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Program on Governance and Local Development

The Program on Governance and Local Development (GLD) was launched on May 1-2 at Yale University with the inaugural conference titled “Mapping Local Governance.” The Program fosters innovative research that breaks new ground in the understandings of governance and development issues focused on the Middle East. It is poised to significantly advance the theoretical and substantive understanding of governance in the region, extending research on politics and development that has primarily been state-centered, overlooking sub-national disparities that helped spark the 2011 uprisings. (more)

GLD Website


The Persianate World: A Conceptual Inquiry

May 9 - 11, 2014 • Luce Hall

The Iranian Studies Initiative at Yale is organizing a workshop in May 2014 to explore the dimensions of Persianate Studies as an academic field. The workshop asks whether the term “Persianate” works as a conceptual framework beyond language and literature to such areas as habitat, economy and trade routes, and political and material cultures. Are there tangible historical ties in the pre-modern and early modern eras among such diverse regions as Anatolia, the Iranian plateau and the greater Khorasan region, the Caucasus, the southern rim of Central Asia, Western Xinjiang, and the Indian subcontinent? Can these ties create a viable field of study beyond Middle Eastern, Central Asian, South Asian and East Asian studies to underscore subtle interregional connections and longue durée commonalities? What circumstances, on the other hand, reoriented these regions and helped break up the Persianate oecumene in modern times? (more)

Iranian Studies

Emotion and Subjectivity in the Art and Archetecture of Early Modern Muslim Empires

May 1 - 2, 2014 • Loria Center

The interconnected histories of the Persophone empires of the early modern Muslim world have been a subject of historical inquiry for several years. Works of art and architecture served to both unify these diverse and multi-confessional sites, as well as to distinguish them. The 15th century onward is often defined by new subjectivities in the literary and visual arts, from the composition of autobiographies to an emphasis on verisimilitude and portraiture. New technologies affected architectural production, and a broadening social sphere changed the way in which urban spaces were described and experienced. This symposium builds on the comparative framework of earlier studies, to focus on the themes of expression and emotion, as forms of artistic agency in the early modern Muslim world. (more)


Religious Heterodoxy and Modern States

March 28 - 29, 2014 • Luce Hall

Questions of religious difference, liberty and freedom are deeply bound with how notions of secularism and religion mutually take shape and evolve over time. There are consequently important national differences that cut across regional and religious divides in how religious differences are institutionally managed by modern states. This conference will probe theoretical and empirical issues pertaining to internal religious difference. Internal religious difference refers to those groups and communities that hold religious doctrines considered deviant from mainstream religions and which are typically labeled evil, heretical, infidels, apostates or unbelievers. This conference will interrogate national cases in which such religious groups have been deemed heterodox by modern states. Specifically, it will draw forth how specific religious groups provoke unique anxieties for modern states wedded to defining legitimate religion. (more)


Airstrikes Against Syria?

Five experts on the Middle East and on American Foreign Policy debate how America should react to what was, according to intelligence sources, the use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. (Watch Video).


The Arts of Islam

As part of a major renovation and expansion project which was completed in December 2012, the Yale University Art Gallery has created a new installation of the arts of Islam designed to complement the broad spectrum of Yale courses that examine aspects of Islamic art, culture, society, history, politics and religion. The new Mimi Gates Study Gallery, located on the first floor of the Old Yale Art Gallery building, features highlights of the Gallery’s Islamic art collection in a display that will remain on view for several semesters. It is named in honor of Mimi Gardiner Gates ’81 Ph.D., the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Gallery from 1987 to 1994 and currently a member of the Gallery’s Governing Board and the Yale Corporation.

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‪Samar Yazbek
Syrian Dissident Journalist‬ and Author
September 19, 2012

Syrian journalist and novelist Samar Yazbek, whose recently published personal account of Syria's revolution has received worldwide attention, delivered a talk on campus at Yale University on Wednesday, September 19. (Watch Video).

globalized fatherhood

Globalized Fatherhood
A Conference-Workshop
April 13 - 15, 2012

Reproduction, fatherhood, and fathering are key elements of successful societies and buoyant economies. Whereas Western nations face challenges around declining fertility, aging populations, and the provision of labor, including through immigration, many non-Western nations face challenges around poverty, unemployment, and failed states, as seen in the Middle East uprisings. These intersecting trends in the context of a rapidly globalizing world make men’s lives more fluid, transitory, stressful, and transnational. The question remains as to how men manage to balance their roles as fathers and nurturers amidst these global challenges. “Globalized Fatherhood” brings together 16 scholars from around the world whose work focuses on transformations in 21st-century fatherhood in the era of globalization.



