by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 14, 2015:

Last month, the Duke Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC) had the honor of hosting Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk for a series of events at Duke University. With co-sponsorship from the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Duke Global Education/Duke in Turkey, Franklin Humanities Institute, Arts of the Moving Image and Mellon Foundation’s Partnerships in a Global Age grant, Pamuk’s visit included a public conversation at the Nasher Museum of Art auditorium hosted by DUMESC Director Erdağ Göknar, and a faculty forum. He also sat down with Göknar for an interview at Duke Studios.

Göknar, who authored the 2013 book “Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel” (Routledge, 2013) and was the English translator for Pamuk’s Nobel Prize- winning “My Name is Red” (Knopf, 2001), said Pamuk’s work – nine novels to date — “embraces the idea of the novelist as archivist and curator.”

“Since winning the Nobel award in 2006, Pamuk’s work has continued to push the boundaries of literary form and content,” said Göknar, adding that it “brings together narrative strains such as Ottoman Turkish history, the confines of identity, double-ness, excavations of the city, conspiracy, Islamic art, Sufism, the power of the Middle Eastern nation state, the (1980) coup, obsession, mystical love, the archive, collecting, lament and the Istanbul melancholy known as khuzun.”

All of this plays out through the city of Istanbul that in Pamuk’s words, is a space that has become “the memory of his fiction.” Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 21, 2015:

Rashid Khalidi talked with Shai Ginsburg about the role of the historian, his take on violence in the Middle East and his new book project on the hundred year war in Palestine — in this an interview recorded in October 2015 during Khalidi’s visit to Duke. Sponsored by the Duke University Middle East Studies Center, Khalidi’s visit also included a public lecture (Watch Here) and a faculty symposium (see Ginsburg’s remarks here) on his work.

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies in the Department of History at Columbia University. Shai Ginsburg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University and affiliated faculty with the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Continue reading

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

syriaby JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN  for ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 4, 2015:

Is there a more tragic country in the world today than Syria ?  How did it descend into chaos, conflict, and crisis?

John McHugo offers some answers in Syria: A History of the Last Hundred Years (The New Press, 2015).

McHugo is a historian, international lawyer, and Arabic linguist.  Born in Croydon, England, he was educated at Oxford University and The American University in Cairo. McHugo is the author of A Concise History of the Arabs (Saqi Books, 2013; republished by The New Press, 2014) and the forthcoming book “The Forked Scimitar: A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is” (Saqi Books, 2017). He is also an adviser to Tim Farron, the leader of the British Liberal Democrat Party, on peace in the Middle East.

The long story of Syria is marked by centuries of conquest. McHugo states that Syria “has constantly been ruled and occupied (and sometimes partitioned) by strong rulers who came from elsewhere.” In the last hundred years, Syria’s fate was determined by Western powers and the regional turmoil they created.

“It is not an exaggeration,” he writes, “to say that the actions of the great powers in the aftermath of the Great War and over the following decades deprived the people of Syria of any chance of a normal development to nationhood.”

John McHugo reviews Syria’s complex history and offers insight into its future in this timely interview. Continue reading


by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 2, 2015: 

From October 22-23, Columbia University Arab Studies professor Rashid Khalidi gave a public lecture on “The Hundred Year War in Palestine” and convened a public forum with Duke faculty on the same topic. This two-day “Borders of the Middle East” symposium was co-sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Duke University Department of History, Duke Department of Political Science, UNC-Chapel Hill history department, and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

The period since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 has witnessed what amounts to a hundred years of war against the Palestinian people,” said Khalidi, previewing the theme of his talk. “This war had a unique nature: formally sanctioned and authorized by the great powers, but largely waged by others. Against these heavy odds, the Palestinians have resisted what amounts to one of the last ongoing attempts at colonial subjugation in the modern world.”

He began his talk with this observation: “It’s an understatement to say that most portrayals of Palestinians do not feature the perspectives of Palestinians.. They’ve been elided from the historical narrative.” In fact he said that “it’s an article of faith from many of their opponents that Palestinians do not exist.” Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on NOVEMBER 23, 2015 *updated on Nov. 25: 

ISLAMiCommentary attended the annual Middle East Studies Association meeting this year (Nov. 21-24) — where hundreds of scholars from all over the world have gathered. See @ISLAMiComment on Twitter and also follow #MESA2015Denver and #MESA2015 for insightful tweets by scholars and other participants in this conference on a multitude of Middle East-related topics.

Continue reading