Lecture Series Recordings
 Apr 29, 2013
Iran and the Arab World - Connecting the Dots
Since the summer of 2009 in Iran, and the Spring of 2011 in the Arab world, a succession of world historic events have radically altered the geopolitics of the region. How are the rise of the Green Movement in Iran and the revolutionary momentum code-named the Arab Spring connected, and what can we learn from the structural link between these two transformative events in the Arab and Muslim world? Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He received a dual PhD in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.
 Apr 22, 2013
Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism
Carol A. Newsom
Although classical Israelite religion has very little to say about demons and other evil forces, but popular religion took it for granted that evil demons existed, haunting desert ruins and sometimes preying on people. In the late Persian and Hellenistic periods (4th—2nd centuries BCE) speculation about these types of figures proliferates. Incantations against demons, protective amulets, and practices of exorcism are all attested. Mythic accounts of the origin of evil spirits are developed, and the names and occasionally even the appearance of the demons are described. This talk will examine the origins and functions of speculation on demonic forces in early Judaism, a worldview with profound and lasting cultural effects. Although rabbinic Judaism largely rejected it, this worldview strongly shaped Christian religious beliefs. And while modernist Christians do not take the mythology of evil spirits literally, variations on these beliefs remain common among conservative evangelical and Pentecostal Christians throughout the world. Carol A. Newsom is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She has written seven books and scores of articles, book chapters, translations, encyclopedia articles, and reviews. She has received several prestigious research fellowships, including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Henry Luce Foundation, and has won several awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring. She recently served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature and is a senior fellow at Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
 Mar 28, 2013
Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers
“This marvelous anthology celebrates something far beyond arrival for Iranian-American writing, introducing a chorus of voices with an exceptionally broad range of experience and stylistic mastery. Tremors shakes up any easy assumptions that the reader may hold about Iran, and claims a new territory in the global landscape of literature.” —Zara Houshmand, author of A Mirror Garden
 Mar 20, 2013
Patron and Patriot: Dinshah Irani and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture
This talk will examine the life and work of Dinshah Irani, a prominent Parsi scholar, lawyer, and philanthropist who was a key intellectual intermediary between the Parsi community of Bombay and the intellectual community of Iranian nationalists during the 1920s and 1930s. Dr. Marashi will detail the role played by Irani in patronizing the publication of Zoroastrianthemed printed works in Bombay that were intended for export to the reading market in Iran, and the important role the Parsi community of Bombay played in the revival of Iranian antiquity during the early twentieth century. He will also highlight the transnational cultural and intellectual history of Iranian nationalism during the Reza Shah period. Afshin Marashi is the Farzaneh Family Chair in Iranian Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. His area of specialization is the cultural and intellectual history of nationalism in nineteenth and twentieth century Iran. He also writes and teaches in the field of comparative nationalism studies. In addition to his teaching and research efforts, Professor Marashi is also the director of Iranian Studies programming in the College of International Studies at OU. He received his BA in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1992 and his PhD in History from UCLA in 2003.
 Mar 18, 2013
Old Narratives, New Media
From Aleppo to Beirut, digital activism is providing new sources of news and new opportunities for influence over public opinion. This includes an unprecedented surge in local and hyper local news organizations now operating across Syria as well as the mushrooming of activist media in Beirut that has brought intense pressure on public officials. At the same time, the influx of news coming out of the region has also spawned intense mainstream media interest and with it portrayals and analysis that bring forward problematic Orientalist, Islamophobic and vaguely defined sectarian narratives both among the Western and local press.
 Mar 04, 2013
Ashkelon, Seaport of the Philistines
Explore the origins, daily life, religion, and language of the Philistines, a cosmopolitan people who occupied the great Mediterranean seaport of Ashkelon for nearly six hundred years, until its destruction and their exile by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C. In twenty-five seasons of excavations, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon has uncovered much new evidence about the mysterious Philistines, including a rare example of one of the ancient marketplaces that linked land routes from the southeast to a web of international Mediterranean merchants. (1175-604 BC) Lawrence Stager is is Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and is Director of the Harvard Semitic Museum. Since 1985 he has overseen the excavations of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.
 Feb 06, 2013
History Lecture Series: "Global Lessons, Local Opportunities? Cairo, Urbanism, and Political Space in Transition
Critiques of neo-liberalism, authoritarianism, and military rule played an obvious role in the Egyptian revolution. This talk will examine an emerging urbanist agenda in Egypt which has been buoyed by the revolution's commitment to social justice and the desire to move beyond neo-liberalism and improve the built environment, enhance public services and democratize municipal politics. It will also explore the relevance of insights from other nations whose urban populations have increased demands for a fairer share of public resources, broader representation, and public accountability after military rule. Dr. Singerman is an Associate Professor and comparativist whose research interests focus on political change from below, particularly in the Middle East, and more specifically Egypt. Her work examines the formal and informal side of politics, gender, social movements, globalization, public space, protest, and urban politics. Her most recent edited books are Cairo Contested: Governance, Urban Space, and Global Modernity, and Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East.
