Friday, December 20, 2013

Where is the Middle East?

What's your geographical definition of the Middle East?  It's not as simple as it sounds . . . . 

To learn more about definitions of the Middle East as a region and find more 20th century maps of the Middle East and the reasons for their borders,click here.  

Thanks to T.J. Wolfe and Phil Daquila for their assistance!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Middle Eastern Cultures--Plural

I've been Outreach Director for the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies for some years now.  But I've never met a Middle Easterner.


You heard me.

Oh, I've met and worked with Egyptians and Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians and Persians and Turks, alright. But never a Middle Easterner.

You see what I mean?

It sounds academic to state that the term "Middle East" is largely a geopolitical construct. But it is. And when we fall into the habit of thinking that "Middle East" refers to one homogenous group of people (or even two groups of people), we miss the very reality--realities--we're looking to explore.

It may seem like a small thing to stop and insist upon adding an "s" to terms like Middle Eastern Culture, or Arabic Culture, or Islamic Culture.  But it's important to acknowledge that there is more than one of each.  If you've traveled to any two places in the Middle East, or met any two people from different parts of the Middle East, you know what I mean.  You know that understanding the complexities of a single region or country is essential to developing cultural competency.

So here's a resolution for next year. Whenever someone uses the term "Middle East," ask them to specify. Where in the Middle East? In what language? In what culture?

Language, dress, social customs, perspectives on history, food--it's all complicated, even in the Middle East. So let's get complicated, shall we?

Linked to the "My Global Life" Link Up at 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Presentations on Middle East and Islam by UNC and Duke Faculty

UNC Prof. Omid Safi
We're all excited about the possibilities MOOCs represent--lectures by extraordinary speakers/scholars made available to thousands of interested viewers.  But what if you could listen in to those lectures without the exams and assignments? 
Well, you can.  Many professors regularly share their expertise at public events, and more and more university centers are capturing their presentations on video.  YouTube and iTunes are chock full of great talks by scholars available to the public.
Our Center's faculty have been particularly generous in their public presentations, and their audiences let them know how much it's appreciated.  Here are some brand new additions to UNC and Duke faculty presentations on the Middle East and Islam.  UNC Professor Omid Safi (photo above) is a featured speaker in all of them, and for that he has earned my deepest gratitude as well as coveted membership in my Outreach Hall of Fame.


Leading Iran scholars at UNC and Duke discuss the history of US-Iran relations at length and offer insight into the “new politics” of Iran.

Where the Light Enters: Discovering the Poetry of Rumi with Prof. Omid Safi

UNC Prof. Omid Safi discusses the poetry of the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi, as part of the “Muslim Journeys” program at Southwest Regional Library, Durham.


 Panel discussion by UNC and Duke faculty on protests in Gezi Park, Tahrir Square, and Raleigh, NC (Moral Mondays)

For links to more faculty presentations, click here.  And don't worry.  There are no pop quizzes.




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Livin' La Vida Global

We're in the third (and last) week of the blogging challenge Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us.

Today's topic: "How are you living a global life?"

Since this is the eve of Thanksgiving in the US, I'm coming at this question from the gratitude angle.  I may not be hopping on a plane to a different, exciting destination every week, but there are global elements I can enjoy as a part of each day.  Here are some of the "daily global" activities that enrich my life.

I work in the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  That means my work, my colleagues, and my location are all focused on global connections. Not an exaggeration to say that something global is always afoot!

As Outreach Director of the Middle East center, I work to deepen understanding of a critical world region. A great challenge, and one I enjoy immensely. My mission is strengthened and buoyed by partnership with faculty from the region who share their expertise and insights with the larger community.

When I'm at work, I frequently listen to my favorite station, WCPE, online.  Which means, of course, I'm listening with people all around the world.  (And folks tweet in from all over, which is always a thrill!)

And speaking of Twitter. Could be (and too often is) a silly waste of time.  Still, I can keep current with world-traveling friends. Love the immediacy despite the distance. (Recently I tweeted emergency restaurant suggestions to hungry explorers of Seville and saw the meal they ordered within minutes. Love that Instagram--not to mention the paella!)

