AY 2014

Afghan Hazaras’ Perceptions on Najafi School of Thought

Hazara Event

April 29, 2014

The last event of the Spring 2014 semester was a lecture by PhD candidate Melissa Chiovenda. Melissa spent eighteen months in Afghanistan researching Hazara ethnic identity in Bamyan, as well as gender among women working for NGOs in Jalalabad. She previously volunteered with the Peace Corps in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.






“On Memory and Democracy: Skeletons in the Turkish Closet”
Campagna-Kerben Annual Lecture

Turkey_LectureThe Campagna-Kerven Lecture Series was launched by Madame Suzanne Campagna to provide a forum for informed discussion and debate about modern Turkey, and particularly to inspire students to learn about the country.  The multidisciplinary series was inaugurated in 1996 and it features scholars, artists and public intellectuals. The annual lectures have addressed and will continue to address a rich variety of themes on modern Turkish society, economy, culture and politics.

Persian Symposium
Translating and Teaching Pre-Modern Persian Literature

Persian Symposium-1The Persian Symposium was cosponsored by the BU Center for the Humanities and the SMSC Institute.

SESSION 1, Thursday

Intent and Ambiguity in Rudaki’s Poetry: The Problems of Overtranslating
Sassan Tabatabai

Enigma of the Rudaki-var Style: The Russian Solution
Firuza Abdullaeva

Neither Read nor Translated: Early Modern Persian Literature by Women
Sunil Sharma

SESSION 2, Friday

Distilled Transcendence or Mystical Mush? Translating Persian Sufi Poetry for the New Age
Frank Lewis

Rumi and “Islam”: The Perils of Academic Translations of Rumi’s Masnavi
Jawid Mojaddedi

Baroque Modern: Sa’eb and the Contemporary American Poetic Idiom
Paul Losensky


Veiled Voices: Who Speaks in a Translation?
Dick Davis


“On Memory and Democracy: Skeletons in the Turkish Closet”
Campagna-Kerben Annual Lecture

Turkey_LectureThe Campagna-Kerven Lecture Series was launched by Madame Suzanne Campagna to provide a forum for informed discussion and debate about modern Turkey, and particularly to inspire students to learn about the country.  The multidisciplinary series was inaugurated in 1996 and it features scholars, artists and public intellectuals. The annual lectures have addressed and will continue to address a rich variety of themes on modern Turkish society, economy, culture and politics.


“Tunisia and Egypt: Reform, Regression, and Differences”


Shami Hamid is a fellow with the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and the author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and liberal Democracy in a New Middle East.

He  served as director of research at the Brookings Doha Center until January 2014. Prior to joining Brookings, Hamid was director of research at the Project on Middle East Democracy and Hewlett Fellow at Stamford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Hamid is currently vice chair of POMED, a member of the World Bank’s MENA Advisory Panel and a correspondent for The Atlantic.


A Room of One’s Own

Lambert-Hurley Flyer (1)


April 8, 2014

Dr. Lambert-Hurley explored how geographical, literary, and linguistic contexts shape the stories South Asian Women write about their lives. Dr. Lambert-Hurley serves as Senior Lecturer in Modern history at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. She is currently acting as Visiting Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of British Columbia.



Wajma Screening
Muslim Film Festival

   Wajma60ca2bApril 6, 2014

  Project Nur, a student led initiative of the American Islamic Congress (AIC) and AIC Boston have partnered with the SMSC Institute and the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies to present: Wajma, An Afghan Love Story. 

The film features the character Wajma, who engages in a relationship with a gregarious waiter named Mustafa. Although mindful of the societal rules they are breaking, they are playful and passionate. After Wajma realizes she is pregnant, her father faces having to decide between his culturally held right to uphold an honorable family and his devotion to his daughter.



Protecting Syrian Refugees

April 4, 2014

Sponsored by the Boston University School of Law with support from the Institute for Iraqi Studies at Boston University.


 The International Human Rights clinical Program at the BU School of Law gave a report on a two-year research project focusing on the legal issues and problems that are creating barriers to relief and protection for refugees fleeing Syria. The project focuses on the legal instruments that govern this refugee flow in the most affected states: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt.
Clinical Professor: Susan Akram
Clinic Students: Aaron Lang, Sarah Bidinger and Danielle Hites



The Struggle for Iraq’s Future

March 26, 2014

Zaid Al-Ali_Flyer

Zaid Al- Ali is a lawyer specializing in comparative constitutional law and international commercial arbitration. He was a legal adviser to the United Nations in Iraq from 2005 to 2010. He often serves as a commentator on Iraqi and Arab issues for BBC, Al-Jazeera, Channel 4, and the New York Times among others. His most recent publication, “The Struggle for Iraq’s Future” discusses how corruption, incompetence, and sectarianism have undermined democracy.