 Nov 05, 2012
The Senate and the Sun: Inspiration for the Arch of Constantine
Noel E. Lenski
The arch of Constantine has long puzzled scholars trying to trace the religious development of the first Christian emperor. Dedicated just three years after his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, the arch shows no trace of the Christian inspiration said to have led to Constantine's victory by Eusebius and Lactantius. Lenski argues that the arch's inscription represents not a Christian but a pagan interpretation of the victory put forward by the Roman Senate, adding further refinements to this earlier argument based on the arch's iconography. He will examine the many representations of the sun god on the monument to show that the arch's designers wished to credit Constantine's success to the intervention of Sol Invictus. He will then examine the role assigned to the Senate itself on the arch's reliefs and particularly in the two Constantinian friezes on the arch's northern side. The prominent place of senators seems designed to co-opt Constantine into the Roman Senate and its ideology and thereby to ensure his acceptance of its version of the events surrounding the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
 Oct 12, 2012
Eusebius of Emesa (4th century) and his Commentary on Genesis ”Between Greek and Syriac; between Judaism and Christianity”
Lucas van Romapy
Eusebius was born ca. 300 C.E. in the Syriac city of Edessa where, according to his biographers, he received his first training in biblical interpretation. He later studied with the other Eusebius in Caesarea and settled in Antioch, in the wake of the Council of Nicaea, before becoming bishop, around 340, of the Syrian city of Emesa (present-day Homs). His Commentary on Genesis, written in Greek but preserved in its entirety only in an Armenian translation, reflects much of his personal life story. Eusebius brings his knowledge of Syriac to the interpretation of the Greek Septuagint text, often in an attempt to uncover nuances in the Hebrew original.The Commentary also reflects Syriac and Antiochene Christianity’s proximity to Judaism. Basing ourselves on a select number of passages, we will explore what the new Commentary has to tell about Judaism and how it relates to early Syriac exegesis (in particular Ephrem) on the one hand and Greek Antiochene exegesis on the other.
 Oct 08, 2012
Shah-Rah or the King’s Road: Reinterpreting the European travel writings of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar
Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848-1896), the longest reigning Qajar monarch traveled to Europe three times during his rule. While he was not the first monarch from the region to travel to Europe, he was the first to record each travel extensively in daily diaries that were made public shortly after. Until recently, these travelogues were dismissed by scholars for focusing on frivolous and repetitive information. This talk presents a new interpretation of Nasir al-Din Shah's extensive travel writing by placing them in their own cultural and political milieu, and by focusing on the question of why the king would choose to so meticulously record his travels. Naghmeh Sohrabi is the Charles (Corky) Goodman Professor of Middle East History and the Associate Director for Research at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis. Professor Sohrabi received her Ph.D. in History and Middle East Studies from Harvard University in 2005, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Crown Center from 2005-2007. Her book, Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth Century Travel Accounts from Iran to Europe was recently published by Oxford University Press. Her new research focuses on the assassination of Nasir al-Din Shah in 1896 by a follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. In addition to her scholarship on the nineteenth century, Professor Sohrabi writes and lectures on contemporary politics and culture of Iran.
 Oct 01, 2012
Digital Occupation: Hi-Tech Borders in Palestine-Israel
Where is the digital? What is underground? Does cyberspace have a frontier? By focusing on technology and media infrastructures and highlighting the digital's political geography, this talk argues that globalization and hi-tech have not eradicated the importance of territoriality. The process of 'digital occupation' in Palestine-Israel demonstrates what is true globally: the digital is deeply territorial, new kinds of borders are emerging, and media development and infrastructure continue to be politically charged processes.
 Sep 27, 2012
Framing Pictures: Women Fomenting the Art Scene in Amman
With the upheavals in neighboring Arab countries (the US invasion of Iraq, the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and Syria, and the ongoing political unrest in Palestine), Jordan’s capital Amman has emerged as a center for the production and circulation of visual arts. As Iraqi artists made Amman their new home, and as members of the regional upper and middle-class settled in Jordan, visual arts became a currency of cultural capital among the city's new elite. In this talk, Sawalha discusses the role of middle-class women who own and run art venues in an old but now gentrified neighborhood in Amman, al-Weibdeh. Aseel Sawalha is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Fordham University in New York, and is the author of Reconstructing Beirut: Memory and Space in a Postwar Arab City.
