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2020 Fall

Middle East Center Newsletter


I hope you and your families are doing well, despite the challenges we are facing due to the global pandemic. Here at the Middle East Center, we have been busy shifting our focus and communications to remote and virtual programming. We are grateful for our partners around campus who have been working tirelessly to support our students and coordinate activities in order to maintain an engaging intellectual focus on the Middle East this coming year. This gratitude extends to our Middle East Studies librarian, Mary St. Germain, who has just been awarded the Middle East Librarians Association’s award for excellence, which you can read about below. As you will also note in perusing this newsletter, we, along with our academic partners in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) and the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle East Studies (NMES), are finding new ways to communicate and present our work to audiences at the university and beyond. This includes our amazing NMES graduate students, who organized an exceptional panel this fall at the Middle East Studies Association’s virtual annual conference, which you can read about below. In addition, you can learn about NELC’s new Gateway course that introduces students to the issues and topics of Middle Eastern Studies, enticing a whole new generation to study the Middle East.

At the MEC, the shift to remote programming has provided us an opportunity to invite a robust array of speakers for our annual Voices in the Middle East series. Hopefully you will be able to join us for these Monday afternoon webinars (at 12:30 pm) that began last week with comparative literature scholar, Professor Omid Azadibougar, Hunan University, who spoke about the prevalence of detective fiction in Persian popular culture. The next event will take place in a few weeks, on November 23rd, when anthropologist Ayşe Parla, Boston University, joins us to discuss forced migration and the politics of citizenship in Turkey. To keep up with our events, check out our website and join our mailing list by writing to

As always, we are grateful for the enthusiastic support of our diverse membership and enjoy hearing from you. A number of you have asked how to support our work, so if you would like to donate, here is the link!

As always, we appreciate your support and look forward to seeing and hearing from you.

Arzoo Osanloo
Director, Middle East Center
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies


“Gateway to Near Eastern Languages”: A New Course to Be Offered Spring 2021 Will Introduce Students to Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew

With support from the Middle East Center, Associate Professor Hamza Zafer, Near Eastern Language & Civilization, has developed a new course to be offered in Spring quarter 2021 titled “Gateway to Near Eastern Languages (NEAR E 196/496). The course will promote the incorporation of Middle East language study early on in students’ academic trajectories, so that by the time they graduate, they have a proficiency level suitable to incorporate second-language work in such fields as global literacy, population health, security, diplomacy, and environment. The course is designed as a much-awaited complement to NEAR E 101, which draws over 200 students every cycle. It will be cross-listed with the Jackson School of International Studies.

“Gateway to Near Eastern Languages” has four major goals:

  1. To encourage first- and second-year students to consider learning a non-European foreign language, namely, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and/or Hebrew (PATH)
  2. To help students make a more informed commitment to PATH at an earlier stage in their university education
  3. To incentivize non-Humanities students to consider incorporating a foreign language minor or second major in PATH to their pre-existing plan of study in STEM or the Social Sciences
  4. To create a space for faculty to do collaborative teaching and to build departmental cohesion.

The course is designed as a 2-credit hybrid class, organized as a sequence of ten modules.

Each module will comprise one synchronous and one asynchronous session. Each synchronous session will be an in-class lecture, which will be recorded and posted for students unable to attend and, if necessary, to meet online via Zoom. Each asynchronous session will include guided language learning activities in conjunction with the module’s topic. The asynchronous session will incorporate online audio-visual resources into the module.

“Gateway to Near Eastern Languages” is a collaborative course involving all the PATH language faculty in the Department of Near Language and Civilization, with Professor Zafer delivering framing lectures and leading the course. Students will be introduced to several different instructors over the course of the quarter, as they learn about different languages and the methods used to teach them. This course will serve as an orientation for a foreign language minor being developed by NELC to bring students up to the intermediate or advanced language level in 27-credits. The course will also be recognized as part of the pre-existing language major.

Mary St. Germain, Head, Near East Unit, UW Libraries, Awarded the 2020 David H. Partington Award

Mary St. Germain

Mary St. Germain, the Head of UW Libaries’ Near East Unit, is the recipient of the 2020 Middle East Librarians Association (MELA) David H. Partington Award, presented annually in recognition of professional excellence, contributions to MELA, and accomplishments in the field of Middle East librarianship and scholarship. Mary has served as the UW’s Near East Librarian since 1996. She has had a distinguished career in the field developing the University’s Middle East collection, conducting research, preparing guides and aids for library users, and mentoring colleagues in the field. She has been an active member of MELA since 1989, and has served as MELA Secretary/Treasurer, 1996-1999, chaired the David H. Partington Award Committee, and serves as a member of MEMP (Middle East Microform/Materials Project) and was a member of its Executive Board, Executive, 1999-2003.