Also on Twitter--I follow Le Monde, and gobble up headlines in French. I keep up with what I think of as the global A-B-C news sources (Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN [or CBS, if you prefer]).

And I keep up with other globally-minded folks through Cate and her great Small Planet Studio site. Terrific to hear tales of travel to places I've visited or not visited, always from interested and interesting people.  The blog challenge is the latest exciting idea to emerge from that project.

So on the eve of Thanksgiving in the US, I'm thankful--very thankful--for all the small and big global connection that enrich my life every day.

And I'm looking for more!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My First Global Experience: Swiss (Near) Miss

We're in the second week of the blogging challenge Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us.

Today's topic: "Tell us about your first 'global' experience."

First, I've got to say I love the quotations around the word "global."  Those quotations give me and my fellow bloggers many more possibilities.  (Because what's "global"?  Hmmm.  Define.)

For the purposes of this response, I'm defining "global" as connections to the world that can happen in your family, your neighborhood, and inside your head. That's so I can talk about something that happened when I was five--something I hadn't thought about for decades.  (And, Cate, let me thank you for your excellent skill in drawing out early, unresolved memories for reflection. We're two for two here, Sigmund.)

How should I begin?

When you're five, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up. (Much later, I realized this is because they're all out of ideas for themselves.) Most little girls of my generation said they wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. Here's what I told them I wanted to be:

Yep, that's a Swiss Guard, one of the crew the Pope has around for security and ceremony. This was around 1960, during the time of Pope John XXIII.  And John XXIII pulled considerable weight in my neighborhood, even among non-Catholics.  To be on this pope's team?  Wearing the absolutely best uniform in the history of the world? Who could resist?
I guess I told one too many people about my career choice. Or maybe someone tipped off my parents that their youngest daughter desperately needed a reality check. Whatever happened, one evening my father told me he'd like to speak with me alone after dinner.

It was a short conversation. 

"I'm sorry, but you can't be a Swiss Guard."

"Why not?"

"Because we're not Swiss."


That had never occurred to me as a disqualifier.  Swiss-ness was all around me.  I loved Heidi. Not the Hollywood version, but the real live honest-to-God full length English translation of the original work (two volumes!) by Johanna Spyri, that my mother had read to me several times.  I had a real Swiss watch that my sister had brought home for me. I can't say I was wild about Swiss cheese (I still attribute this to an early traumatic "Farmer in the Dell" experience that put me off all cheese for quite a while), but I was all on board for the chocolate. And (perhaps most relevant) I had a Swiss Guard figure that stood at attention on the top of my dresser.  It looked something like this:

The simple fact that I was barred from something Swiss by virtue of nationality absolutely floored me.

But that surprise is an important part of any transformative "global" experience--especially, I think, for children growing up in the US. There's that false sense of entitlement we all know about, and it manifests itself early, even (perhaps especially) through gifts we're given and art we experience.  In enjoying Heidi and my watch (which still works, by the way) and my beloved little figure, I'd embraced "Swiss" as a kind of brand name, and missed the significance of nationality.

Well, I was five, and all in all it was a worthwhile "global" experience, especially as it was my first. And the fact that only the Swiss can be Swiss Guards? That I coudn't be a Swiss Guard because I wasn't Swiss? That was okay. After a while.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What--no tiara? The dumbest thing I've taken abroad

Happy to join in the challenge my friend and colleague Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us globally-oriented bloggers--three blogs this month on the same topics.
Today's topic:

"What's the weirdest or dumbest thing you've taken abroad?"

Didn't have to think about this one at all.  Immediately I had visions (flashbacks!) of the very dressy dress I packed for my junior year abroad in England.  (I'd been told that the last group in the program I was joining had been presented to Princess Margaret, and so I think I was packing with that royal fantasy/possibility in mind. That's my only excuse.)

Now when I say dressy, I don't just mean formal.  I mean straight out poufy-poufy.  Something like this:

Well, maybe not so extreme as that.   But it was pink. And poufy. 

Maybe I needed that extra fancy dress to feel ready for my first experience abroad on my own. Maybe it was an expression of the persona I wanted to project in a country that's the setting for so many of my favorite stories. Maybe it was my superheroine costume.  All I know is, it took up quite a lot of room in my luggage.  And I wore it only once the whole year, to a dinner at an Oxford college, where I got very strange looks indeed. 

