Yale and the Middle East
Yale University’s Involvement with the Middle East and North Africa
In 2001, University leaders made a commitment to advance the internationalization of Yale. Five years later, Newsweek magazine placed Yale third among the “Top 100 Global Universities,” and today we continue to increase the number and scope of our international programs and initiatives. The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies is the major engine of that ongoing effort. As Yale’s hub for interdisciplinary teaching and research on international affairs, societies, and cultures worldwide, the MacMillan Center is the principal resource for faculty and students who engage in international research and collaboration. Seven undergraduate majors and four masters programs are offered through the Center, and hundreds of workshops, lectures, conferences and events take place each year under its auspices.
The Middle East and North Africa are among the MacMillan Center’s priorities, and its faculty and students are eager to work with scholars, students, and practitioners from across the MENA region. The MacMillan Center’s Council on Middle East Studies is the hub of interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and North Africa at Yale, supporting and coordinating Yale’s faculty specialists. Our faculty has deep expertise in the languages, cultures, history, politics, and economics of the MENA region. (See faculty list below.) Yale University resources also include first-rate libraries, from the Sterling Memorial Library to the Beinecke Library, housing rare books and manuscripts. These offer scholars access to first rate collections of materials on the Middle East and North Africa (indeed a collection that rivals many found in the region itself), across the disciplines. Yale students, at the graduate and undergraduate level, are among the best in the nation.
Scholars and practitioners from the MENA region come to our campus every year to lecture and conduct research through the MacMillan Center. Each year a cohort of undergraduate, masters, professional school and doctoral students compete for campus and external funds to pursue more individually focused policy, service and research projects in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Many students have already had remarkable experience in the region through a wide range of opportunities, including language study with U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships, the Yale Law School’s Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, and engagement with the Yale Arab Alumni Association.
Yale’s Vision for Expanded Involvement in the Middle East and North Africa
Building on this substantial foundation, the University now aims to expand its programs. Our vision is to create new intellectual and exchange opportunities for students, faculty, and practitioners to engage in ongoing collaborations with individuals and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa and at Yale. Funding for innovative programs, under the leadership of the director of the MacMillan Center, would help us realize that vision by supporting efforts in three priority areas: 1) Institutions, leadership and governance; 2) exchanges with universities in the Middle East and North Africa; and 3) addressing issues of Middle Eastern and North African heritage and culture.
1. Institutions, Leadership and Governance
From lessons learned by the last generation of social scientists, we now know that reasonably functioning democracies and viable development strategies can be created and sustained in settings once thought impossible. Countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa, for example, have made astonishing strides. The MENA region is facing its own geopolitical and environmental challenges, which present security issues and divide communities. The fall of authoritarian regimes since the “Arab Spring” have, nonetheless, resulted in emergent democracies in Tunisia and Egypt.
Sound institutions and effective leadership are needed for these emergent democracies. Faculty at the MacMillan Center have an established record of studying post-conflict institution building and the theory and practice of democratic governance and development. Our Program on Democracy and our Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence already combine theoretical expertise with regional knowledge successfully in other parts of the world. The Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, located within the MacMillan Center, also gives visiting scholars an opportunity to work with students, faculty and others concerned with public policy and diplomacy issues. The Jackson Institute appoints several high-profile Senior Fellows to teach and mentor students each year and also brings to campus other high-profile public servants and government officials for engaging and insightful talks on current global affairs through its three speaker series which are open to visiting scholars. Recent senior fellows have included Marwan Muasher, a prominent Jordanian diplomat and politician, and Flynt Leverett, a leading authority on the Middle East and Persian Gulf, U.S. foreign policy and global energy affairs.
The Yale Middle East Visiting Scholar Program, an interdisciplinary program headed by Professor Ellen Lust in the Political Science Department, brings three visiting scholars to Yale each year who hail from different disciplines and countries but work on similar substantive or theoretical issues. It engages them in teaching, research, workshops and conferences. Visiting scholars are also encouraged to give talks and participate in conferences outside of the Yale/New Haven community. The program—piloted in 2007-2010—significantly advances Middle East Studies at home and abroad.
Yale faculty who collaborate regularly with colleagues in the Middle East and North Africa would benefit from expanded ties. These include scholars of economic growth, micro-finance and other mechanisms of indigenous capital-formation, trade policy, tax and regulatory policy, macroeconomic management and national/local judicial institutions. Several Yale faculty are keenly interested in policy and program delivery and the rigorous use of data analysis to evaluate policy effectiveness. They have been involved in collaborative teaching and research projects with MENA scholars, as well as leadership programs with members of MENA civil service, business and government sectors.
Among the likely projects would be research on MENA institutional reform conducted by core faculty. We also envision funding research trips and internships for students involved in studying and participating in institutional reform, and underwriting visits by leaders, scholars, and activists of the MENA region to speak at Yale.
