2022 Fall

Middle East Center Newsletter


Greeting to our wonderful community. Here at the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) and the Middle East Center (MEC), we have been engaging all of our members on the key issues relating to this area of the world, the Middle East and North Africa.

This fall, we also have some news about our staff. First, we said goodbye to our longtime and beloved Associate Director, Felicia Hecker, who retired after 25 years with the MEC. Below, you can read a lovely tribute to her by JSIS Professor and former JSIS Director, Resat Kasaba. While Felicia’s departure left a big hole, and shoes impossible to fill, we are thrilled to work with our new Program Coordinator and UW, JSIS graduate, Emma Delapré. The MEC also enjoys the cooperation and support from our friends at the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, as well as the JSIS, and a number of other departments.

We are also delighted to work with our newest UW colleagues, including JSIS Assistant Professor, Danya Al-Saleh, a feminist and economic geographer, who works on energy, political economy, and environmental justice in the Middle East and North Africa (check out our feature on her in our previous newsletter).  We are also thrilled to welcome Assistant Professor, Canan Bolel – a graduate of our very own Near and Middle East Studies Interdisciplinary PhD Program – who has been appointed to the newly renamed Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC, formerly NELC). Professor Bolel works on Sephardic Jewish experiences in the late Ottoman Empire. Welcome!

In this newsletter, you will find a sampling of our community’s activities and our programming. You will also have a chance to meet one of our delightful new MA students, Claudia Herrero Rapagna. In our Newsletter’s newest feature, Faculty Research Corner, you will also gain some exposure to the cutting-edge research and scholarship of our very own faculty, who are all over the campus of UW. In this issue, we introduce you to Associate Professor of MELC, Archaeologist Stephanie Selover. We learn about her amazing research and some decidedly mind-blowing new initiatives in preserving cultural heritage in conflict zones.

This past fall, we launched our 2022-23 speaker series, Voices in the Middle East, in which we highlight innovative research on the region. A new feature of this series is to spotlight the research of our wonderful graduate students, who are the ones actually advancing the field of Middle East Studies! This fall, we featured PhD Candidate, Gozde Burcu Ege, who works on Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

In light of the ongoing revolutionary protests in Iran, the MEC has sponsored several events. The first, in early October, we held a panel in cooperation with our friends in MELC’s Persian and Iranian Studies Program, which featured our own UW Middle East Studies talent. And, in late November, the MEC offered a follow-up panel with two Iran experts, Professor Nazanin Shahrokni (London School of Economic), a feminist sociologist, who works on gender and space, and Professor Peyman Jafari (College of William and Mary), a historian, who examines the intersections of energy, labor, and the environment.

Missed these great events or wish you could re-visit them? No worries! We have a new addition to the MEC’s programming. We now offer podcast versions of all of our presentations, so you can download and listen at your leisure. Instructors can also use them in courses and pair them with printed publications.

We are planning our speakers for the winter and spring terms and invite you to check out our events, both past and future, on the MEC’s website. You can also learn about our programming by joining our mailing list.

As always, we are grateful for such an engaged community. Please consider supporting the Middle East Center as we work to educate UW students, the residents of Washington State, and the world about what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa.

We wish you health and safety in the new year,

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


The Center Bids Farewell to Felicia Hecker & Thanks Her for Many Years of Service!

By Professor Reşat Kasaba | UW Jackson School

As some of you know, Felicia Hecker has recently retired from the University of Washington. Felicia did not want a big fuss around her retirement, so we did not have a party, but it behooves us to mark her departure by remembering a few of her long list of contributions to the Jackson School. After all, she has been a part of the Jackson School (even when there was no Jackson School!) for almost fifty years!

Felicia first came to UW as a graduate student in Chinese language and literature in 1974. In that same year she was hired as an editorial and book production assistant at the Institute for Comparative and Foreign Area Studies (ICFAS-the predecessor of JSIS), branch of the UW Press. Felicia continued in this position as ICFAS changed first into SIS and then JSIS. She edited and oversaw the publication of numerous volumes covering a wide array of topics from Manchu language to Afghan politics, many of which have become classics in the field. The work that Felicia was involved in at UW Press-SIS was also crucial to the creation of the Chester Fritz Endowment that continues to fund our East Asia programs and many of the central operations of the School to this day. In the 1980s, when the School’s name became JSIS, Felicia established the JSIS-Middle East Publication series (again through UW Press) and continued to acquire and publish award-winning books.

Felicia left UW press in 1995, first to work as assistant to Directors Lardy and Bacharach and then to take over as the Associate Director of the Middle East Center in 1997, from which position she is retiring now. During this time, in addition to helping write six T6 grant applications, she became a trusted voice in the Department of Education for her deep knowledge of all matters related to the National Resource Centers. In 2000 she helped move the FLAS coordination from the Graduate School to JSIS and has trained every FLAS coordinator since then including our most recent colleague, Rita Bashaw. She also partnered with Don Craig and the other T6 staff in developing metrics to evaluate the impact of NRC/FLAS centers.

