Arab journalists working in Arabic and English in Europe and the Middle East. The roundtable focused on how the category of adab is contested, claimed, attenuated, and/or celebrated in our time by the Arab cultural press.
Conceived of and spearheaded by Professor Muhsin J. al-Musawi (MESAAS), Adab as an Interdisciplinary Pursuit was co-organized by Tarek El-Ariss, Nizar F. Hermes, Elizabeth Holt and Mohammad Salama.
Adab was sponsored by The Middle East Institute and co-sponsored by Brill Academic Publishers, Columbia University Libraries, The Columbia University Seminar on Arabic Studies, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and The Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.
The Center for Palestine Studies (CPS) at Columbia’s Middle East Institute initiated the Jerusalem Project as a research and learning tool on the past and future of Jerusalem. The project includes course offerings, workshops, guest lectures, and an extensive digital archive housed on CPS’s website. Several programs were introduced in the Spring of 2017.