2. Exchange Relationships with Universities in the Middle East and North Africa
A powerful and effective means to gain understanding of problems and identify and implement solutions is to make direct connections through faculty and student exchanges. Between 2007 and 2010, Yale’s Middle East Visiting Scholar Program brought in three MENA scholars each year to participate in Yale’s programs, including teaching, research, workshops and conferences. Participants include such impressive scholars as Shaul Mishal (Israel), Marwan Khawaja (Lebanon), Sallama Shaker (Egypt), Mine Eder (Turkey), and Lilia Labidi (Tunisia). In addition, the Yale World Fellows Program, now in its eleventh year, brings in one to three emerging leaders from the MENA region to contribute to informal learning and dialogue across campus. Recent participants include Muna AbuSulayman (Saudi Arabia), May Akl (Lebanon), Ali Hakin Altinay (Turkey), Gidon Bromberg (Israel), and Fares Mabrouk (Tunisia).
Yale has exchange programs with Tel Aviv University in Israel and Boğaziçi University in Turkey through our Fox International Fellowship program. We have an excellent but highly competitive visiting scholars program that enables us to host top faculty and post-doctoral fellows from around the world, most of whom teach while also doing their research and building their intellectual networks. We also husband precious resources to ensure doctoral and other students can conduct serious field work and master the languages needed to fully reflect ground truth in their research. Funds are sparser yet to host visiting graduate students.
New resources dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa would enable us to expand these already successful models, enhancing existing relationships and building similar connections with other universities in the Middle East and North Africa. Such funds would ensure that scholars from the Middle East and North Africa would be well-represented in the visiting scholar, field research and visiting graduate student awards that undergird serious exchange.
3. Studying Middle Eastern and North African Heritage and Culture —the Role of the Humanities
The history of Europe since the Second World War has shown that long-standing and seemingly unavoidable antagonisms between people can not only be overcome but also change into strong cultural bonds. The humanities play an important role in this process. Today, Germans welcome that major contributions to the study of their history come from British universities, for instance, while French high-school and university students learn the languages of their former arch-enemies and take part in frequent exchange programs. All this would have been impossible if the academic study of foreign cultures had not established a sincere and deep-rooted understanding and respect among the cultural elites of these countries. In the U.S. we often overlook the immense importance of respect for foreign cultures and its role in establishing peaceful relations with other nations and regions. Respect, however, can only result from knowing foreign cultures well.
Yale is fully committed to teaching and researching Arabic and its literature, as well as the history of the Middle East and North Africa and its culture. Yale was the first university in the U.S. to appoint a professor of Arabic (in 1841) and to establish a Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC). In 1861, it awarded the first PhD in Middle East Studies. Today, Yale has more than seven professors teaching and researching in the fields of Arabic language and literature, Middle East History, Islamic Studies, and Islamic Art. Yale is also committed to teaching Hebrew, Turkish, and Persian to the advanced level, has four professors in Egyptology and Assyriology, and a Program of Judaic Studies that is the envy of many other universities. The Council on Middle East Studies also provides instruction in other languages and dialects of the Middle East and North Africa through the Directed Independent Language Study program at the Yale Center for Language Study.
The Council of Middle East Studies administrates both an undergraduate major in Modern Middle East Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Middle East Studies. The study of language and culture are both central to this. Yale affords important opportunities through our strong Humanities departments (History, History of Art, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, French, English) and professional schools in the arts (Drama, Music, Art, Architecture) and world-class museums and art galleries (with a significant, newly expanded Islamic Art collection).
Yale student groups regularly perform Middle Eastern music and dance in Yale’s theaters. There are an abundant number of student organizations, including the Arab Students' Association, the Muslim Students Association, Yale Friends of Israel, and Yale Friends of Turkey, that host campus gatherings ranging from conferences, debates on contemporary issues and discussions about ongoing development projects in which they are engaged. They also host awareness weeks and cultural events, and sponsor visits by leading journalists and academics.
New Middle East and North Africa-focused resources will enable us to strengthen language, cultural and humanities programs on campus and with universities and other institutions in the Middle East and North Africa such as museums. New resources will allow flexible, high quality and technologically innovative Middle East and North Africa language training as well as key field research, internship and study experience for students.
