compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary/TIRN on MAY 6, 2015: 

Nora Fisher Onar is a Research Associate of the Centre for International Studies of the University of Oxford and a Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC. Fisher Onar presented “The Cosmo-Politics of Nostalgia: Istanbul, Identity, and Difference” at the March 19, 2015 workshop “Turkish Reasonable Accommodations: From Multiculturalism to Secular Nationalism and Back.”

“Istanbul is I think a fascinating site of analysis. We’ve heard about how it’s been an imperial capitol for almost three millennia and so it’s brought together groups of different ethnic, sectarian, religious, civilizational orientations,” said Fisher Onar, beginning her presentation. “In Orhan Pamuk’s words Istanbul is just emerging perhaps from a century of being a backwater. It’s never been as provincial for the past 2,000 years as it has been for the past 100 or 85 or so (years).”

She then argued: “I think we can make the claim that although Istanbul became a backwater, although it became homogenized along with the general process of the homogenizing nation-building that took place from the 1920s onwards, there was still a persistence, there as a certain sort of post-imperial cosmopolitan persistence in Istanbul and that we can access in various traces left upon the city.” Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary for DUKE TODAY on APRIL 20, 2015: 

Erdag Goknar discusses the ramifications of the post WWI-partition of the Middle East. (Photo by Julie Harbin)
Erdag Goknar discusses the ramifications of the post WWI-partition of the Middle East. (Photo by Julie Harbin)

DURHAM, NC - At the end of World War I, the defeated capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, was “a city of poverty and refugees” with a multi-ethnic population of 1 million, with 100,000 refugees including Balkan Muslims, Russians, Crimean and Caucasian Muslims, Jews, Armenians and Turks.

“Multiple ethnicities and languages mixed and mingled. Each brought with it a separate ideology and vision,” said Duke Associate Professor of Turkish & Middle Eastern Studies Erdağ Göknar, speaking last week as part of the provost office’s Thomas Langford Lectureship.

When the British, French, Italians and Greeks arrived to occupy the city in 1918, they ignored the cosmopolitan space of the city, focusing instead on nationalities. The logic of emphasizing national groups was informed by Wilsonian principles of national self-determination. This was the same logic that led to the greater partition of Ottoman territory that Göknar said reconstituted the Middle East and whose violent consequences can be seen throughout the region today.

There were parts of the city that protested the occupation (mostly Muslims) and parts of the city that celebrated it (the minority populations). The occupation prefigured a human tragedy, what some scholars call the “unmixing” of people (“a euphemism for religious or ethnic cleansing”), as Göknar said. Continue reading

Members of the Nation of Islam (led now by Louis Farrakhan) were on the ground during the Ferguson protests last year and the Baltimore riots (last night) trying to help restore order. Here is an interview, taped this winter, with two professors who have studied former NOI leader Malcolm X.  

This video was produced by Julie Poucher Harbin of ISLAMiCommentary and Catherine Angst of the John Hope Franklin Center as part of the Field Reports series.

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 29, 2015:  (taped at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, on FEBRUARY 13, 2015): 

February 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

We sat down with William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr. (a professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University and Director of the Duke Consortium on Social Equity) and William (Bill) Hart, Professor of Religion at University of North Carolina at Greensboro for a taped conversation on Malcolm X ahead of a national conference being held at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill (2/20/15-2/21/15) on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist.”

In the clip above the two professors talk about peaceful protest, violence, and what civil rights demonstrators today can take away from Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. (For more with Darity and Hart WATCH HERE. Also see an interview with Maytha AlHassen on Malcolm X, #BlackLivesMatter & the Middle East.)

Continue reading

“One of the most important outcomes of these movements has been the return of politics to the public sphere and the return of the square as the place for it” — Nezar AlSayyad, professor of architecture, planning, urban design and urban history at the University of California at Berkeley 

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 1, 2015: 

Unknown-1In the postscript to his 2011 book Cairo: Histories of a City (reproduced by The New York Times as an op-ed), and in lectures and articles since, UC Berkeley architecture professor Nezar AlSayyad has argued that Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square, finally lived up to his name with the 2011 Egyptian uprising. Four years later, however, there are questions about whether Egypt really has been “liberated.”

While AlSayyad said it may be “too early to tell” if the 2011 Egyptian uprising can ultimately be deemed a failure, and though “many wish the Arab Spring had never come” — “Are we more comfortable with our dictators?” he wondered aloud —  he seems convinced that what happened in Tahrir Square and in other public squares in the Middle East did indeed have a positive impact.

“People of all classes are now more politically active and politically aware,” he said. Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary, on FEBRUARY 23, 2015 *Updated February 25 with Forum for Scholars & Publics video (above): 

February 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. This weekend his life and legacy got widespread media attention.

There are many academic Malcolm X representations, readings, and interpretations, and with many great figures in human history, their legacy is more and something other than that great person’s biography.

Said Duke Islamic Studies Center Director Omid Safi:  “We are living through the 50th anniversary of many of the monumental events in the history of the civil rights movement. The protests in Ferguson, New York and elsewhere tell us that issues of racism, brutality, poverty and militarism are still with us.”

Over the weekend a national conference on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist” was held at Duke and UNC — co-organized by Safi, UNC-Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor Juliane Hammer, and African & African American Studies professor and host of Left of Black Mark Anthony Neal.

The conference (details here) was sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Cosponsors included the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke University), Department of Religious Studies (Duke University), African and African American Studies (Duke University), and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations (UNC-Chapel Hill).

Conference participants included Safi; HammerNeal; William Chafe (Emeritus, Duke); William “Sandy” Darity (Duke); Michael Muhammad Knight (UNC Chapel Hill); Hisham Aidi (Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs), Maytha Alhassen (University of Southern California), Zaheer Ali (CUNY, Columbia University, Malcolm X Project), Abbas Barzegar (Georgia State University), Sohail Daulatzai (University of California-Irvine), William “Bill” Hart (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), and Jamillah Karim (author).

Above featured video is a panel discussion “Malcolm X Now” co-sponsored by Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Duke Islamic Studies Center featuring Alhassen, Ali, Hart, and Knight.

Below is a Twitter Storify of the event, as well as a selection of articles and interviews about Malcolm X that aired or were published over the past week by or about scholars who participated in our conference. Watch this space in the coming weeks for video features, including in-depth interviews. Continue reading