Join us for the last event of the semester in the Persica Forum. Friday, December 22nd at 6:00PM in 208 Knox Hall.
Working for the government in Early Islamic Jurisprudence
Rob Gleave is Professor of Arabic Studies and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam (CSI), IAIS, University of Exeter. Gleave is currently Principal Investigator of 2 major projects: Understanding Shari’a: Past Present Imperfect Present (www.usppip.eu) and Law and Learning in Imami Shi’ite Islam (LAWALISI). We will discuss his precirculated paper. To receive a copy, contact email@example.com.
The presentation highlights the actual role played by Mayy Ziyādah, not only as a salonniere, but also as an intellectual in her own right with a significant role in the Nahḍah in twentieth century Egypt. As her name is most often associated with the salon, Professor Khaldi will demonstrate the intellectual climate of that salon, its capacity to bring together different factions and to emerge thereby as a microcosm of the Nahḍah, in its complexity and hybrid nature. With these goals in mind, she will draw on an extensive amount of material, supported by a theoretical framework that helps in envisioning the salon as a public sphere
Boutheina Khaldi is Associate professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the American University of Sharjah. She has published a monograph in English: Egypt Awakening in the Early Twentieth Century: Mayy Ziyᾱdah’s Intellectual Circles (Palgrave, 2012), a book in Arabic: Al-Muḍmar fῑ al-Tarassul al-Niswῑ al-‘Arabῑ (2015) (The Implicit in Arab Women’s Epistolary Writing), in addition to a number of peer-reviewed articles, and co-edited three textbooks: Al-Adab al-‘Arabῑ al-Ḥadῑth: Mukhtᾱrᾱt, Al-Wafῑ fῑ Turᾱth al-‘Arab al-Thaqᾱfῑ, and Turᾱth al-'Arab al-Ma'rifi
The Qur'an was an object of scholarly attention in the eighteenth century, when, in the wake of Lodovico Marracci's philological Latin achievement of 1698, a number of writers attempted a literary translation of the holy book of Islam. In the same period, the Qur'an also served as a multivalent symbol--of revealed religion, of literature, and of law. This paper first examines the scholarly achievements of the period's European translators from Arabic, and then compares them to the Qur'an's reception in the Enlightenment to reveal both the connections and the differences between philological and "philosophical" reception in this formative era of Western intellectual culture.
TALK | The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: Evolution in Organization and Ideology from the early 1970s until 2017
Contrary to the generally accepted conceptualization of the Brotherhood as an ‘Islamist movement’, we will understand the Brotherhood as a modern political organization. We will focus on the various internal political and personality clashes that have characterized the Brotherhood’s life as an organization, how these conflicts have contributed to the Brotherhood’s downfall in 2013, and how internal politics continues to shape the Brotherhood’s political behavior today.
Safwan M. Masri, Executive Vice President of Global Centers and Global Development will discuss his new book, Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly. Welcome by SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow; Moderated by Lisa Anderson Dean Emerita, SIPA & James T. Shotwell Professor Emerita. Books will be available for sale and signing.
This talk aims to move beyond simplistic and often celebratory accounts of Kurdish women fighters resisting ISIS in Syria and Iraq by exploring underlying ideological and political underpinnings. We illustrate the dialectical relationship between the writings of the political leader (Öcalan), and the resistance to male hegemony within the movement on behalf of Kurdish women activists. We interrogate the long-term prospect of radical gender equality and justice in a context of escalating conflict, militarization and the prevalence of conservative gender norms and relations, particularly pertaining to sexuality.
Join the Center for Palestine Studies for a night of staged readings about Israel-Palestine. Attendance is free. To reserve your seat RSVP at palestine.mei.columbia.edu.
This day-long event is the first of a three-piece series that focuses on the movement of people across and along the Mediterranean and the emergence, re-signification, and use of sites of memory. Bringing together a mix of panelists from the humanities and social sciences, the day will include work by the following scholars. Emrah Yildiz (Northwestern University) will present his work on “The Ways of Zainab: Ziyarat & Maqam,Visitation and the Shrine, in the Syrian Age of Exodus.” Faiz Ahmed (Brown University) will discuss “Indo-Afghans and Religious Memory in the Ottoman Mediterranean: Jaffa to Jerusalem, Tripoli to Istanbul.” Columbia’s Dimitrios Antoniouwill talk about “Memories of a Spatial Imagination: The Athens Mosque and the Politics of Sacrifice.”And Adnan A. Husain(Queen’s University) will speak about “Miraculous Commemorations: The Easter Fire at the Holy Sepulchre in Medieval Jerusalem. ”
Respondents will include Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular, Naor Ben-Yehoyada, and Avinoam Shalem.