Now I know better, I hope.  By all means, pack a "dress to impress" outfit.  But think about a simple black sheath that can be dressed up or down.  Like this:

See?  That wouldn't take up much room at all. And you'd be ready for anything. Even fantasies of meeting royalty. Really.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Islamic Art and Culture Workshop at the Nasher Museum

This is most useful for those in the Triangle area.  Still, it's a great workshop, and might inspire you to make a road trip!

Introduction to Islamic Art
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
September 25, 4-7 pm

Join K-12 educators to learn how you can bring Islamic art and culture into your classroom! The program will include slide lectures, hands-on art activities, creative writing and performances by local musicians and dancers. This workshop will focus on the exhibition Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art.

Guest speaker Glaire Anderson, associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will provide an introduction to Islamic art and the exhibition. This FREE program will also include a live performance, time to explore the exhibition independently and a light reception. Participants will receive partial CEU credit and interdisciplinary curriculum-based materials.

More information about the exhibition here.  Directions to the Nasher here.

And register here!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World View Partners Program

So looking forward to the teachers' program on Tuesday, August 13 offered by World View.  It's an annual event for K-12 teachers working with World View and getting ready for another great year.  This year's theme is "Transforming Learning Environments through Global and STEM Education."  It's free to teachers in World View partner systems and schools. Find out more and register here.

I'll be representing our Middle East Center and offering my session on the Muslim Veil twice.  You can meet me at my display as well. (Pick up a map of the Middle East, why don't you!)  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Free Online Course on 9/11 and Its Aftermath

If you've been telling yourself you've got to get a perspective on 9/11, if you've been promising yourself that you're going to try one of those new MOOC courses--here's your chance.  Duke University's David Schanzer is teaching a seven-week online course on "9/11 and Its Aftermath" through Coursera. 

Read about the course and view the introductory video here, and don't delay.  The course begins on Sept. 9, and registration is going on right now

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teacher Workshop: Intro to Islamic Art and Culture

See below and register now.  Should be a great program! 

Teacher Workshop: Introduction to Islamic Art and Culture
Wednesday, August 14
8:30 - 4:30pm 
Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University
Join K-12 educators to learn how you can bring Islamic art and culture into your classroom! 
The program will include slide lectures, hands-on art activities, creative writing and performances by local musicians and dancers. 
For more information, and to register by July 16
($20, includes lunch and printed resources), please click here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Better Together: Meeting International Education Goals in Partnership

I recently wrote about the great partnership the UNC-Chapel Hill National Resource Centers (NRCs) share with World View, a program to support international education in North Carolina K-12 schools and community colleges.  It's a powerful and exciting collaboration that brings the world to teachers in classrooms all over the state through professional development, curriculum grants, and online resources.

You can read the article here.  Thanks to Katie Bowler and the UNC Global team for featuring it on their site!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Video of Think Fast Forum: The Boston Marathon Bombing

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that UNC faculty would be joining in a Think Fast Forum on the Boston Marathon Bombing.  The purpose--to delve into our unanswered questions about home-grown terrorism, religious extremism, the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle, the legal system, and political struggles as far away as Chechnya.  
The video of that panel discussion is now up and available here.  It's a great record of a deep conversation about issues that continue to challenge our society.  Don't miss UNC religious studies professor Omid Safi's powerful  conclusion. 


Friday, May 10, 2013

Help NatGeo and Get Free Books and a Map

NatGeoEd and NatGeoKids are looking for some special teachers.  They want your help in aligning their great NG Kids books to Common Core ELA Standards. 

Find out more here. If you're chosen, you'll take part in a webinar, review a book, align it to Common Core and Geography standards, and offer some teaching ideas.  In return you'll get the book you reviewed and a map for your classroom. 

Think about it, and let National Geographic know they can count on you by May 31

Friday, May 3, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing: Think Fast Forum at UNC

One of many of the great things about UNC-Chapel Hill is the university's commitment to sharing campus resources with the wider community.  I'm privileged to take part in that mission as an Outreach Director.

