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Kamran Scot Aghaie, Chair CAL 528 | 204 W 21st St F9400 | Austin, TX 78712-1029 • 512-471-3881

Lecture Series Recordings

[1] Apr 29, 2014


Ingela Nilsson

This lecture will focus on the underworld as a place where one may encounter authors and intellectuals of the past or the present; a platform where their issues may be displayed and discussed. These discussions may function as comical, critical, or subversive approaches towards power structures. Nilsson argues that this characteristic may be seen in early modern and modern European versions of the katabasis motif, but also in Greek models of late antiquity and in Byzantium. Special focus will be placed on twelfth-century Byzantium and the anonymous dialogue Timarion.

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[2] Apr 11, 2014


Jocelyn Hendrickson

During the fall of al-Andalus (known to Christians as the reconquista) some of the first substantial Muslim populations came under permanent non-Muslim rule. For centuries, Muslims had lived alongside Jews and Christians who accepted a subordinate, dhimmī status. Christian conquest inverted this hierarchy and thus presented novel and difficult questions for Muslim jurists. Could Muslims accept minority status under Christian rule, or must they emigrate to Muslim-ruled territory? Scholars interested in Islamic legal responses to Christian conquest have devoted generous attention to the legal opinions (fatwās) of one jurist in particular, Fez’s chiefmuftī Ahmad al-Wansharīsī (died 1508). In this talk, I explore multiple ways o reading al-Wansharīsī’s infamousfatwās obligating Iberian Muslims to leave their conquered homelands. Did these texts speed the “downfall of Spanish Islam”? Do they represent Islamic law at its medieval worst, strict and inhumane? Or were they a thinly veiled commentary on the lesser-known Reconquest, the expansion of Portugal into Morocco? Are the questions posed to al-Wansharīsī “true” stories? This talk critiques the perceived exceptionalism of the Iberian Muslim predicament, takes a fresh look at Muslim-Christian relations in North Africa, and considersfatwās as narratives of indigenous resistance and political critique. Josie Hendrickson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and History & Classics at the University of Alberta. Her research focuses on Islamic legal history in medieval and early modern North Africa and Iberia. She has published articles in Islamic Law and Society, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, and MELA Notes: Journal of Middle Eastern Librarianship.

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[3] Apr 10, 2014


Na'ama Pat-El

The Syriac particle LAM has been assumed to be a marker of direct speech by grammarians and linguists. Several scholars has traced its history to an infinitive of the verb to say in Aramaic. In this talk I will take a fresh look at the function of the particle in Syriac texts of various genres and periods and its possible etymology. The results will shock and amaze you, and will serve as a reminder of what happens when one does not read ancient texts carefully. Na'ama Pat-El is an Assistant Professor, focusing on Semitic historical linguistics. She is the author of Studies in the Historical Syntax of Aramaic (Gorgias, 2012) and a co-author of Language and Nature: papers presented to John Huehnergard (Oriental Institute, 2012). She has published on language contact and historical syntax.

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[4] Mar 20, 2014


Salim Yaqub

The sharp spike in the price of oil in the early 1970s provided petroleum-producing countries with enormous revenues--petrodollars--to invest in the global economy. By the second half of the decade, there was widespread fear in the United States that Arab governments, companies, and individuals were using their vast wealth the "buy up America." The Abscam affair of 1978-1980, in which FBI agents posing as rich Arabs induced several members of Congress to take bribes, reflected this anxiety about the potentially harmful influence of petrodollars. In the dominant American narrative, Abscam suggested that U.S. democracy itself was vulnerable to foreign corruption. To many Americans of Arab descent, however, the affair demonstrated that anti-Arab prejudice had reached alarming proportions and that concerted political action was necessary to combat it. Dr. Salim Yaqub is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Director of UCSB's Center for Cold War Studies and International History. He earned his B.A. from the Academy of Art College and his M.A. at San Francisco State University, continuing on to Yale University, where he earned an M. Phil and a Ph.D. in American History. Dr. Yaqub specializes in the History of American Foreign Relations, 20th-Century American Political History, and Modern Middle Eastern History since 1945.