Al-Ghazali and His Influence.
A Workshop on the Occasion of the 900th Anniversary of His Death in 1111

December 9–10, 2011

Al-Ghazali (c. 1056-1111) is one of the most prominent and influential philosophers, theologians, jurists, and mystics of Islam. He integrated both the tradition of Aristotelian philosophy as well as mystical Islam (Sufism) into the Muslim mainstream and determined much of the direction Islamic intellectual history would take in the centuries after him. Rivaled only by Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), al-Ghazali is the most revered figure of classical Islam among contemporary Muslim individuals.

This conference brings together a number of established scholars in Islamic intellectual history with a new generation of al-Ghazali scholars and focuses on al-Ghazali’s impact through the centuries and, in particular, on the modern and contemporary periods.

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Gertrude Bell in Mesopotamia:
Archaeologist, Arabist, Diplomat, Spy

Gertrude Bell, along with her colleague T. E. Lawrence, was the best known, most accomplished, and most renowned European Arabist of the early twentieth century. The second woman to graduate from Oxford, she traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, learning Persian and Arabic, and training as an archaeologist. Shortly after the turn of the century, she led important archaeological expeditions to Syria and Iraq, subsequently writing highly regarded and popular accounts of these expeditions. Immediately preceding and during World War I, Bell served as Britain’s Oriental Secretary of Iraq and was responsible for drawing the borders of the state of Iraq, engineering the accession to the throne of King Faisal, helping to quell the insurrection of 1920, and founding the Iraq Museum. Despite these accomplishments, Bell apparently committed suicide in Baghdad in 1926 at the age of 56.


Staged Reading of Mesopotamia
October 21 & 22, 2011 at 7 pm. (Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, 53 Wall Street)

Mesopotamia is set in the British Oriental headquarters on the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad during the 1920s and dramatizes the creation of Iraq, the violent insurrection of 1920 and Bell’s Machiavellian political maneuvering. The play has had readings at Pegasus Players Theatre, in Chicago; the New York Theatre Workshop, in New York; and at Theatre Row, in New York, in 2009, where it was produced by the New Group and where the renowned actor Kathleen Chalfant read the role of Gertrude Bell. Kathleen Chalfant reprises this role in a staged reading directed by Evan Yionoulis, Professor, Yale School of Drama, Resident Director, Yale Repertory Theatre.

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Gertrude Bell in Mesopotamia:
Archaeologist, Arabist, Diplomat, Spy

On view from Monday, September 26 through Friday, December 16, 2011. (Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, MW 3–5 pm or by appointment at 203-432-0670)

Gertrude Bell in Mesopotamia gathers letters, maps, books, intelligence reports, and photographs (many by Bell herself) to document this extraordinary life. The exhibition is curated by Robert Myers, this year’s Franke Visiting Scholar at the Whitney Humanities Center, and Miriam Ayres of New York University. Mr. Myers is a distinguished playwright and professor of literature and creative writing at the American University of Beirut, where he has also served as Director of the Center for American Studies.  


Distinguished Lecture

2011 Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies Distinguished Lecture and Research Workshop
Friday, April 15

We are pleased to announce that the 2011 Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies Distinguished Lecture and Research Workshops will explore the topic of “Gender and the Middle East Uprisings.” The 2011 JMEWS Distinguished Lecturer is Dr. Diane Singerman, JMEWS Associate Editor and Associate Professor in the Department of Government at American University. She will speak about “Youth, Gender, and Dignity in the Arab Uprisings.” Dr. Singerman’s research interests focus on political change from below, particularly in the Middle East, and more specifically in Egypt; her work examines the formal and informal side of politics, gender, social movements, globalization, public space, protest, and urban politics. Following Dr. Singerman’s lecture, we will feature an afternoon research workshop around the conference theme.