Sometimes we share resources in a box, or in the form of online materials.  But sometimes nothing less than our faculty will do.  On Monday, May 6, at 6:30 pm, UNC-Chapel Hill will share its faculty with the wider community, in a panel discussion of the Boston Marathon Bombing and its aftermath.

UNC's General Alumni Association offers such faculty discussions as events demand, with the intention of providing the public expert analysis on an important development just as soon as possible.  "Timely discussions by UNC faculty on breaking events" is the description and it's called a "Think Fast Forum" for that reason.

You see the challenge immediately. What academic experts would be willing to step out publicly on speak on events that are still unfolding? 

UNC faculty are willing and able to do so.  Here's the panel:

Peter Coclanis, moderator, professor of history; director of the Global Research Institute
Tamar Birckhead, associate professor of law, School of Law
Jim Hefner, professor of the practice, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Louise McReynolds, professor of history
Omid Safi, professor of religious studies
David Schanzer, associate professor of the practice for public policy; director, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

You can learn more about each panelist here.  If you're in the Triangle region Monday, please come and hear them grapple with the questions we've all been asking one another about the terrible events in Boston--that week that began with bombs and ended with a manhunt--and how justice may be served and community preserved in its aftermath. 

Hope to see you there.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grant to Teach Turkey--and a bonus

Once again the American Turkish Society is offering up to $2,500 for enriching your K-12 classroom and school with the study of Turkey.  Last year a North Carolina teacher colleague won a grant.  It could be you this year!

The announcement is here, and the deadline is May 21. Preference is given to schools without existing Turkish programs. 

This year, the American Turkish Society is offering something new and pretty exciting.  Here are the details:

"Starting this year, grantee teachers will also be invited to visit SEV Schools in Turkey where they will be able to dialogue with teachers concerning their work on curriculum development. Workshops will be arranged to facilitate this dialogue. Travel, housing and program expenses within Turkey will be met through funding from SEV (Sağlık ve Eğitim Vakfı)-the Health and Education Foundation."

Note that travel within Turkey is covered by funding.  You'd be responsible for your airfare to Turkey and back home.  But traveling teachers have found that their district or school and community service organizations are willing to join in support and funding if the experience is worthwhile. 

Read about it, think it over, and consider applying. And let me know if you'll be off to Turkey!  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Featured Middle East Resources

Just looked around and noticed that the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations have put together some impressive resources for teachers and the public. Here's a sampling. Explore and enjoy!

The Consortium’s ReOrienting the Veil conference in February, 2013, gathered presenters for discussion of one of the most visible symbols of Islam, the veil or hijab. Video of the presentations will be available soon. The ReOrienting the Veil web site offers educators and the public resources for learning and teaching about the veil
and its many meanings.
In her blog, Teaching the Modern Middle East, UNC Professor Sarah Shields reports on her teaching of a large (200+) lecture class.  Over the course of months, she shares her collaboration with students in a truly interactive exploration of Middle East history, and reflects on changing teaching practices in a digital age.
The Daily Life in Cairo Culture Kit was collected in Egypt's capital by UNC Middle East librarian Mohamed Abou El Seoud.  It offers toys, games, books, DVDs, clothes, and school supplies Cairene children use in their daily lives.  Borrowing the kit is free for North Carolina teachers, and the Consortium will pay the shipping both ways.  For more information, contact Outreach Director Regina Higgins at regina underscore higgins at unc dot edu
The Consortium is proud to have sponsored a screening of Cedars in the Pines, a documentary on the Lebanese in North Carolina produced by Professor Akram Khater of NC State University.  The Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies offers more information about the production and the continuing project on the Lebanese in North Carolina.  Teachers can find lesson plans to accompany the film here
More to come  . . . .



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Cedars in the Pines" Lesson Plans

You remember the documentary, "Cedars in the Pines," celebrating the history of the Lebanese in North Carolina. Now we've got some very exciting new curriculum to accompany the film from Prof. Akram Khater and his Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies team at NC State. 

Cedars in the Pines: A Global, Differentiated Curriculum that Engages All Learners

"This site hosts a curriculum that teaches students about North Carolina while raising their awareness of the global nature of our state. The curriculum will accompany a DVD entitled "Cedars in the Pines" that is available now, and an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History that opens in 2014. Tiered lessons, problem-based learning, Paideia seminars, learning contracts, and documentary film study providemotivation for examining North Carolina through global eyes. The curriculum addresses both Common Core Standards and the Essential Standards of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, particularly for 4th and 8th grade social studies."