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[5] Mar 4, 2014


Hilal Elver

In early 1990s, Turkey was the only Muslim country where a headscarf ban in schools, universities and public institutions took place. In the aftermath of 9/11, in Western countries pious Muslim women experienced a troubling exclusion from the public sphere in the name of secularism, democracy, liberalism, and women's rights. Meanwhile, domestic courts and international courts such as the European Court of Human Rights, are increasingly influenced by social pressures concerning immigration, rejection of multiculturalism, and by attitudes expressed via Islamophobia, the ‘war on terror,’ and ‘homeland security.’ As a result, many Western governments have failed to recognize and protect essential individual freedoms in relation to Muslim women and public discussion is still going on various form of Islamic attire. While exclusion of pious women from public spaces is spreading in many countries where Muslims are a minority, the Turkish headscarf case continued a politico-legal battle among lawyers, judges, and politicians in Turkey. Recently, Turkish government’s long awaited reforms on human rights gave a relative comfort to headscarf use in universities and public offices, current political turmoil makes future of the debate unpredictable. Elver argues that law can be used to change underlying social conditions shaping the social contract, role of religion, and the position of women in modern society. Hilal Elver is a Research Professor in Global Studies and Co-director of the Project on Climate Change, Human Security and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her most recent book, The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion (Oxford Press, 2012), offers the “first global examination of the headscarf controversy” and examines legal and political debates in Turkey and European countries on the exclusion of observant Muslim women from the public sphere in the name of women’s rights. She earned a J.D. and Ph.D. from University of Ankara Law School and an S.J.D. from UCLA School of Law.

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[6] Feb 21, 2014


Sam White

Current global warming poses important but difficult questions for historians: How has climate changed, and what has is meant for previous societies? Can we gain insights about climate change vulnerabilities, adaptation, and resilience from the past? Fortunately, current climatology also offers new ways to reconstruct the weather and climate of previous centuries, offering a powerful tool for historians. This talk will explore the state of the field and prospects for a climate history of the Ottoman Empire. Starting with the author’s work on drought, rebellion, and political crisis of the late 16th and 17th centuries, it will consider new historical research on the topic, as well as new findings from climatology and their possible implications for the history of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. Sam White earned his M.A. in Middle East Studies and Modern History from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) in 2002 and his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 2008. He was asst. prof. of environmental history at Oberlin College for five years before joining the history department at OSU in 2013. Prof. White has taught in many areas of environmental history including both global and American surveys as well as "big history" and topical courses on food, animals, and climate. His research focuses on past climate changes and extreme weather, combining scientific data and historical sources to better reconstruct these episodes and understand their influence on human history. His first book, The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011), explores the far-reaching effects of severe cold and drought in the Middle East during the "Little Ice Age" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It won the Middle East Studies Association Albert Hourani award, the Turkish Studies Association Fuat Köprülü award, and the British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society prize for the best book in Middle East and Turkish studies.

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[7] Feb 13, 2014


Adela Yarbro Collins

Dr. Yarbro Collins will begin with Paul’s attitude toward women prophets in 1 Corinthians, then trace the evidence for prophetic practices in the late first and throughout the second century, investigating the participation of women and the responses it engendered. She will continue with a discussion of the “Montanist” movement and the significant leadership of women in it and will conclude with a discussion of the opposition to this “New Prophecy.” Adela Yarbro Collins is Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University Divinity School. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in theology by the University of Oslo, Norway.

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[8] Feb 12, 2014


John Collins

According to Second Maccabees, during the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes in the Maccabean era, a man could not even admit that he was a Ioudaios. Dr. Collins will explore precisely what a loudaios was and what exactly, then, a person could not admit to be. More specifically he will examine how the Torah of Moses came to be definitive for Judean identity in the Second Temple period, and the shifting ways in which the Torah’s significance was understood. John Collins is Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University Divinity School. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and holds an honorary D. Litt. from University College in Dublin. He has published widely on the subjects of apocalypticism, wisdom, Hellenistic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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[9] Feb 5, 2014


Edward Watts

The generation of Romans who came of age after the tetrarchic and Constantinian administrative reforms entered a world in which governmental positions were far more numerous and lucrative than ever before. The Roman educational system opened the doors to these opportunities and socialized students to take best advantage of them by developing social networks. In the 360s, 370s, and early 380s, however, we begin to see a movement in which educated elites turn against both their education and the careers for which it prepared them. Intriguingly, part of what makes their rejection of elite social norms and aspirations possible are the networks of friends their education helped them to develop. Edward Watts is the Alkiviadis Vassiliadis Chair and Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. He received his PhD in History from Yale University in 2002 and taught for ten years at Indiana University before coming to UCSD. He is the author of two published monographs, City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria (University of California Press, 2006), and Riot in Alexandria: Historical Debate in Pagan and Christian Communities (University of California Press, 2010), as well as a forthcoming monograph entitled The Last Pagan Generation (University of California Press). He has co-edited two other volumes, and has authored 30 articles in journals and edited collections. He is currently working on two monographs, a biography of the philosopher Hypatia (due to appear from Oxford University Press) and The Social History of Platonism.