Mary is a scholar, author, translator, and editor. She received her Ph.D. from the the UW’s Near and Middle East Studies Program. Her published works include: translation of The Committee: A Novel by Sonallah Ibrahim (2001); Al-Azdī‘s Hikāyat Abī al Qāsim al-Baghdādī: Placing an Anomalous Text within the Literary Developments of Its Time (2006); Essays in Arabic Literary Biography, co-edited with Terri DeYoung (2011); and the Tony Landreau Collection on Turkish Carpet Weaving and Village Life, a database of 17,400 slides, which is the most used of the database/sites built at the UW Libraries.

Mary received the UW 2017 Distinguished Librarian Award, which recognizes excellence in librarianship, especially as it benefits the academic community through innovative approaches to professional practice, research, teaching and learning. She has been a constant and invaluable resource for over twenty years to the UW community, as she has strengthened the UW Libraries’ Middle East collection, assisted faculty and staff with their research, and made significant contributions to the field of librarianship.

Near and Middle Eastern Studies Students Present a Virtual Panel at the 2020 Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting

Melinda Cohoon, Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Near and Middle East Studies Program, reflects on participating in a virtual panel at MESA

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the state of conferences in 2020. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference changed from an in-person to virtual Zoom conference. While Zoom conferences can be unpredictable, ranging from video quality to unusuability, the MESA conference offered through Zoom delivered a way to stay connected with the Middle East Studies community, globally. Although we lamented our missed opportunity to greet each other and meet other scholars in Washington D.C., Maral Sahebjame (organizer), Solmaz Shakerifard, Hadi Milanloo, and I still managed to present for our panel entitled “Ethnographies of the Everyday: Negotiating Iranian Subjectivities through Gender Performance, Music, and Video Games.” Because Zoom afforded accessibility and global interaction, we were able to share our research broadly, and also receive fundamental feedback for moving forward with our projects.

2020 MESA virtual panel organized by NMES students

Our research attended to frameworks of the everyday by examining the normative practices in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our presentations were equally unique as we explored different affective dimensions of daily life in Iran. Sahebjame touched on temporary marriage and co-habitation through an examination of Islamic jurisprudence and the civil legal code. In addition, the everyday becomes a co-constituted power dynamic between normative practice and engagement with legal and religious state actors. Shakerifard traced the modernization project of classical music in Iran through colonial encounters. In particular, she questioned whether the classification of classical music could be termed modern. Milanloo concentrated on women-only concerts through an intersectional lens. He contemplated how gender, economy, and musical authority in Iran overlap. I specifically detailed the everyday experience of Iranian women gamers through their transborder reality, mitigated by sanctions, while they play games live via Twitch.TV media broadcasting. Collectively, our presentations stitched together the fabric of the everyday women’s experiences in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We articulated the entanglements of the everyday by going beyond reductionist constructs that suspend women in Iran as “frozen” in time or even “fundamentalist.” We noted Iranian women’s ordinary experiences by underscoring the specificities of women’s practices – from nontraditional relationships to life-building within online worlds as processes of intersubjective ways of being and social embeddedness.

We also delighted in the opportunity to receive feedback from the panel discussant Jairan Gahan, Assistant Professor of History & Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Alberta. Gahan is an expert on Islam and gender, Islamic feminisms, and history of the modern Islamic State, who concentrates on Islamic ideas and ideals from the perspective of women’s histories. Once Gahan provided feedback to each panelist, she opened the virtual floor for further discussion on our research. Attendees asked questions that pondered the various issues relating to legality and white marriage, whereas others examined our use of the “everyday” as a theoretical framework. In the end, Zoom seemed to be a reliable alternative to in-person conferences that manages to foster scholarly community.


Undergraduate Awardees

Paige Gibson

Paige Gibson (Arabic)
Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, and Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Paige Gibson is a double major in Near Eastern Languages & Civilization and Portuguese Studies. Her proficiency in both Arabic and Spanish has stimulated her interest in the history of Al-Andalus, suggesting a possible research focus for future graduate work. She will be taking advanced Arabic literature and culture courses, as well as courses in regional studies in order to broaden her knowledge of the area as she prepares to continue her academic career at the graduate level.

Juliette Lanser

Juliette Lanser (Arabic)
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Juliette Lanser is majoring in International Studies with an emphasis on International Human Rights. She is particularly interested in working on Middle East refugee issues. After graduation, she hopes to join the Peace Corps and eventually to take a position with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where she can work to celebrate cultural differences and deter systematic isolationism and discrimination based on culture, race, and nationality.