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Water and Middle East Peace

Water and Middle East Peace, Challenges and Opportunities
Monday, April 11 @ 12:00 pm

Join us for a lunch discussion with Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and former Yale World Fellow. FoEME is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists to promote cooperative efforts to protect shared environmental heritage. In so doing, it seeks to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in the region. FoEME has offices in Amman, Bethlehem, and Tel-Aviv. It is a member of Friends of the Earth International, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the world. Bromberg has spearheaded the advocacy campaigns of the organization both in Israel and internationally and developed the cross border community peace building program "Good Water Neighbors" that is seen as a model for other programs in conflict areas. Bromberg speaks regularly on water, peace, and security issues, including at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, the U.S. House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the UN High Level Panel on Security. He is a member of the EastWest Institute's International Task Force for Preventive Diplomacy. Bromberg was named an 'Environmental Hero' by TIME Magazine, and was, with his co-directors, awarded the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.


Distinguished Lecture

Life at the Margins of Iranian Society: A Special Documentary Screening of The Glass House and Panel Discussion on Gender, Health, and Poverty in Iran
Wednesday, March 23
Film Screening in Luce Hall Auditorium at 6 pm
Followed by dinner and panel discussion in Luce 203 at 8 pm

Panelists: Marjaneh Halati, Founder of The Omid-e-Mehr Foundation, Kaveh Khoshnood, Yale University, and Gohar Farahani, University of Maryland University College

Moderator: Marcia C. Inhorn, Yale University
Guest: Hamid Rahmanian, Director

The Glass House
(Iran, 2008)
Directed by Hamid Rahmanian

The fringes of Iranian society can be a lonely place, especially if you are a teenage girl with few resources to fall back on. The Glass House follows four girls striving to pull themselves out of the margins by attending a one-of-kind rehabilitation center in uptown Tehran. Forget about the Iran that you’ve seen before. With a virtually invisible camera, the girls of The Glass House take us on a never-before-seen tour of the underclass of Iran with their brave and defiant stories: Samira struggles to overcome forced drug addiction; Mitra harnesses abandonment into her creative writing; Sussan teeters on a dangerous ledge after years of sexual abuse; and Nazila burgeons out of her hatred with her blazing rap music. This groundbreaking documentary reflects a side of Iran few have access to or paid attention to: a society lost to its traditions with nothing meaningful to replace them and a group of courageous women working to instill a sense of empowerment and hope into the minds and lives of otherwise discarded teenage girls.


Distinguished Lecture

Tense Tehran 2009, Critical Cairo 2011: Social Unrest and Popular Revolt in the Middle East
Monday, February 28 @ 12:00 PM

Join us for a lunch discussion with journalist Iason Athanasiadis. Iason Athanasiadis has been covering the Middle East, Central Asia, and the southeast Mediterranean since 1999. He lived in Iran from 2004-2007, covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Lebanon for the international media, including The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. While covering the national elections in Iran in 2009, Athanasiadis was arrested and jailed on espionage charges in the notorious Evin Prison for 18 days before being released. During spring of 2010, he was imbedded with NATO troops in Afghanistan. In the fall of 2010, he was in Afghanistan covering the elections. Athanasiadis currently makes his home in Istanbul. Most recently, he was in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, witnessing the incredible events there. A native of Greece, Athanasiadis was a 2008 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and is an Aristotle Onassis Foundation Scholar. He earned degrees in Arabic and Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford University as well as a master's degree in Persian and Contemporary Iranian Studies at Tehran's School of International Studies.


Global Oprah

Global Oprah: Celebrity as Transnational Icon
February 25-26, 2011

There is perhaps no American more globalized than Oprah Winfrey. Every week, the Oprah show is broadcast in 141 countries. Her print, online products permeate the marketplace. Her nonprofit developments have become satellite operations in multiple countries. Finally, her company, Harpo, Inc. tracks this pattern of globalization, superseding the provincial borders of the United States, distributing the O brand as a circulating object of the new international economy. One of the ways in which her brand has become normative is the emergence of media leaders in other countries, broadcast on other networks, touting themselves as the Oprah of their nation or their ethnicity. From Chen Lu Yu, known as "China's Oprah," to Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, the Oprah of South Africa; from the "Arabic Oprah," Nashwa al-Ruwaini, to the "Hispanic Oprah," Cristina Saralegui, the model Oprah franchised has become a mode through which other women, in other countries, offer leadership, therapy, and entertainment to their largely female viewership. Yet this translation of the Oprah icon into different national figures is just one of the ways her status commodity might be evaluated. "Global Oprah" will consider the meaning and consequences of the international distribution of Oprah Winfrey as indicative of broader patterns in globalizing media forms and transnational feminisms.


Teach In: Current Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa

Teach In: Current Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa
February 8, 2011

A panel discussion featuring four experts on the history and political affairs of the Middle East, providing a primer for understanding the rapidly evolving social unrest in the region.