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[10] Feb 4, 2014

Home Life and Mass Media in Modern Iran

Pamela Karimi

Unlike other parts of the Middle East, the Iranian home as a storehouse of people’s belongings has not been paid the scholarly attention it deserves. This inattention is in part due to the inadequacy of the themes that have dominated the scholarship of modern Iranian history, which distracts from understanding transformations of everyday life. By contrast, this presentation shows how a substantial component of the modernization process in Iran advanced in the context of the home. In particular it shows how home life became a topic of interest in the mass media, where politicians, religious figures, the Left and other opposition parties communicated their respective views. Through analyzing a series of case studies and appraising a wide range of media— from newspapers, photographs, films, TV series, novels, and artworks—this talk foregrounds the significance of private life in Iran’s public sphere. Pamela Karimi is an Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She is the author of Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran: Interior Revolutions of the Modern Era (Routledge, 2013) and co-editor of a special journal volume, Images of the Child and Childhood in Modern Muslim Contexts (2012). She is the recipient of the UMass President Creative Economy Fund, Social Science Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

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[11] Nov 20, 2013

The Global Politics of Palestinian Liberation, 1967-75

Paul Chamberlin

Between 1967 and 1975 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) burst onto the world stage and transformed the contours of the Arab-Israeli dispute. By casting itself as a national liberation movement and forging ties to other revolutionary groups around the Third World, the PLO won international attention and diplomatic support. However, the PLO's political victories in the international arena ran headlong into U.S. and Israeli efforts to contain the revolutionary organization on the ground. Paul Thomas Chamberlin is associate professor of History at the University of Kentucky. His first book, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. He is currently working on an international history of the Cold War in the Third World titled The Cold War's Killing Fields:The Superpower Struggle and the Destruction of the Third World.

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[12] Nov 4, 2013

Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty

Mustafa Akyol

From furious reactions to the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad to the suppression of women, contemporary news from the Muslim world seems to beg the question: Is Islam compatible with freedom and democracy? With an eye sympathetic to both to Western liberalism and Islamic theology, Mustafa Akyol traced the ideological and historical roots of political Islam in his 2011 book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad's in 632 AD, an intellectual "war of ideas" raged between rationalist, flexible schools of Islam and the more dogmatic, rigid interpretations. Although the traditionalist school won out, fostering perceptions of Islam as antithetical to modernity, Akyol suggests that a reexamination of the currents of Muslim thought reveal a flourishing of liberalism in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire and the unique "Islam-liberal synthesis" of present-day Turkey. His analysis offers a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconcilability of Islam and religious, political, economic, and social freedoms. Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for two Turkish newspapers, Hürriyet Daily News and Star. His articles have also appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He studied political science and history at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, where he lives.

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[13] Oct 17, 2013

The Star-Child and his Star Food: Fragments of Visionary Experience in the Syriac Revelation of the Magi

Brent Landau

This lecture examines the Revelation of the Magi, an apocryphal Christian text preserved in Syriac and ostensibly narrated by the Magi of Matthew's Gospel, with a focus on understanding better the unusual phenomena described in this document. After providing a brief overview of this little-known text, it will assess how likely it is that the visionary experiences of the Magi in this writing actually represent the lived experiences of some early Christians, a methodological challenge familiar to interpreters of pseudepigraphical Jewish and Christian literature. Landau argues that there is indeed sufficient evidence to regard these textualized events as derivatives of "real world" religious experience. It will then consider in more detail several of the stranger and more distinctive practices and experiences in the Revelation of the Magi: the Magi's practice of silent prayer; their ingesting of a substance that leads to polymorphic visions of Christ; and Christ's manifestation to them as both a star and a small luminous human being. Brent Landau is Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Doctor of Theology degree in 2008 from Harvard in the study of the New Testament and Early Christianity. His research focus is on early Christian traditions about the birth and childhood of Jesus, with a special interest in the Magi, better known as the "three wise men." His forthcoming first book is a translation of the Revelation of the Magi, an ancient Christian text purporting to be the Magi's own account of Christ's coming.