How to Read the Qur’an

howtoreadFebruary 19, 2014

Cosponsored by the BU Center for the Study of Asia and the BU Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations

Many who approach the Qur’an for the first time find it difficult to read­­—its organization confusing, its messages mystifying. This lecture, based on Dr. Ernst’s new book of the same title, drew on the best of international scholarship to present meaningful strategies for interpreting this complex religious text. Professor Ernst  touched upon the Qur’an’s original sequence of delivery, explored its links to earlier writings, clarified the central points of its symmetrical compositions, and provided interested readers with new tools for comprehending the sacred book of Islam



Conversation with the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN


February 11, 2014

Ambassador Mohammed Alhakim is Iraq’s current Permanent Representative to the United Nations, establishing the nation’s role in the global community, promoting the common values of humanity, addressing regional stability and security concerns, and promoting economic partnerships and development. Prior to serving as the Permanent Representative, the Ambassador served at the European office in Geneva. In addition, he has had the honor to serve as the Minister of Telecommunications in the Iraqi transitional government, Senior Political and Economic Advisor to Vice President of Iraq Adel Abdel Mahdi, and was elected to the Iraqi National Assembly.


Debates on Politics, Economics, and Culture in an Uncertain Jordan

Sarah Tobin    February 10, 2014

Sarah Tobin is a lively and interesting speaker who earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University. She has great recent experience in Jordan, and discussed how the Kingdom of Jordan has navigated the Arab Spring. This talk took place in conjunction with Professor Norton’s seminar on political reform.

Dr. Tobin’s book manuscript, Everyday Piety: Islam and the Economy in Amman, Jordan, explores anthropological perspectives and participant observation in Amman. “This book examines three aspects of Islamic religious life in the economy of Amman: 1) the ways in which individuals create meaning and authenticity as Muslims in their economic practices; 2) the ways in which individuals give public demonstrations of these personal pieties; and 3) the degree to which these presentations of personal piety reflect a wider public agreement and consensus in moral and ethical practices.”


The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Contiguous States

SyriaJanuary 31, 2014

This was the second conference hosted by the Institute of Iraqi studies and cosponsored by the Institute for the Studies of Muslim Societies and Civilizations and the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies. This year’s workshop focused on the impact that the flood of Syrian refugees had on contiguous states. Discussion focused on Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Several scholars and professionals each addressed one of these countries, as well as the plight of millions of Syrians.

A full report of the conference can be found here.

Imagining the Middle East Film Series

Jan 21January 21-March 18

Valentino’s Ghost
Narrated by Mike Farrell, Valentino’s Ghost” examines the ways in which America’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East drives the U.S. media’s portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. The film lays bare the truths behind taboo subjects that are conspicuously avoided, or merely treated as sound bites, by the mainstream American media: “Why do they hate us?” “Why do we hate them?” What were the events that led to the 9/11 attacks? What are the politics behind the U.S.-Israeli relationship?  Why is there a robust debate about these subjects in Europe, the Arab World and in Israel itself, but not in the U.S.?

“Ten, the latest film by Iranian master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, focuses on ten conversations between a female driver in Tehran and the passengers in her car. Her exchanges with her young son, a jilted bride, a prostitute, a women on her way to prayer and others, shed light on the lives and emotions of these women whose voices are seldom heard.”

Waltz with Bashir
“An Israeli film director interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to reconstruct his own memories of his term of service in that conflict.”

Paradise Now
“The movie involves two days in the lives of Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman), two Palestinians, garage mechanics and best friends, who are recruited to cross into Israel and blow themselves up. They are not shown as fanatics. They prepare for their task as one would prepare for any difficult assignment. The organization that supports them provides training, encouragement, praise, shaves and haircuts, suits and ties, a ceremonial dinner, and a chance to make videos that will be shown on television.”

Habibi Rasak Kharban
“Habibi, a story of forbidden love, is a fiction feature set in Gaza. Two students in the West Bank are forced to return home to Gaza, where their love defies tradition. To reach his lover, Qays grafittis poetry across town. Habibi is a modern re-telling of the famous ancient Sufi parable Majnun Layla. The full Arabic title is Habibi Rasak Kharban, which translates as “darling, something’s wrong with your head.”

Binding the Pages of the Heart

Jan 17


January 17, 2014

Professors Paul E. Losensky of Indiana University discussed “Metaphors of the Arts of the Book in the Poetry of Sa’eb Tabrizi.” Dr. Losensky is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. His research primarily focuses on 16th and 17th century Persian literature and literary history in Iran, India, and Central Asia.