Panelists were Adel Allouche, Department of History, Yale; Adria Lawrence and Ellen Lust, Department of Political Science, Yale; and Tarek Masoud, Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The panel was moderated by Marcia C. Inhorn, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at Yale and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies.

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Middle Ground / Middle East: Religious Sites in Urban Context
January 21-22, 2011

In a part of the word where the intersection of religious traditions has always been at the heart of both cultural identity and conflict, the importance of religious sites for shaping social life – especially in urban contexts – is critical. Religious sites are the outcome of human experiences realized within a particularly dynamic social context, embracing both cultural heritage and modernization. Their tangible and material aspects are among the most fundamental sources of solidarity, practices, beliefs, worldviews and aspirations – what might be called a “hidden cultural synthesis.” Moreover, these spaces are often an important element of the urban matrix within which change is facilitated – one thinks of recent work in such places as Samara, Beirut, Riyadh, Cairo and Jerusalem.



Global Health and the UAE: Asia-Middle East Connections
January 4-8, 2010

This landmark conference was a collaboration between United Arab Emirates University, Yale University, the University of California, American University of Beirut, the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, and Unifob Global at the University of Bergen. Sixty of the world's premier scientists and clinicians, including five from Yale, convened to discuss, highlight and explain the new and daunting global healthcare challenges. Conferees refined the agenda for scientific research and policy on 21st century global health from a UAE, Middle East and Asian perspective—explaining priorities for governments, scholars, clinical providers and families worldwide.



Islam and the Biotechnologies

Islam and the Biotechnologies of Human Life
September 18-20, 2009

This workshop set out to explore Islamic attitudes toward biotechnology and brought twelve Islamic Studies scholars, including three from Iran, to Yale University. A major panel on “The Iranian ART Revolution,” was featured.

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Breaking the Veils

“Breaking the Veils” is a unique and compelling international art exhibition showcasing 51 women artists from 21 Islamic countries. This exhibit is designed to challenge contemporary stereotypes about the lives of women in the Islamic world and celebrates their artistic contribution in shaping a rich, culture heritage.

On display at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT and hosted by the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale from September 1 - December 12, 2009. Email or call 203-436-2553 for more information.



Celebrating Rumi
On Friday, March 27, 2009, the Middle East Studies Council will present Celebrating Rumi at 5:00pm in the Luce Hall Auditorium, 34 Hillhouse Avenue. In celebration of the Persian New Year, Iraj Anvar will present a reading of selected Persian poetry from the Divan of the 13th century mystic and poet, Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Rumi, followed by English translations from: Say Nothing, a collaborative translation of Rumi, by Dr. Iraj Avar and Anne Twitty.

Iraj Anvar was born in Tehran into a family of lovers of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Iraj Anvar grew up with the sound of the poet’s words echoing in his ears. After a theatrical career in Italy and Iran, he settled in New York, where he gained a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies and taught courses in Persian language and literature. During this time, he continued to recite and sing the poems of Rumi and Hafez at venues such as Harvard, Columbia, St. John the Divine, and the Asia Society in New York. He is now a visiting professor at Brown University.



Fatah-Hamas Rivalries after Gaza:
Impossible Unity?
On Wednesday, March 5, 2009, the Middle East Studies Council will host Benoit Challand at 4:30pm in Room 105, 10 Sachem Street. Benoit Challand is a senior research fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Florence and Senior Lecturer at the University of Bologna (Italy). He earned a PhD in Social and Political Science from the European University Institute, Florence in 2005 under the supervision of Philippe C. Schmitter. He is the author of Palestinian Civil Society: Foreign Donors and the Power to Promote and Exclude (Routledge, 2009) and has published articles in International Journal of Middle East Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and European Journal of Social Theory. He is also guest lecturer in Bethlehem, Pavia and Fribourg (Switzerland). He is currently working on a new book dealing with the clash of civilizations as a political myth and a co-edited volume on politics and imagination (under review now with Columbia University Press).



Turkey Decoded
Sweden's former ambassador to Turkey, Ann Dismorr, will give a lecture at Yale University on Feb. 23rd at 6pm in the Luce Hall Auditorium, 34 Hillhouse Avenue. Ann Dismorr is the author of Turkey Decoded (Saqi Books, London, 2008). Reception in the Common Room at 6:00 p.m. with Turkey Decoded available for purchase and signed by the Ambassador. Followed by lecture in the Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. The talk will be introduced and moderated by Sallama Shaker, a visiting scholar at Yale and the former Egyptian ambassador to Canada.