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[14] Oct 4, 2013

The Tectonics of Turkish History

Carter Vaughn Findley

Who are the Turks? The answer differs vastly, depending on whether we start from today's Turkey and look back, or whether we start with their origins in what is now Mongolia and look forward. Do the Turkish peoples even form a coherent category? The answer differs vastly, depending on whether we look at their languages (which are very much alike), environmental adaptations, religions, or physical features. (There is no determinant "racial" identity at all). What about their pre-modern history was most significant? One way to answer is to start with the paradox that nomadic peoples always resist state authority, and yet all across Eurasia, the Turks and their cultural cousins, the Mongols, took leading roles in empire building. What about their modern history is most significant? The most significant fact here is that the Turks of Central Asia lost sovereignty, while the Ottoman Empire retained its sovereignty. The Ottomans developed the Islamic tradition of state formation, which evolved into the twentieth century. By comparison with other Muslim-majority polities, the unique course that the Turkish republic has since taken reflects its historical antecedents as much as the choices made by its modern leaders. Carter Vaughn Findley is Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University. He is the author ofThe Turks in World History, Ottoman Civil Officialdom: A Social Historyand Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sublime Porte 1789-1922. He is a past president of the World History Association and the Turkish Studies Association.

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[15] Sep 27, 2013

Architecture and Assemblage at the Site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus

William Caraher

The last three decades have been something of a golden age in the archaeology of Cyprus. From pioneering intensive surveys to meticulous excavations focused on rural sites that often fell outside the traditional scope of Mediterranean archaeological research, scholars of Cypriot archaeology have engaged current debates surrounding postcolonialism and hybridity, networks of exchange and connectivity, insularity, and the development of the ancient state. The theoretical innovation and methodologically significant fieldwork on Cyprus, however, has done little to project the island from the fringes of most archaeological conversations. While the marginal status of Cypriot archaeology might be understandable for earlier periods like the Cypriot Iron Age which many have seen as peripheral to larger trends in contemporary Aegean and Near Eastern societies, for later periods the robust and sophisticated assemblages produced by recent archaeological work present a solid platform for studying imperial administration, the Mediterranean economy, and the tensions between the local and the global in the context of empire. This paper will take as a point of departure the ongoing work at the site of Polis-Chrysochous (ancient Arsinoë) on the western side of Cyprus where a team has worked to document both the architecture of one of two Early Christian basilicas and an associated assemblage of Late Roman ceramics. The architecture and assemblage from this site demonstrates the connections between the city of Arsinoë and other sites on Cyprus as well as southern Anatolia. At first glance, these links may appear an unremarkable consequence of the site's location, but the character of the basilica and the nature of the assemblage reveals more than simply geographic determinism and hints at the material manifestations of the human decisions that constitute culture. The significance of the past 30 years of field work on Cyprus, in this context, becomes clear as it provides an almost unparalleled potential to analyze the material culture of a series of related, yet distinct, sites in the ancient world. William Caraher is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of North Dakota. His primary teaching interests are Greek, Roman, and Byzantine History, and Early Christianity. He also teaches undergraduate classes in historical methodology and a graduate seminar in historiography. He took his B.A. from University of Richmond in 1994 and his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2003. His dissertation focused on the influence of Early Christian ritual and architecture on ecclesiastical and social authority in 5th-7th century Greece.

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[16] Apr 29, 2013

Iran and the Arab World - Connecting the Dots

Hamid Dabashi

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.

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[17] 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.

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[18] Mar 28, 2013

Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers

Persis Karim

“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

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[19] Mar 20, 2013

Patron and Patriot: Dinshah Irani and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture

Afshin Marashi

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.

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[20] Mar 18, 2013

Old Narratives, New Media

Habib Battah

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.

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[21] Mar 4, 2013

Ashkelon, Seaport of the Philistines

Lawrence Stager

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.

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[22] Feb 6, 2013

History Lecture Series: "Global Lessons, Local Opportunities? Cairo, Urbanism, and Political Space in Transition

Diane Singerman

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.

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[23] Nov 5, 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.

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[24] 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.

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[25] Oct 8, 2012

Shah-Rah or the King’s Road: Reinterpreting the European travel writings of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar

Naghmeh Sohrabi

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.

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[26] Oct 1, 2012

Digital Occupation: Hi-Tech Borders in Palestine-Israel

Helga Tawil-Souri

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.

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[27] Sep 27, 2012

Framing Pictures: Women Fomenting the Art Scene in Amman

Aseel Sawahla

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.

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[28] Mar 29, 2012

On Sponges and Lost Love: Three Poems and a Few Comments on Arab-Jewish History in Iraq

Orit Bashkin

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.

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[29] Feb 13, 2012

Double, Triple Entrapment: The Harki Story

Vincent Crapanzano

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.

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[30] 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.

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[31] Jan 30, 2012

Local Texts: Shari'a in Mid-Century Yemen

Brinkley Messick

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.

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[32] Sep 13, 2011

Turkey's Role in Shaping the New Middle East

Abdülhamit Bilici

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.

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[33] Sep 12, 2011

Peter’s ‘Hypocrisy’ and Paul’s: Two ‘Hypocrites’ at the Foundation of Christianity?

Margaret Mitchell

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.

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