Organized by Seth Kimmel and Naor Ben-Yehoyada.
Marnia Lazreg discusses her new book in conversation with Joseph Massad.
Foucault’s Orient: The Conundrum of Cultural Difference, From Tunisia to Japan
Foucault lived in Tunisia for two years and travelled to Japan and Iran more than once. Yet throughout his critical scholarship, he insisted that the cultures of the “Orient” constitute the “limit” of Western rationality. Using archival research supplemented by interviews with key scholars in Tunisia, Japan and France, this book examines the philosophical sources, evolution as well as contradictions of Foucault’s experience with non-Western cultures. Beyond tracing Foucault’s journey into the world of otherness, the book reveals the personal, political as well as methodological effects of a radical conception of cultural difference that extolled the local over the cosmopolitan.
Marnia Lazreg is professor of sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her latest publications include Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad (Princeton, 2008); and Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women (Princeton, 2009).
Joseph Massad is Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He is the author most recently of Islam in Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
Sami Hermez, PhD, is assistant professor in residence of anthropology at Northwestern University in Qatar.
Introduced by Nadia Abu El-Haj, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies.
In War Is Coming, Sami Hermez argues that the country’s political leaders have enabled the continuation of violence and examines how people live between these periods of conflict. What do everyday conversations, practices, and experiences look like during these moments? How do people attempt to find a measure of certainty or stability in such times? Hermez’s ethnographic study of everyday life in Lebanon between the volatile years of 2006 and 2009 tackles these questions and reveals how people engage in practices of recollecting past war while anticipating future turmoil. Hermez demonstrates just how social interactions and political relationships with the state unfold and critically engages our understanding of memory and violence, seeing in people’s recollections living and spontaneous memories that refuse to forget the past. With an attention to the details of everyday life, War Is Coming shows how even a conversation over lunch, or among friends, may turn into a discussion about both past and future unrest. Shedding light on the impact of protracted conflict on people’s everyday experiences and the way people anticipate political violence, Hermez highlights an urgency for alternative paths to sustaining political and social life in Lebanon.
An intimate portrait of the daily realities of life in contemporary Jerusalem
There is no escaping the Jerusalem of the religious imagination. Not once but three times holy, its overwhelming spiritual significance looms large over the city’s complex urban landscape and the diurnal rhythms and struggles that make up its earthbound existence. Nonetheless, writes Paola Caridi, in this intimate and hard-hitting portrayal of the city, it is possible to close one’s eyes and, “like the blind listening to sounds,” discern the conflict and plurality of belonging that mark out the city’s secular character. Jerusalem without God leads the reader through the streets, malls, suburbs, traffic jams, and squares of Jerusalem’s present moment, into the daily lives of the men and women who inhabit it. Caridi brings contemporary Jerusalem alive by describing it as a place of sights and senses, sounds and smells, but she also shows us a city riven by the harsh asymmetry of power and control embodied in its lines, limits, walls, and borders. She explores a cruel city, where Israeli and Palestinian civilians sometimes spend hours in the same supermarkets, only to return to the confines of their respective districts, invisible to each other; a city memorable for its ancient stones and shimmering sunsets but dotted with Israeli checkpoints, “postmodern drawbridges,” that control the movement of people, ideas, and potential attackers. Describing Jerusalem through the lenses of urban planners and politicians, anthropologists and archaeologists, advertisers and scholars, Jerusalem without God reveals a city that is as diverse as it is complex, and ultimately, argues its author, one whose destiny cannot be tied to any single religious faith, tradition, or political ideology.