In each of the three areas described above, the MacMillan Center seeks support, with a high level of flexibility, as follows:
- Professorship – endowment for an outstanding senior faculty member
- Teaching Fund – endowment to support young faculty or senior fellow
- Research Fund – endowment for faculty collaboration with colleagues at African Institutions
$100,000 and up
- Student Exchange Fund – endowment for student exchanges with institutions in the Middle East and North Africa
$100,000 and up
- Teaching technology and innovation fund – endowment for innovative and technology based language and other courses with partners in the Middle East and North Africa
$100,000 and up
- Core Middle East Studies funds – endowment to be used as seed and/or as matching funds for initiatives and allocated to priority needs
$100,000 and up
Representative Faculty with Expertise in the Middle East and North Africa
Yale has a faculty that is notably well equipped to expand research on the challenges to sound governance in the Middle East and North Africa:
- Abbas Amanat is Professor of History and of International and Area Studies specializing in modern Iran and the Middle East, Shi’ism, and apocalypticism. He is also the director of the Yale Iranian Studies Initiative. His publications include Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi'ism (2009), Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896 (1997), and Resurrection and Renewal: the Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850 (1989). He is the co-editor of several volumes, among them Shari’a: Islamic Law in the Contemporary Context (2007).
- Gerhard Böwering is Professor of Islamic Studies. He is a co-editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (2012). Recently he edited several works by the important Sufi and Qur’an commentator al-Sulami. He is the author of The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam (1979).
- John C. Darnell is Professor of Egyptology and director of the Yale Egyptological Institute in Egypt and of the Yale Toshka Desert Survey. He specializes in ancient Egyptian religion, cryptography, the scripts and texts of Graeco-Roman Egypt, and the archaeological and epigraphic remains of ancient activity in the Egyptian Western Desert, and is an expert on Ancient Egyptian rock inscriptions and lapidary hieratic. He is the co-author, with Colleen Manassa, of Tutankhamun's Armies: Battle and Conquest During Ancient Egypt's Late Eighteenth Dynasty (2007).
- Narges Erami is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and of International and Area Studies specializing in the Holy city of Qum in Iran who works on the relationship between economy and religion and how it is played out in the rituals of everyday life.
- Benjamin Foster is the Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and the Curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. He specializes in Mesopotamian, especially Akkadian, literature, and the social and economic history of Mesopotamia, and has expertise in all periods and text types of Sumerian and Akkadian and all periods of Mesopotamian history from the fourth millennium B.C.E. to the Muslim conquest.
- Eckart Frahm is Professor of Assyriology specializing in Assyrian and Babylonian history and Mesopotamian scholarly texts of the first millennium B.C.E., including cuneiform grammatology, the ancient reception of the Gilgamesh epic and the Babylonian epic of creation, Mesopotamian prophecy, Sumerian royal inscriptions and proverbs, Babylonian prisons, and the history of modern scholarship on the ancient Near East. He has expertise in Mesopotamian history, religion, and literature, and the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern setting.
- Zareena Grewal is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies and documentary filmmaker. She specializes in the intersections of race and religion in American Muslim communities and the networks that connect American mosques to the intellectual centers of the Middle East and is the director and producer of a documentary about the scrutiny of American Muslims’ patriotism, By the Dawn’s Early Light: Chris Jackson’s Journey to Islam (2004).
- Frank Griffel is Professor of Islamic Studies and of International and Area Studies, and Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies. He specializes in the intellectual history of Islam and its philosophy and theology (both classical and modern). He has recently published Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology (2009) and a translation of one of Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes’) works (2010). He is also the author of Apostasie und Toleranz in Islam (“Apostasy and Tolerance in Islam” in German, 2000) and is the co-editor of Shari’a: Islamic Law in the Contemporary Context (2007).
- Beatrice Gruendler is Professor of Arabic Language and Literature. She specializes in four areas of research: the development of Arabic script, classical Arabic poetry and its social context, the integration of modern literary theory into the study of Near Eastern literatures, and early Islamic book-culture (3rd/9th century C.E.) viewed within the history of communication.
- Dimitri Gutas is Professor of Arabic and Graeco-Arabic. He studies and teaches medieval Arabic and the medieval intellectual tradition in Islamic civilization from different aspects. At the center of his concerns lies the study and understanding of classical Arabic in its many forms as a prerequisite for the proper appreciation of the written sources which inform us about the history and culture of Islamic societies. He also has an abiding interest in the transmission of Greek scientific and philosophical works into the Islamic world through the momentous Graeco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad during the 8th-10th centuries.
- Frank Hole is Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist in Anthropology specializing in the history and development of agriculture and animal husbandry. He has traveled and carried out archaeological, ethnographic and land use research in the Near East, first in Iran and currently in Syria. Hole received the Farabi International Award in Tehran on October 29, 2011.
- Marcia Inhorn is the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and the MacMillan Center. She specializes in Middle Eastern gender and health issues, conducting research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Arab America. She is the founding editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. Her most recent book is The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East (2012).
- Kaveh Khoshnood is Associate Professor in Public Health Practice in the Yale School of Public Health who conducts research and mentors researchers from China, Russia, and Iran and teaches courses on HIV/AIDS, global health and research ethics.