 Mar 29, 2012
On Sponges and Lost Love: Three Poems and a Few Comments on Arab-Jewish History in Iraq
In the years 1921–1951, the Iraqi Jewish community thrived. Numbering around 150,000, this primarily urban community figured prominently in Iraq’s culture, literature and economy. Bashkin raises a few questions relating to the meanings of the Jewish sense of belonging to the Iraqi community through a reading of three poems written by Iraqi Jews. In doing so, I explore the ways in which Iraqi Jews wrote about modernity and secularism, and the manners in which their texts shed light on sociocultural processes occurring in Iraq at the time.
 Feb 13, 2012
Double, Triple Entrapment: The Harki Story
Prof. Crapanzano's paper is concerned with the role of narrative and silence in the passage of a wound – a trauma – from generation to generation. Specifically he looks at the way parental – in case in point, paternal – silence perpetuates the wound in children. Set stories, which inevitably lack particularity, seem incapable of “filling” that silence, fulfilling the children’s quest to know. They subsume what particulars are known in a generalized narrative that, repeated over and over again, loses vitality. Frozen, it intensifies the wound…. Prof. Crapanzano discusses this dynamic in terms of the Harkis – those Algerians who fought alongside the French, as auxiliary troops, during Algeria’s War of Independence. Between seventy and one hundred fifty thousand were slaughtered at the war’s end by the Algerian population at large. Those who managed to escape to France were incarcerated in camps and forestry hamlets, some for over sixteen years.
 Jan 30, 2012
Rethinking the Arab Uprisings One Year Later
James L. Gelvin
Beginning in December 2010, the suicide of a Tunisian street vender ignited protests and uprisings that spread throughout the Arab world. James L. Gelvin, Professor of History at UCLA and author of The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know(Oxford University Press, 2012), looks back at the first year of those protests and uprisings, exploring their causes, their trajectories, and the lessons we might learn from them.
 Jan 30, 2012
Local Texts: Shari'a in Mid-Century Yemen
Clifford Geertz famously described law as a form of “local knowledge.” In this lecture Prof. Messick examines the Islamic Shari'a as it was manifested in a system of local texts. He refers to a corpus of written work produced by a particular community of Muslim jurists and practitioners. Yemen, mountainous and agrarian, provides the setting; the Zaydis, rooted there for over a thousand years, the juridical community. Although his research in highland Yemen has spanned the last several decades, the readings he discusses focus upon a slightly earlier point in time--the first half of the twentieth century. Prof. Messick concentrates on this recent historical period to study a formation of Shari'a texts in the era of a classically styled Islamic polity.
 Sep 13, 2011
Turkey's Role in Shaping the New Middle East
With the rise of the Arab Spring of 2011, Turkey has been identified by many analysts and activities within and outside of the Middle East as a potential model for post-revolutionary states. Turkey's position as a mediator between the west and the Islamic world appears to be more critical than at any point in recent history. Join us for a forum and discussion with prominent Turkish journalist Abdülhamit Bilici about Turkey's role in shaping the future of the Middle East. Abdülhamit Bilici is General Manager of Cihan News Agency and columnist of both Zaman and Today's Zaman newspapers. He served as the Deputy Editor in Chief of Zaman daily, the largest circulated paper in Turkey. He also worked as the foreign news editor of Zaman and Aksiyon weekly news magazine. As a student of International Relations, Mr. Bilici writes mainly on Turkish foreign policy and world politics. He contributes to other papers on Turkish politics and appears on national and international TV programs to comment on political developments in Turkey.
 Sep 12, 2011
Peter’s ‘Hypocrisy’ and Paul’s: Two ‘Hypocrites’ at the Foundation of Christianity?
In an infamous passage in his Letter to the Galatians (2:11-14), Paul called out Peter as a 'hypocrite.' This passage, especially when read in light of Paul's own appeal to himself as 'all things to all people' in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, was to cause deep trouble for later Christian interpreters, who sought to defend their movement against charges from outsiders that it had a cracked and unstable foundation in dual 'hypocrites.' This lecture will introduce this 'pagan' critique and the cultural force it had, and the various solutions to the inherited dilemma from their scriptures that were offered by patristic authors (Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Jerome and Augustine). In light of this context, turn to a sustained analysis of an untranslated homily by John Chrysostom, hom. in Gal 2:11 (In faciem ei restiti), which addresses not just the hypocrisy of Peter and Paul, but also the sticky problem of the hypocrisy of the Christian who reads this text approvingly as Paul's "in your face" to Peter. As we shall see, Chrysostom does this by engaging in a convoluted pretense of his own.