Paola Caridi, Ph.D., journalist and historian, lecturer at Palermo University (Italy). Caridi lived in Cairo and Jerusalem from 2001 to 2012, where she worked as a reporter and analyst on Middle East affairs. She wrote extensively (essays and books) on MENA region, especially on Palestinian and Egyptian politics. Among her books, Hamas: From Resistance to Government (NY, Seven Stories Press, 2012). Here recent book, Jerusalem without God, has been published in 2017 by the American University in Cairo Press. From 2008 she maintains her blog, invisiblearabs.com, on Arab popular culture and politics.
The times in which we live are rife with interventions - humanitarian, financial, and political - into the inner affairs of sovereign states. Deep incisions into the body politic, they injure even as they seek to heal, upturning conventional understandings of the state as an autonomous entity by inserting foreign elements beneath its skin. This paper sketches out a genealogy for these practices, tracing them back to the nineteenth-century Mediterranean and the particular sovereign arrangements born of the Ottoman empire’s unhappy encounter with Britain and France. From the 1830s onwards, it argues, these two states devised novel ways of organising population, territory, and debt and new understandings of sovereignty.
In Tunis, the first collections of antiquities were established in the 18th - 19th centuries. European Consuls, foreign scholars, and international traders acquired most of the archaeological remains then available from the ancient city of Carthage. Whether growing out of their personal taste, commercial considerations, or a desire for cultural distinction, they enriched the collections of major European museums. This collecting practice was not limited to foreigners, but also touched the local ruling class.
TALK | New Frames for the Bey of Tunis: Creating an Official Art in the Age of the Great Reforms (1830-1881)
Located in the center of the Mediterranean, far from the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, Tunisia experienced an important transformation during the 19th century. Starting in the reign of Ahmad Bey (1837-1853) the period ended, after the gradual disintegration of the Tunisian State, with the installation of the French Protectorate in 1881. It remains a decisive moment of great political, intellectual and social progress for the kingdom of Tunisia under the rule of the Husainid monarchy, against a background of realignment in the Mediterranean Basin. During this complex period of European Imperial expansion, Tunisia undertook the modernization of its state through a series of reforms, which saw the country assume its autonomy and equip itself with an enduring framework. From the Art perspective, this same period was particularly fascinating with the coexistence of Ottoman, local and European Art, appreciated by a new cosmopolitan ruling class who asserted their power through the collection, particularly through the art of portrait, which was becoming very popular and marked a new form of power in Tunisia.
Speaker Bio: Dr. Ridha Moumni read Art History and Archaeology in Paris, at La Sorbonne University, where he earned his Ph. D. He researches classical, modern and contemporary art from a global and transnational perspective, with emphasis on questions of collecting practice and intellectual history. Winner of several prizes he was the first Tunisian Fellow at the French Academy in Rome (Villa Medici). Curator of exhibitions of photography and modern art, he recently organized with the Rambourg Foundation The Awakening of a Nation: Art at the Dawn of Modern Tunisia (1837-1881) to commemorate the 60th birthday of the National Independency. Dr. Moumni is currently head of project of the creation of the Qsar es-Saïd Art Museum, the future museum of Ottoman era in Tunisia.
Introductions by: Brinkley M. Messick
Event Location: Knox Hall, 606 W. 122 St., New York, NY Room 207
Sponsors: Middle East Institute and Columbia Global Centers
In writings about Islam, women and modernity in the Middle East, family and religion are frequently invoked but rarely historicized. Based on a wide range of local sources spanning two centuries (1660-1860), Beshara Doumani argues that there is no such thing as a typical Muslim or Arab family type that is so central to Orientalist, nationalist, and Islamist political imaginations. Rather, one finds dramatic regional differences, even within the same cultural zone, in the ways that family was understood, organized, and reproduced. In his comparative examination of the property devolution strategies and gender regimes in the context of local political economies, Doumani offers a groundbreaking examination of the stories and priorities of ordinary people and how they shaped the making of the modern Middle East.
Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History
Beshara Doumani is a Professor of History and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. His research focuses on groups, places, and time periods marginalized by mainstream scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He also writes on the topics of displacement, academic freedom, politics of knowledge production, and the Palestinian condition. His books include Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900, Academic Freedom After September 11 (editor), and Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property and Gender (editor). He is the editor of a book series, New Directions in Palestinian Studies, with the University of California Press.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and History, will introduce Doumani. Commentary by Baber Johansen, Professor of Islamic Religious Studies, Harvard Divinity School, and Brinkley Messick, Professor of Anthropology and MESAAS and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia, will follow the talk.