- Tolga Köker is Senior Lecturer in Economics specializing in the economics of conflict and the Middle East, and has written on the political economy of Islamism and secularism in Turkey, and on the political economy of Turkey and Iraq.
- Adria Lawrence is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Area Studies specializing in Middle Eastern and North African politics. Her work focuses on conflict and collective action, investigating how people come to mobilize in favor of ideologies such as ethnicity, nationalism, religion, and democracy. She is co-editor of Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict (2010).
- Ellen Lust is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science specializing in the politics of authoritarianism and the prospects for development. She is a founding, associate editor of the journal, Middle East Law and Governance, and has lived, studied, conducted research, and led student and alumni tours in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. Her books include Governing Africa’s Changing Societies (2012), co-edited with Stephen Ndegwa; The Middle East (2010); Political Participation in the Middle East (2008), co-edited with Saloua Zerhouni; and Structuring Conflict in the Arab World (2007).
- Colleen Manassa is the Marilyn M. and William K. Simpson Associate Professor of Egyptology. She specializes in Egyptian grammar, New Kingdom literary texts, military history, funerary religion, and social history.
- Joseph Manning is the William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Professor of Classics and History and Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School. He specializes in Hellenistic history with a particular focus on the legal and economic history of Ptolemaic Egypt. His interests lie in governance, reforms of the state, legal institutions, formation of markets, and the impact of new economic institutions (coinage, banking) on traditional socio-economic patterns in the ancient world.
- Andrew March is Associate Professor of Political Science specializing in Islamic political thought, especially the Islamic legal tradition. He is working on Islamic legal theories of the maqasid al-shari‘a (“the purposes of the law”), Islamic moral psychology and the problem of “taking people as they are” in normative ethics, and contemporary Islamic treatments of apostasy. He is the author of Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus (2009).
- Ivan Marcus is the Frederick P. Rose Professor of Jewish History and a Professor of Religious Studies. He works in Jewish history from late antiquity through the early modern period, specializing in the history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim representations of each other, the history of childhood and of life cycle rites of passage. His most recent book is The Jewish Life Cycle: Rites of Passage from Biblical to Modern Times (University of Washington Press, 2004).
- Alan Mikhail is Professor of History specializing in Ottoman history, the comparative history of early modern empires, the history of Islamic science and medicine, and environmental history. He has recently published Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History (2011), for which he was named the inaugural recipient of the Roger Owen Book Award for a work in economic history by the Middle East Studies Association and awarded the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication by Yale.
- (Ahmed) Mushfiq Mobarak is Assistant Professor of Economics and Management in the Yale School of Management. He is a developmental economist with interests in public finance (environmental and political economy) issues who has done research on financial sector development and economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Kishwar Rizvi is Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture in the History of Art Department. She specializes in Islamic art and architecture, writing on representations of religious and imperial authority in the art and architecture of Safavid Iran, as well as on issues of gender, nationalism and religious identity in modern Iran and Pakistan and on ideology and transnationalism in contemporary mosque architecture in the Middle East. She is the author of The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: History, religion and architecture in early modern Iran (2011).
- Lamin Sanneh is the D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity in Yale Divinity School and a Professor of History. He focuses on Christian and Muslim religions. He has studied classical Arabic and Islam and worked in the Middle East, as well as with the churches in Africa and with international organizations concerned with inter-religious issues. He is the author of over a hundred articles on religious and historical subjects, and of several books including Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in “Secular” Britain (with Lesslie Newbigin and Jenny Taylor, 1998) and The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism (1997).
- Edwige Tamalet Talbayev is Assistant Professor of French and specializes in Francophone Maghrebi literature, post-colonial theory, non-Western modernities and transnational modernisms. She publishes on North African colonial and postcolonial literatures and her current book project considers Maghrebi writing in various languages in a transnational Mediterranean context.
- Harvey Weiss is Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and of Anthropology and in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His research interests include Mesopotamia, early agriculture, early cities and empires, Holocene paleoclimatology and the social adaptations to environmental change. He is the director of the Tell Leilan Project, which has redefined the relationships between dynamic natural and social forces in the third millennium B.C. through excavation, GPS/GIS-implemented regional survey and paleoclimatology investigations at one of the largest archaeological sites in Syria.
- Jonathan Wyrtzen is Assistant Professor of Sociology and International Affairs. He is a comparative historical-sociologist whose work examines the relationships among European imperial expansion, colonial policies of modernization, and state formation in North Africa. He is completing a book manuscript, Constructing Morocco: Colonial State-Building and the Struggle to Define the Nation (1912-1961).
For further information contact:
Mr. Frank Griffel
Professor of Islamic Studies and
Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies
PO Box 208206
New Haven, CT 06520
Rosenkranz Hall, 115 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511