University of Washington

About Us

The Middle East Studies program and the Middle East Center seek to strengthen an understanding of the Middle East in all sectors of American society through training and research at the University of Washington, as well as through delivery of outreach programming across the nation.

E-Bulletin Board

Calls for papers, fellowships, study abroad opportunities and announcements from the Middle East studies community.

Middle East E-Bulletin Board

Center News

Persian Gulf Roundtable

Roundtable Discussion on the Persian Gulf

On Thursday, November 12, approximately one hundred people came out on a stormy evening to hear the Middle East Center-sponsored roundtable discussion titled, "The Persian Gulf, Past and Present." The discussion centered on how travel, trade, war, and political movements in the Gulf's past have shaped its present. Presentations offered by panelists were: "Diversity and Cosmopolitanism in the Eighteenth-Century Persian Gulf," by Daniel Sheffield, Assistant Professor, History; "A Transnational View of Oil and Labor in the Twentieth-century Gulf," by Arbella Bet-Shlimon, Assistant Professor, History; "The Gulf as Inter-Regional Crossroads," by Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, Affiliate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies; and "Imposed Aggressions, Sacred Defense: The Iran-Iraq War in Iranian Cultural Production," by Samad Alavi, Assistant Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. The roundtable was moderated by Arzoo Osanloo, Associate Professor, Law Societies & Justice, and Director, Middle East Center. Presentations were followed by a lively question-and-answer period.

Arabic Workshop

Hussein Elkhafaifi Conducts Arabic Listening Comprehension Workshop for Instructors from a Two-State Area

Associate Professor Hussein Elkhafaifi, Director of Arabic Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, conducted a workshop titled "Listening Comprehension in Arabic: Teaching Techniques and Learning Strategies" for university and community college instructors from Washington and Oregon on September 10, 2015. Professor Elkhafaifi is a leader in the development of Arabic proficiency teaching and training methodology.

The workshop discussed the often overlooked modality of "listening." Techniques were offered to help teachers approach listening texts and create pre-listening, while-listening, intensive-listening and post-listening activities to help learners navigate listening texts. Participants were given strategies to help learners understand the listening process and how to cope with the uncertainties associated with listening. The impact of the workshop on instructors was significant with one participant writing, "Dr. Elkhafaifi is amazing.... He shared years of experience with us, clarified a very difficult skill to teach."

The workshop was funded by the Middle East Center's U.S. Department of Education, National Resource Center grant.

Tovi Romano

Tovi Romano, Modern Hebrew Instructor, Reflects on Attending Spoken Israeli Hebrew Workshop at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem hosts a workshop annually that is open to a small number of university instructors of Hebrew language, chosen from among applicants from all over the world. This past summer, Tovi Romano, the Herbert I. Rosen Lecturer in Modern Hebrew, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, attended the workshop with support from the Middle East Center. She shares some of what she learned from the distinguished scholars participating in the research, revival, and documentation of the Hebrew language.

Hebrew is considered the only language ever to be revived. Almost two millennia passed before the Jewish people started using their language again as a living spoken language. How did it happen? Since Hebrew was a dead language, used for centuries mainly in sacred practice (i.e., prayers, rituals and Torah studies), by the 18th century, Hebrew vocabulary was insufficient for daily communication. Modern Hebrew writers faced challenges expressing new world ideas when words did not yet exist. From the start, these modern scholars and writers were inclined to keep the "purity" of the language and to refrain from using foreign words. Thus, when they began to translate and write secular texts, in order to describe a new object or concept, instead of using foreign languages, they used ancient Hebrew resources (the Tanah or Mishnah). For example, glasses were called "houses of eyes," passport was a "travel certificate" and a giraffe was a "camel-tiger." Later, as the revivers made up new Hebrew words, they based their choices mainly on ancient roots and patterns.

The revival of Hebrew is attributed to Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922), who not only invented new words, but also raised the first Hebrew native speaking family in Jerusalem. Ben Yehuda's personal life and his fight for the revival of spoken Hebrew are both fascinating stories. One of the highlights of the workshop, and an emotional experience for me, was the visit to the Academy for Hebrew Language, where we saw some artifacts that belonged to Ben Yehuda. Among those artifacts were Ben Yehuda's work desk (he used to stand while working at night in order to stay awake), his book collection and some of his hand-written notes with new words.