About the Book: We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled: Voices From Syria
LONG-LISTED FOR THE CARNEGIE MEDAL
Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.
Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.
Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.
WENDY PEARLMAN is an Associate Professor; and Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professor at North Western University.
Wendy has studied or conducted research in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Israel, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She has written two books and more than a dozen articles or book chapters about the Palestinian national movement, focusing on internal politics and the causes and consequences of political violence.
Wendy is also co-authoring a second book with Boaz Atzili (American University). It examines “triadic coercion”: the situation when a state uses violence and/or threats against another state to compel it to stop violence from a nonstate actor on its territory. The manuscript offers a critical analysis of sixty-five years of Israel’s experience with this policy.
Wendy has received fellowships from Fulbright, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Northwestern’s Buffett Institute. She has been awarded the Weinberg College Distinguished Teaching Award and has three times been elected to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll. Her articles have received prizes from the Syrian Studies Association and the Moise Khayrallah Lebanese Diaspora Studies Center.
Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017) challenges the received narrative that Arabism in general and Egyptian territorial nationalism in particular emerged in opposition to the Ottoman and British Empires and primarily from below. The author argues instead that early Arabic nationalist culture was produced in dialogue with the localized Ottoman power by educated Arabs who integrated Muslim and European cultural forms in their search for political inclusion and patronage.
Tuesday, October 17; 12:00pm-1:00pm
Sponsored by Columbia University Middle East Institute & Columbia Business School Middle East and North Africa Club
Dr. Brinkley Messick, Director, Middle East Institute of Columbia University, will moderate a discussion between H.E. Dr. Ali Mohsen Ismail Al-Allaq, Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, and Mr. Mohammed Hussein Moh’d Ali Bahr AlUloom, Permanent Representative of Iraq United Nation, NY. Lunch will be served.
Gil Hochberg will be speaking this Monday October 9th, 6:00-7:30 pm in 754 Schermerhon Ext: "Minor Archives: Memory, Narrative and Counter-Narrative”.
Zohra Drif, a key figure in the Algerian independence movement most notable for her role in the 1957 Battle of Algiers. Mme. Drif discussed the launch of the English translation of her book, Inside the Battle of Algiers, and her role in the critical turning point of the eight-year struggle for independence from France.
Simone Brioni's paper analyses to what extent Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of the three main features of ‘minor literature’ – namely ‘the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation’ – are relevant in analyzing literature by authors of Somali origins in Italian.
Because of Deleuze and Guattari’s abstract reference to gender and race issues and their vague concern for the geographical, linguistic and cultural specificities of literatures by minor authors, she will argue that ‘minor literature’ should not be seen as a rigid framework to be applied in interpreting a specific case study, although its theoretical flexibility might be useful when investigating a literature that strongly refuse categorization. In particular, Deleuze and Guattari’s reference to ‘minor’ ‘literature as a literature ‘in becoming’ helps to identify the position of Somali Italian literature in a transnational context, proposing some changes in how 'Italian' literature has been conceptualized so far.
"Compared to his Risālat al-Tawḥīd, which has received massive scholarly attention and been translated into several European languages, ʿAbduh’s more technically complex works of philosophical commentary – his Ḥāshiyah on Jalāl al-Dīn al-Dawānī’s Sharḥ on the ʿAqāʾid Aḍudiyyah of ʿAḍud al-Dīn al-Ījī, and his Taʿlīqāt on the Baṣāʾir Naṣīriyyah fī ʿIlm al-Manṭiq of Ibn Sahlān al-Sāwī – remain in the shadows. By focusing on ʿAbduh’s take on a central debate in the interpretation of Avicenna’s metaphysics, this paper will bring to light ʿAbduh’s direct engagement with the Avicennian tradition, and show how these two philosophical texts fit within his larger intellectual project."