Saeed Mahamood

Saeed Mahamood (Arabic)
School of Public Health

Saeed Mahamood is pursuing his B.A. in Global Health in the School of Public Health. His goal is to become a psychiatrist committed to addressing the health disparities among under-represented minorities. By honing his Arabic language skills, he will be well positioned to help non-English speaking communities from the Arab world obtain appropriate and equitable healthcare in the United States.

Nathalie Paradise

Nathalie Paradise (Arabic)
Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Nathalie Paradise is a double major in Near Eastern Languages & Civilization and the Jackson School. She is strengthening her Arabic language skills through class work, language exchange with native speakers in Egypt and at the UW, as well as participating in the Svoboda Diaries Project hosted by NELC, which translates and analyzes primary source material on Iraq. After continuing her studies at the graduate level, Nathalie aims to enter the diplomatic service.

Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson (Persian)
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Elizabeth Peterson is majoring in International Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School.  She enjoys reading news from Iran and Afghanistan, and thus furthering her understanding of current events and politics in the region.  Studying Persian gives her greater access to Persian language news sources and its rich history of poetry, literature, and cinema.  She eventually hopes to travel to the region and further positive cultural exchange between Iran and the United States.

Graduate Awardees

Gabriella Chamberland

Gabriella Chamberland (Turkish)
School of Social Work and Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Gabriella Chamberland is pursuing both an M.A. in the School of Social Work and an MA in Applied International Studies. Her research centers on both national and multilateral responses supporting Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Through her research, she is developing a comprehensive understanding of social protection measures in place in Turkey, their impact, and the perception of their effectiveness by refugees and nationals. In turn, this will lead to a data-backed awareness  of which aspects have potential to be implemented in other situations of mass migration globally.

Delaney Glass

Delaney Glass (Arabic)

Delaney Glass is pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology. Her research focuses on embodiment of stressors in adolescence. She takes a biological, cultural, and evolutionary approach in her work exploring psychosocial stressors, family dynamics, political economy, and their relation to biological markers of stress, disease risk, and health.  She is applying her Anthropological and Near Eastern Studies training through collaboration with researchers and community members in the Jordanian cities of Amman and Irbid to establish the organizational and logistical framework to advance her dissertation research.

Owen Harris

Owen Harris (Turkish)
Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Owen Harris is a concurrent M.A. candidate in the Jackson School and the Evans School. His research in both Public Administration and International Studies focuses on Migration Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean exploring why Orthodox Syrians have much better integration outcomes in Greece, where they adapt to Greek language and identity, while their Syrian Muslim compatriots are considered foreign refugees and face much higher barriers to integration. In 2020, Owen was a Student Trainee in the US State Department’s Pathways Internship program. He aims to pursue a career in International Affairs.

Sophie Ossorio

Sophie Ossorio (Persian)
Middle East Studies, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Sophie Ossorio is pursuing her M.A. in Middle East Studies in the Jackson School. Her research interests center on international security and public policy. She studied Arabic as an undergraduate and will now study Persian as she develops her expertise on Iran. She anticipates doing research on nuclear security in the region, Iran’s influence in Syria, and the political relationship between Iran and Syria. After graduation, Sophie aims to work as a political analyst specializing in the MENA region.

Abigail Massarano

Abigail Massarano  (Hebrew)
School of Art, Art History and Design

Abigail Massarano is pursuing a M.A. in Art History and is currently studying modern Hebrew to better navigate art historical research in Israel.  Her research, which works within the context of the current divisions between Abrahamic religious groups, looks back on Jewish visual and textual exegesis not only to offer an opportunity to find common ground between diverse modern cultures stemming from the same roots, but also to help to find a new perspective on the manner in which strong ideological differences arise. She hopes to contribute to the academic pursuit of religious and cultural insight through the less commonly used lens of art history.


Middle East Center’s 2021-22 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) Competition Now Open

MEC 21-22 FLAS Iznik rosette

Funded by the Middle East Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, and are available for the following languages:


Middle East Center FLAS Fellowships support foreign language acquisition and the development of Middle East area expertise. Undergraduates, graduate student, and professional students who are US citizens or permanent residents are eligible. Studients from all departments are encouraged to apply.

AY Undergraduate: $10,000 tuition | $5,000 stipend
AY Graduate & Professional: $18,000 tuition | $15,000 stipend
Summer (All levels): $5,000 tuition | $2,500 stipend

Questions? Contact

Join the FLAS mailing list for dates of information sessions, applications tips, FAQ at: