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.