Ironically, while Modern Hebrew is not even a century old, its "purity" is being compromised by the influence of foreign languages such as English. Today, when you read a newspaper article or listen to popular TV shows or street conversations, you can recognize countless English (or English based) words and phrases. Although foreign languages influence is a common phenomenon in all living languages, the Academy of Hebrew Language is determined to fight it and to maintain the purity of the language. To achieve its goal, the Academy constantly tries to provide speakers with new Hebrew words, and even to involve the public in the process of creating them. The Academy is also becoming more lenient in its linguistic decisions and rulings, and finally, its members are more accessible to the public, offering on-line communication and services.

The historical process of the revival of spoken Hebrew was just "a drop in the ocean of topics" that were presented and discussed in the workshop. Among other activities, we observed classes, visited the National Library, discussed our challenges in teaching spoken Modern Hebrew and more.

2015 Community College Master Teacher Institute

2015 Community College Master Teacher Institute

2015 Community College Master Teacher Institute sponsored by all the National Resource Centers at the University of Washington was held July 9-10 and attended by thirty-five community college instructors from the Pacific Northwest. The theme for this year's Institute was: "Human Migration and Refugees: Peril and Hope." The Middle East Center sponsored a session facilitated by David Fenner, Affiliate Instructor, Jackson School, titled: "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits: Risking It All to Cross into Europe." The session explored the historical, political, and economic roots behind the unprecedented mass migrations of people from the Middle East and Africa to Europe and examined the humanitarian crisis created by these desperate refugees.

Mahmud Sami al-Barudi
Terri DeYoung, Associate Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, has just published Mahmud Sami al-Barudi: Reconfiguring Society and the Self (Syracuse University Press, 2015). Mahmud Sami al-Barudi (1838-1904) was an important Egyptian political figure and prominent poet. DeYoung charts the development of his poetry through his youth, his career in government culminating as prime minister of Egypt, his philosophical and elegiac reflections while in exile, and his return to Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century. Connecting the themes found in his more influential poems to the turbulent events of his political life and to his equally fierce desire to innovate artistically throughout his literary career, DeYoung offers a vivid portrait of one of the most influential pioneers of Arabic poetry.
Lindsay Church Lindsay Church, a Middle East Studies MA student, presented a paper titled "The Weaponization of Water in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin" at a February conference in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the PILPG Law Firm on Weaponizing Water: The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Assisting with the research for the paper were: Jesse Lamp. Middle East Studies MA program, and Josee Goldin, School of Engineering. Nadim Damluji, a Law School student also presented a paper at the same conference titled: "Islamic State Control of Watercourses in Syria and Iraq." Both are the students of Professor Frederick (Rick) Lorenz, Jackson School and their research is a culmination of work they began while taking his "Water and Security in the Middle East" course at the Jackson School.
Arab Spring Protesters in Egypt Ellis Goldberg, Professor
Emeritus of Political Science will present a public lecture titled
"The Urban Roots of the Arab Spring" at the Institut francaise du Proche-Orient, Beirut, Lebanon, on March 19, 2015.
David Fenner, Affiliate Faculty, Middle East Center, introduced the Center's new "Bridging Cultures" project to a group of 120 K-8 educators at the February 7, 2015 Washington State Council for the Social Studies K-8 Winter Conference titled "Global Issues/Local Connections." Fenner's presentation was titled "Muslims in Our Classrooms" Differences, Challenges, and Expectations."
Frances Wilson, International Studies and Mathematics major, served an internship at the Marine Corps University last summer working on issues related to the Arab Spring. His research has just been published in an article titled "Outsourcing Repression: The Impact of Foreign Fighters on the Arab Spring" in the Journal of Undergraduate International Studies, 17 (Fall, 2014): 86-97, published by the University of Wisconsin. Wilson also serves as the Co-Editor in Chief of the Jackson School Journal of International Studies.
The Middle East Center
University of Washington
225 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-4227 phone
(206) 685-0668 fax

Arzoo Osanloo, Director

Felicia Hecker, Associate Director