View "Cedars in the Pines" here.  And please check out the resources and share them with colleagues, especially those teaching North Carolina!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"ReOrienting the Veil" and the Media

Does this look menacing to you?
So thrilled with the success of our ReOrienting the Veil conference!  Great presentations and conversations about the complex issues of covering by Muslim women.  And we were featured in all kinds of media. Here's a sampling of our clips:

UNC professors Sahar Amer and Banu Gökariksel, “Muslim Women Speak Up About the Veil,”  “The State of Things,” NPR, 2/22/13

"Lifting the Veil: UNC conference focuses on understanding the Muslim veil,” The Herald-Sun, 2/24/13

And a follow-up opinion piece in the same paper:

"Tolerate the Veil," Opinion, The Herald-Sun, 2/26/13 

Our UNC students were in the media mix as well.  Here's a story filed by Sefe Emokpae of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  The feature begins at 13:15

And of course the Daily Tar Heel covered the conference with their trademark professionalism.

Our live tweeting at #Veil2013 even trended on Twitter. Quite an experience. 

And the best part is that the ReOrienting the Veil web site will remain, offering resources, information, images, music, lesson plans, and even a fun quiz.  Please explore and let us know your responses and suggestions. Contact information is on the web site.

#Veil2013 trends on Twitter!
(Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NC Social Studies Conference 2013

Democracy in action at last year's NC Social Studies conference

It's almost here!  Later today I'll be packing a bag of teacher goodies and my laptop to set off for the NC Social Studies conference in Greensboro.  Always a great time. I've called it Vegas for social studies fanatics, and, guess what.  I'm calling it that again. 

Come to my session, "A Window on the Middle East" on Friday morning for a map-filled fun time.  (No, I'm not joking.  Us social studies folks eat up those maps like Girl Scout cookies.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Veiling: Test Your Knowledge

How much do you know about veiling?  Find out by taking our Test Your Knowledge veiling quiz on the ReOrienting the Veil website.

Don't worry.  It's not dissertation-level questioning.  Just some basics like, do veiling customs vary by culture?  Do women in all Muslim majority countries have to veil?  Do women veil exclusively for religious reasons?  Are there veiling traditions in Judaism and Christianity?  Are there actually veil fashionistas? (Spoiler alert: there are. You wouldn't want to show up in Istanbul in a headscarf that's so five minutes ago.)

How do you think you'd do?  Give it a try here, and follow the links to learn more.  Afterwards, browse through the lesson plans and see how you'll share your learning with students.  (I'm most partial to the political cartoons.  A great idea for anything from current events to comparative religions.)

If you're interested in learning more, tune in tomorrow at noon for WUNC's "The State of Things," and hear UNC professors Sahar Amer and Banu Gokariksel discuss the veil with Frank Stasio

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ReOrienting the Veil

So looking forward to our conference, ReOrienting the Veil, February 22-23 in Chapel Hill!
Join us if you can (it's free and open to the public), and in the meanwhile, explore the web site on the veil and art, law, religion, music, and culture.

Hope to see you there! (If you can't join us, follow our live tweeting at #Veil2013 during the conference.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

NEH Summer Programs for Teachers

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

This year's NEH Summer Programs in the Humanities for School and College Educators have been announced.  All programs are tuition-free (just the way we like it!), and most deadlines for application are in March, so get going! 

Special mentions (two of these three programs are in Istanbul):

Istanbul Between East and West: Crossroads of History 

Roots of the Arab Spring 

Ottoman Cultures: Society, Politics, and Trade in the Turkish Empire 1299-1922

Look into these opportunities now, and get your application in! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Faith, Fear, and Freedom

Happy to announce that WRAL's excellent 30-minute documentary on Muslims in North Carolina, Faith, Fear, and Freedom, is now viewable online here.

This is a powerful teaching tool even if you're outside North Carolina.  Take a look, and think about introducing your class to these families and discussing the challenges they face in a post-9/11 America.