Professor Mark R. Cohen delivering a lecture to a seminar room full of professors and graduate students at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (December 2014) Cohen gave two lectures there: “What is the Geniza and What does it tell us”  and “The Importance of the Geniza for Islamic History”
Professor Mark R. Cohen delivering a lecture to a seminar room full of professors and graduate students at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (December 2014)
Cohen gave two lectures there: “What is the Geniza and What Does it Tell Us?” and “The Importance of the Geniza for Islamic History”

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE for ISLAMiCommentary on JANUARY 13, 2015: 

j8050(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) History is a witness to the close relationship between Muslims and Jews. That was the message Profesor Mark R. Cohen delivered in two lectures at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last month on the Cairo Geniza and its importance for Islamic and Jewish history. The Geniza is a treasure trove of medieval Jewish documents housed in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, Egypt.

Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Emeritus at Princeton University. He was a visiting professor at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus during the Fall 2014 semester.

A professor at Princeton University from 1973-2013, Cohen is the author of Poverty and Charity in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt (Princeton University Press, 2005), The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages: An Anthology of Documents from the Cairo Geniza (Princeton University Press, 2005), and Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 1994; revised edition, 2008). He was awarded the first Goldziher Prize in 2010 for his scholarship promoting a better understanding between Muslims and Jews.

In this exclusive interview conducted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mark R. Cohen discusses his visit to Saudi Arabia, his career at Princeton, and his views on Muslim-Jewish coexistence. While the interview was conducted in December, its publication closely following the attacks in Paris is particularly timely.

Joseph Preville (l) and Mark Cohen (r) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Joseph Preville (l) and Mark Cohen (r) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Welcome to Riyadh. You’ve been writing about Islam and in particular the Jews of the Islamic world for many decades. What is it like to come to Saudi Arabia for the first time?

Here and also in Abu Dhabi, where I’ve been a visiting professor at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus this past semester, it’s been an eye-opening experience. It’s one thing to study Islam and the Arab world from far away, and, while I’ve visited Egypt and Jordan, I’ve never lived in an Arab country before. Here in Riyadh I’m the guest of King Saud University, particularly the Department of History. I was invited by the wing of the department that teaches Islamic history. They’ve welcomed me with open arms. They know my work.

My host is Dr. Torki Fahad Abdullah Al Saud. He finished his Ph.D. in Jewish Studies at Boston University in 2008 and wrote his dissertation on Maimonides and one other Jewish thinker from that time peiod. We’ve been in correspondence over the years, and he sends me his publications in Arabic. He’s an excellent scholar and one of the very few historians in the Arab world writing about the Jews under Islam. Continue reading

Duke alumnus returns to lead Islamic Studies Center

by GEOFFREY MOCK for DUKE TODAY on SEPTEMBER 25, 2014: 

The new director of Islamic studies Omid Safi wants Duke faculty to fill in those key elements that are missing in the current public discussion on Islam. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke University Photography
The new director of Islamic studies Omid Safi wants Duke faculty to fill in those key elements that are missing in the current public discussion on Islam. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke University Photography

Omid Safi came to Duke two decades ago “a shy, geeky poor immigrant kid from Iran.” He returns now as a senior faculty member determined to repay a debt for allowing him “to dream dreams I didn’t even know I was capable of.”

The new William and Bettye Martin Musham Director for Islamic Studies, Safi takes leadership of a program at both a flourishing and contentious time for the study of Islam.  One public conversation on Islam tends to focus on the acts of armed groups, or self-proclaimed Islamists, but Safi said a larger conversation within Islam is also occurring, one that is both historic and welcome, although often less visible to the larger world.

“The visible public conversation about Islam right now is a crisis-driven one” Safi said. “The discourse jumps from Arab Spring to Libya to ISIS to Gaza and that’s understandable and driven in part by nature of corporate media.

“But that misses something dramatic and profound:  we are living in an age of excitement and ferment within the Muslim-majority context. Virtually every issue of import – gender, the relationship to the state, pluralism, who can interpret scripture, citizenship, resistance and violence – all are being debated in elite and popular circles.

“It would be unthinkable 25 years ago that large numbers of women, in bold fashion and all over the political spectrum are speaking out not just as subjects of religious discussions but as their articulators.  This is getting missed by the rest of the world, and I would like to shine a light on these debates and developments.”