The Arab Uprisings: Accomplishments, Failures and Prospects

November 15, 2013

Panel One: “In Quest of Freedom & Dignity”
Chair: Elaine Hagopian (Simmons College)
Speakers: Haytham al Manna’ (National Coordination Body for Democratic Change), Amr Hamzawi (American University in Cairo), Sara Roy (Harvard University), Melanie Cammett (Brown University)
Panel Two: “Youth & Women & the Arab Uprisings”
Chair: Betty Anderson (Boston University)
Speakers: Farouk El-Baz (Boston University), Caryle Murphy (Wilson Center), Chloe Mulderig (Boston University), Ghanem Alnajjar (Kuwait University)
Lunch: Sadek al-‘Azm
Panel Three: “The Arab Socio-Political Order: Challengers, Beneficiaries and Old Guards”
Chair: Leila Farsakh (University of Massachusetts Boston)
Speakers: Ali Ahmida (University of New England), Denis Sullivan (Northeastern University), Roger Owen (Harvard University), Gilbert Ashcar (University of London
Panel Four: “External Involvement in Arab Uprisings”
Chair: Seif Da’na (University of Wisconsin-Parkside)
Speakers: Tamirace Fakhoury (Lebanese American University), Hugh Roberts (Tufts University), Robert Pelletreau (Former US Ambassador to Bahrain)

Beyond the Silk Road: Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Cities and Courts

November 7, 2013

Hosted by Boston University Center for the Study of Asia

Join us for a joint presentation by Professors Roberta Micallef and Sunil Sharma who will introduce the cultures of the Silk Road and its legacy on the three early modern Eurasian empires: Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal. The complex literary and political connections between the three courts and capital cities, Istanbul, Isfahan, and Delhi, of these polities will be explored through the viewing and discussion of video clips from popular historical fiction productions. Courtly and Sufi musical traditions, as well as cuisines, will be presented in a comparative perspective. The emphasis will be on the memory of the three great empires in the Middle East and South Asia. Sponsored by BUCSA.

Americans in the Middle East Seminar Series

SMSC’s three-part Fall lecture series, led by Dr. Betty Anderson, Associate Professor, Boston University. Beginning in September with Ellen Fleishman’s “Go, my daughter and don’t back off!” Arab Women and American Education in Lebanon, the seminar takes us through the world of early 20th century Beirut in regards to American effort and influence. Later in the month, the focus is turned to the political sphere of American presence with Melanie Tenielian’s Politics of Neutrality: American Humanitarian Relief in Ottoman Beirut during World War I. Both lectures were arranged and managed by Betty Anderson, whose initiative was integral in creating the seminar series. The conference was concluded in early November with an analysis into the history of a more recent and immediate influence on Lebanese society with Dr. Betty Anderson’s The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education in Lebanon.


The American University of BeirutArab Nationalism and Liberal Education in Lebanon

November 6, 2013

by Dr. Betty Anderson

An evening discussion with Betty Anderson, Associate Professor of History, Boston University. The third and final event in SMSC’s fall seminar series, The American University of Beirut presents Anderson’s recent book, The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and American Education.



Politics of Neutrality: American Humanitarian Relief in Ottoman Beirut during World War I

September 26, 2013

by Dr. Melanie Tenielian

A Lunch talk with Melanie Tanielian, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan. The second lecture in SMSC’s fall seminar series, Politics of Neutrality examines the role of US aid in Ottoman Beirut throughout the first world war, discussing government reaction to the American presence there as well as the local reception of relief efforts and response to the government ban on American aid.


“Go, my daughter and don’t back off!” Arab Women and American Education in Lebanon

September 16, 2013

by Dr. Ellen Fleischmann

A Lunch Talk with Dr. Ellen Fleischmann, Associate Professor, University of Dayton. The first installment in SMSC’s fall seminar series, “Go, my daughter and don’t back off!” tells the story of three prominent women in the realm of early 20th century Lebanese education.The study peers through the lens of junior collegiate American missionary schools in the country and extends through the post-graduate experiences of the schools’ female students in the United States.

Chasing “Empty Signifiers”? Egyptian Theatre Before and After the “Arab Spring”

October 22, 2013

by Dr. Hazem Azmy

Please Join the SMSC Institute, the Modern Languages and Comparative Literature Department, and the African Studies Center as we welcome Dr. Hazem Amzy, visiting Assistant Professor at the department of Drama and Theatre Criticism of Ain Shams University and Co-Convener of the Arabic Theater Group of the International Federation for Theater Research. He will be discussing Egyptian Theatre, Before and After the Arab Spring, primarily analyzing three different Egyptian productions all by key figures of the “Free” Theatre Movement.

TO BE A FRIEND IS FATAL: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind

October 16, 2013

by Kirk W. Johnson

The Institute for Iraqi Studies and the Center for International Relations at Boston University present “TO BE A FRIEND IS FATAL: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,” a book talk with Kirk W. Johnson Kirk W. Johnson is the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, and the author of To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind. Since 2007, the List Project has brought nearly 2,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis to safety in America, constituting the largest pro bono initiative on behalf of refugees in U.S. history. Prior to the List Project, Johnson served in Iraq with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Fallujah as the Agency’s first coordinator for reconstruction in the war-torn city. Johnson received his BA from the University of Chicago in 2002. Please RSVP Mikaela at smscinst@bu.edu