Dr Robert Wisnovsky is James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. He received his BA (1986) in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from Yale, and an MA (1990) and PhD (1994) in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton, where his supervisor was Prof. Hossein Modarressi. He then took up a Postdoctoral Research Assistantship (1994–1996) in Prof. Richard Sorabji’s Ancient Commentators on Aristotle project, in the Philosophy Department of King’s College London. Dr Wisnovsky's first teaching job was in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at Harvard, where he was Assistant Professor (1996-2002) and then Associate Professor (2002-2004) of Islamic Intellectual History. In 2004 he came to the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill, where he is currently James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy, having served as Director of the Institute from 2005-2008. Professor Wisnovsky is one of the leading scholars in the world working on the preservation and cataloguing of Islamic manuscripts in theology and philosophy
The film Looted and Hidden focuses on a number of groundbreaking institutions that were plundered: The Palestine Research Center, the Palestinian Cinema Institution (PCI) and the Cultural Arts Center (CAS) of the PLO. These bodies were among the first to document Palestinian existence and to preserve, research and chart the visual and written Palestinian history from the late 1960s onward. Looted and Hidden , the first film devoted to the subject, follows pioneering, bold, and idealistic creators and directors and the archives they built, focusing mainly on the cinematic enterprise created by the CAS and PCI. Tracing their pillaging, administration and control by Israel - looting, censorship, denial of access, and erasure - the film raises questions about archival institutions in areas of conflict and points, as in detective work, to the need to dig into the invisible and hidden in order to reveal what has been erased or rewritten.
General discussion and planning for the semester.
Facebook’s decision in 2014 to shut down pages devoted to the Syrian uprising raised important concerns about the social networking giant’s adjudication of content, but it also highlighted the difficulty involved in ascertaining the truth of claims circulating in Syria’s “media wars” since the uprising began in March 2011. Far from establishing “what really happened,” the multiplication of distribution sites, the ease with which digital photos can be doctored, the speed with which “news” gets circulated and then displaced, and the competition between rival discourses registering moral outrage have led to new forms of uncertainty.
In contrast to stereotypes of autocratic rule, in which it is the withholding of information that enables domination, the Syrian case lays bare a set of mechanisms by which information excess can be exploited for political gain. But the Syrian case does more than that: it invites renewed exploration of the general, consistently fragile relation between truth and politics—as relevant to the proliferation of “fake news” and “alternative truths” in the United States of Donald Trump as it is to Syria. The Syrian example also takes us farther, exposing the specific ways in which the specter of imminent danger works when dangers have, in fact, become immediate.
By way of getting at these matters, Lisa Wedeen unpacks two exemplary moments. The first is the controversy surrounding the mystery of a mutilated corpse left on a riverbank in Hama—thought to be the body of a well-known singer of revolutionary songs. The second is the seemingly incommensurable example of the chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta in August of 2013, a devastating event, the “evidence” for which has pointed in different directions, animated a global community of politicians, activists, and scientists, and in regard to accountability served to polarize those with already firm positions even while regenerating uncertainty for others less sure of their commitments. Bringing these two examples together allows us to see in events, the production and reproduction of an epistemic insecurity whose speculative practices conducted to favor the beleaguered Asad regime’s counterinsurgency project.
Lisa Wedeen is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College and the Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. Her publications include Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria(1999); "Conceptualizing 'Culture': Possibilities for Political Science" (2002); "Concepts and Commitments in the Study of Democracy" (2004), Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (2008), "Ethnography as an Interpretive Enterprise" (2009), "Reflections on Ethnographic Work in Political Science" (2010), and "Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria" (2013). She is the recipient of the David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award and an NSF fellowship. She is currently working on a book about ideology, neoliberal autocracy, and generational change in present-day Syria.
MESAAS COLLOQUIUM | “Death of a Fishmonger: Patronage and Authenticity in the Colonial Political Economy between Gaza and Jaffa”
Welcome back to the new academic year and the MESAAS Departmental Colloquium, which will next take place on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 4:10pm in 208 Knox Hall.
In The Mediterranean Incarnate, anthropologist Naor Ben-Yehoyada takes us aboard the Naumachos for a thirty-seven-day voyage in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia. He also takes us on a historical exploration of the past eighty years to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a modern transnational region. From Sicilian poaching in North African territory to the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, Ben-Yehoyada examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations in the central Mediterranean while detailing the remarkable bonds that have formed between the Sicilians and Tunisians who live on its waters.