Afsaneh Najmabadi
Afsaneh Najmabadi

41ZmP2xEtnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In her fascinating new book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press, 2015), Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, explores shifting meanings of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. By brilliantly combining historical and ethnographic inquiry, Najmabadi highlights the complex ways in which biomedical, psychiatric, and Islamic jurisprudential discourses and institutions conjoin to generate particular notions of acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. Moreover, she also shows some of the paradoxical ways in which state regulation enables certain possibilities and spaces for nonheteronormative sexuality in Iran. Continue reading


Professor Erdağ Göknar sits down with Professors Cemal Kafadar and Cemil Aydin  to discuss the various versions and “revisions” of Istanbul through the ages.

Göknar is an Associate Professor of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. Kafadar is a Professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University. Aydin is a Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This conversation was made possible by the Rethinking Global Cities project, a Duke University project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “Partnership in a Global Age.”



How the Occupation of Istanbul Shaped the Modern Middle East (on Goknar’s recent Langford lecture, by Julie Poucher Harbin for Duke Today)


View of Levent from the Bosphorous, Summer 2012. (photo courtesy Sibel Bozdoğan) Levent is one of the main business districts of Istanbul, located on the European side of the city.
View of Levent from the Bosphorous, Summer 2012. (photo courtesy Sibel Bozdoğan) Levent is one of the main business districts of Istanbul, located on the European side of the city.

“Istanbul is the economic, cultural, and historical heart of Turkey, and the only city in the world located on two continents. Between 1453 and 1922, Istanbul was the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, which extended into southeastern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Until 1924, it was the seat of the last Islamic caliphate. Due to its extensive history, Istanbul has been called a “palimpsest city,”bearing the remains of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. During an era of Middle Eastern nationalism, Istanbul became a peripheral urban center, and only regained its position as a world city at the turn of the twenty-first century. Today, it is one of the top-ten tourist destinations in the world. In 2010, Istanbul was named European Capital of Culture.  In 2013, there were violent anti-government protests in the city, which targeted massive urban renewal projects and the conservative, neoliberal order embraced by the ruling AK Party.” — Rethinking Global Cities, Duke University, 2014

“Money, capital, labor has no religion, nation, race or country. Money is like mercury. It flows wherever it finds a suitable channel, a secure ground for itself. If you can prepare this ground, it will come to you; otherwise it will flow somewhere else. We are determined to prepare this ground.” — Prime Minister Erdoğan, speech at G-20 summit, 2009


UnknownIn the past decade, Istanbul has undergone an immense political and economic transformation, making it “an ideal site to study the contradictory forces that come together to produce urban spaces,” says Duke University Turkish Studies professor Erdag Göknar.

Göknar is principal investigator of a year-long Rethinking Global Cities project at Duke, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, that is investigating the complex, hybrid and contested cultural and human geographies of the following world cities — Bangkok, Beijing, Bogota, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Mumbai, Tokyo and Vienna — in the context of national and global politics. (The centerpiece of this project is a conference this week, with the Febuary 5 keynote on “Virtual Uprisings: Tahrir Square” by Nezar Al Sayyad, Professor of Architecture, Design, Urban Planning & Urban History, UC Berkeley.)

As part of this project, Göknar invited Sibel Bozdoğan — a lecturer in Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture at Kadir Has University in Turkey — to speak at Duke this past December.

Bozdoğan’s research, at the intersection of Turkish politics and urban renewal, examines the ways in which ideology shapes and is shaped by urban form and analyzes the tensions between state power and city space. Her work spans cross-cultural histories of modern architecture and urbanism in Europe, America, the Mediterranean and the Middle East with a specialization on Turkey.

On December 4 she addressed a Duke lecture hall packed with architecture, design, Turkish studies and Middle East scholars on the timely, if controversial, topic — “Urban Development as Politics of Performance: Istanbul’s Transformation under the AKP.”

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Via SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM LISTSERV on February 6, 2014:

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, seeks to appoint a tenure-track or tenured professor in Persian literature and cultures. This position is OPEN RANK.  Tenure-Track and Tenured professors are welcome to apply. Continue reading

Omid Safi

by OMID SAFI for JADALIYYA on JANUARY 31, 2014: 

I have been asked to share my impressions about the state of Islamic studies in the North American academy. Given that the pioneers of this field include many of my mentors, and many of my own peers have struggled for years to help advance the field to its current state, my observations will not be dispassionate. And since I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat along the development of the field over the last twenty years, I hope I’ll be able to do justice to the current state of the field.

I became a graduate student in the field of Islamic studies in the early 1990s. In those days, almost all of us were “converts”: no one went to undergraduate studies planning to become a professor of Islamic studies. For many, particularly Muslims of transnational background, the usual academic caste options were the familiar: doctor, lawyer, engineer, maybe the always dubious “business.” Almost all of us who entered the field did so by following the siren call of one mentor or another: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Algar, Roy Mottahedeh, Bruce Lawrence, Vincent Cornell, Carl Ernst, Michael Sells, Annemarie Schimmel, and a few others. Continue reading