Safi comes to the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) expecting DISC faculty be a prominent part of the public discourse around Islam.

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In this two-part interview (below),  African American studies professor at Duke University Mark Anthony Neal offers his insights on public scholarship, academic blogging, and leveraging social media.

by KEVIN ANSELMO for EXPERIENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS on AUGUST 20 and AUGUST 26, 2014: 

Why Professors Should Disseminate their Knowledge and Share Opinions to Public Audiences EXCERPT: Professors have a megaphone to the world. There are incredible opportunities for academics to communicate their knowledge with the general public through traditional and social media. While many don’t for various reasons, there are a number of professors who are doing this incredibly well. One such individual is Mark Anthony Neal, an African American studies professor at Duke University and author of the book New Black Man. The term “incredibly well” is quite a superlative, yet this is probably an understatement. As I noted in a previous post, Mark Anthony Neal’s blog featured 1063 posts in 2012. That’s not a typo! He averaged almost three different posts per day. In 2013, this number shrank to a “disappointing low of” 821 – that’s still more than two posts per day over the course of a year!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark and will be doing a series of blog posts with him on various aspects of his “media empire” and the best practice he can share with other professors. Here is part 1 focused on his strategy, goals and why he does this. FULL INTERVIEW

Leveraging Social Media as an Academic EXCERPT: Imagine writing or editing over 1,000 blog posts in a year. Or what about engaging with over 28,000 followers on Twitter. For Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal, this is not a dream but a reality.

In a previous post, Mark outlined why he considered external communications important as a professor. So if you are not sure why you should blog, revert back to that post first! In this follow-up Q and A, he shares some of the lessons learned from his years of blogging and using social media.

How did you first get involved with blogging?
I started my blog in 2006 in part to promote my new book: New Black Man. I quickly realized that I could connect my content to my book and generate more visibility and also use the blog to promote radio and television interviews.

What does it take to be a successful blogger?
I never thought of myself as blogging. In fact, I work hard not to describe myself as a blogger. When I write on my site, I am writing. It might be shorter and pitched to a different audience, but it follows the same kind of sensibilities if I was doing a piece for The Atlantic Monthly or some other outlet. FULL INTERVIEW

by JENNIFER AHERN-DODSON for DUKE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, SUMMER 2014: 

NOTE from KEVIN SMITH, DUKE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES— Authorship can be a tricky thing, impacted by contractual agreements and even by shifting media. In this guest post by Jennifer Ahern-Dodson of Duke’s Thompson Writing Program we get an additional perspective on the issues, one that is unusual but might just become more common over time it illustrates nicely, I think, the link between authorship credit, publication agreements and a concern for managing one’s online identity. A big “thank you” to Jennifer for sharing her story:

EXCERPT: I stared at my name on the computer screen, listed in an index as a co-author for a chapter in a book that I don’t remember writing. How could I be published in a book and not know about it? I had Googled my name on the web (what public digital humanist Jesse Stommel calls the Googlesume), as part of my research developing a personal website through the Domain of One’s Own project, which emphasizes student and faculty control of their own web domains and identities. Who am I online? I started this project to find out.

I was taken aback by some of what I found because it felt so personal—my father’s obituary, a donation I had made to a non-profit, former home addresses. All of that is public information, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but then about four screens in I found my name listed in the table of contents for a book I’d never heard of. Because the listed co-author and I had collaborated on projects before, including national presentations and a journal publication, I wondered if I had just forgotten something we’d written together.

I emailed her immediately and included a screenshot of the index page. Subject line: “Did we write this?”

She wrote back a few minutes later.

WHAT??!!! We have a book chapter that we didn’t even know about???!!!!! How is this possible? Ahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

It’s a line for our CV! But, wait, what is this publication? Do we even want to list it? Would we list it as a new publication? Is it even our work? How did this happen? FULL ARTICLE 

 

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN, for DUKE TODAY on JULY 22, 2014:

Omid Safi
Omid Safi

Omid Safi, (pictured) a prominent Islamic studies professor and scholar, joined the faculty of Duke this month as director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC).

As the new William and Bettye Martin Musham Director for Islamic Studies, Safi will oversee DISC, the university’s hub of teaching, learning and research about Islam and Muslim communities.

Bettye Musham, whose $3 million gift supported the creation of the directorship, is also a founding member of the DISC advisory board. (For more information about the gift, click here.) Continue reading