The Politics of Dissent in North Africa

The Politics of Dissent in North Africa
From February 20-22, 2009, the Council on Middle East Studies will host a conference that examines the everyday functioning of politics and dissent in North Africa. Moving away from normative and abstract claims about the so-called ‘authoritarian’ aspect of North African regimes, this conference takes up an ethnographic approach. Its objective is to underline the various and complex mechanisms through which North African regimes have been able to survive in the past decades. Drawing upon a broad range of case studies, participants will examine the complex interaction between various types of actors within specific contexts. Rather than looking for a single-cause explanation of North African politics, the conference will emphasize the multifaceted relations between and among State and society, governments and opposition parties, nation-states and the international community.

This interdisciplinary conference has important practical consequences for a better understanding of a region that tends to be less studied than the Middle East. It will also provide scholars from Europe, North Africa and the U.S. with a unique opportunity to meet, exchange and confront their views and methodologies.


Reconfiguring a Region

Conference To Explore How Social, Economic and Political Transformations Affect Governance in Africa and the Middle East
On January 30-31, 2009, The Council on Middle East Studies will host a conference, “Rethinking Development: Societal Transformations and the Challenges of Governance,” at Yale University. It will take place at the MacMillan Center, 34 Hillhouse Avenue, and is free and open to the public.


Reconfiguring a Region

Top Academics and Policy Analysts Gather at Symposium on Reconfiguring A Region: Opportunities and Challenges in the Middle East
The Council on Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University will host a symposium on the current political reconfiguration in the greater Middle East and the impact of U.S. policies on the future development of the region on September 26 and 27, 2008.



Security, Individual Rights and Minority Communities After 9/11
How do we maintain national security while also protecting individual civil liberties? On March 25, the Council on Middle East hosted a panel and community discussion around this quandary through presentations by scholars, legal experts, and other professionals in conversation with Yale and New Haven community members. Surveying topics from FBI surveillance techniques to the experience of Muslim communities to a history of terrorist tactics, the discussion investigated legal, social, and political implications for the post-9/11 experience.



Education in New Cairo
In April 2008, eight high school students from the Center for Global Studies (CGS) in Norwalk, Conn., traveled to Egypt for a pioneering two-week study tour. Led by their teacher, Emad El-Digwy, and Greta Scharnweber, the MacMillan Center’s PIER Director for Middle East Studies, the students were hosted by the Modern Education School (MES) in New Cairo, a sprawling suburb of the largest city in the Arab World.



Contemporary Middle East Studies Strengthened
The Council on Middle East Studies of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale has announced an initiative to promote richer understanding of contemporary issues in the Middle East. The initiative will complement Yale's already substantial offerings and resources in ancient, pre-modern and modern Middle East Studies, and expand research and teaching on the Middle East, and its relations with the rest of the world. In the first three years of the initiative, the Yale-Middle East Visiting Faculty Program, the keystone component, will bring distinguished visiting scholars to teach courses and do research on the region at Yale.


black gold

Black Gold Tour to the Persian Gulf
We hear on almost a daily basis that oil remains one of the world’s most precious and sought-after commodities, and that the most extensive reserves of this natural resource lie in the Middle East. This past November, ten educators (four college-level and six high school-level) traveled with PIER Outreach Director Greta Scharnweber to Qatar and the U.A.E. for a field study tour designed to look into this assumption and explore a variety of topics related to oil in the Middle East and beyond. It focused broadly on the rapidly developing economies of the Arabian Peninsula, touched upon oil and energy issues, and focused most significantly on educational and cultural exchange.



Hizballah, the Israel Defense Forces and Beyond
On September 14, the Henry R. Luce Hall auditorium filled with members of the Yale community and the general public to hear a panel discussion, “Hizballah, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Beyond: Perspectives on the Current Crisis in the Middle East.”


PIER Mes 2005

PIER Outreach: On the Road to Morocco
Where the Middle East is concerned, most people initially think of political strife, religious fundamentalism, and violent conflict. This past summer, PIER-Middle East Studies took a radically different approach to learning and teaching about Middle Eastern culture and society. Rather than playing into simplistic stereotypes of the region, “Arts in Action in the Middle East” looked first at arts and culture, tracing the historical, political, and social impact
of the creative arts in the region over time.