Among Felicia’s many accomplishments as the Associate Director of the Middle East Center, one that was especially impactful not only in the School and the University, but in the Pacific Northwest at large, was the Open Classroom Series which she created and administered in Fall 2001. The Open Classroom Series provided a venue for us to explore the causes and consequences of the 9/11 attacks. The talks that were included in this series were so popular that after the first one we had to move to the Hec Ed Pavilion and speak to audiences that numbered in the thousands. Felicia was recognized with a UW Distinguished Staff Award in that year, primarily for her role in creating the open classroom series.

After Ken’s recent retirement, Felicia was the last person left whose work in the School spanned such a long period. It is no wonder that it was she who wrote the first history of the School to mark our 90th anniversary in 1999. In everything that Felicia did, including the History she wrote, her deep knowledge of and commitment to the School comes across very clearly. Those of us who have been fortunate to work closely with her came to admire her professionalism and her careful attention to detail and we all earned a lot from her. Knowingly or unknowingly, all of us in the Jackson School have benefited from Felicia’s work and we will continue to do so for many years to come.

Thank you, Felicia.

The Center Welcomes Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna, M.A. Student!

Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna

Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna

I am grateful and excited to be part of the UW Jackson School’s M.A. Program in Middle East Studies. I decided to pursue this degree at the Jackson School because of the program’s flexibility and diverse disciplines within the Middle East Studies. Something that drew my attention to the program was being able to develop my Arabic language skills alongside my graduate courses. The program allows me to focus my studies within regions of interest and connect with experienced faculty members about my research interests. I am confident that this program can help me develop a strong understanding of Middle Eastern culture, religion, economy, and affairs as well as attain fluency in my target language.


The Middle East Center is pleased to introduce its new podcast series, now available on Soundcloud. We will be producing podcasts of our many events so that you can enjoy MEC lectures on the go. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You’ll never need to miss a Middle East Center talk again. Take a look at some of the most recent podcasts below.

“Feeding People is Not Enough:” Local Humanitarianism in the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Jordan

The Middle East Center presents “Feeding People is not Enough:” Local Humanitarianism in the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Jordan on November 14, 2022, a talk by Gozde Burcu Ege (Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Washington).

States of Power: Gender & Protests in Iran 

The Middle East Center presents States of Power: Gender & Protests in Iran on November 28, 2022, a panel discussion with Nazanin Shahrokni (London School of Economics) and Peyman Jafari (College of William & Mary), moderated by Arzoo Osanloo (University of Washington).


By Professor Stephanie Selover | University of Washington 

Stephanie Selover is an associate professor in the Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures department, Adjunct Professor in Anthropology, and Adjunct Curator at the Burke Museum. Prof. Selover’s research interests include the prehistoric cultures of the Middle East, evidence of violence on ancient human remains, the origins of violence and warfare in the ancient world, and the effects of modern politics on archaeology of the Middle East. She has excavated archaeological sites in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Italy, and here in the United States. Professor Selover is currently Co-director for Project Logistic and Co-director for Prehistoric Studies at Çadır Höyuk in Turkey, and the Field Director at the site of Khirbat al-Balu’a in Jordan.

In the summer of 2010, I arrived in Raqqa, Syria, located on the banks of the Euphrates River in northcentral Syria, to begin archaeological excavations at the site of Tell Zeidan. Although I had worked at several archeological sites in the Middle East, this was my first excavation in Syria, and I hoped to complete my doctoral dissertation on this site. I worked for the next six weeks excavating the remains of a Late Chalcolithic (ca. 4000 BCE) settlement and cemetery with amazing preservation and materials. After closing up for the season and returning to Damascus, the team excitedly spoke about our planned return in 2012 to continue our work.

Tell Zeidan

Tell Zeidan (Author’s field site in Syria)

Instead, like many of my colleagues, I watched as the country split into factions. As the events in Syria turned from peaceful protests to violent responses by the Syrian regime, the archaeological community began to understand the severity of the situation. International media broadcast accounts detailing great losses of life as the cities and monuments of this beautiful country were destroyed through warfare and intentional destruction. We heard even more tragic and personal accounts from our Syrian colleagues, as the city of Raqqa itself eventually became the de-facto capitol of the Islamic State (IS) and IS systematically set about destroying any physical representations of a past not within keeping of their strict and corrupted understanding of Islam.

As the humanitarian crises within Syria raged on, the subject of cultural heritage destruction during times of war became a major topic of conversation among concerned scholars—archaeologists, philologists, and museum workers, both foreign and Syrian. This situation led to a series of new initiatives across the world of Middle Eastern archaeology.

Most of these efforts focused on how to track destruction within the country. Archaeologists knowledgeable in mapping program such as ArcGIS used satellite photography, often in real time, to document, monitor, and report on cultural heritage damage in Syria. Teams published reports on their findings on websites and used information from local colleagues within Syria to ground truth data as much as was possible or safe. Regions were chosen for such detailed analysis were selected through a combination of known areas of IS activity, known archaeological sites of importance, and what was made available by the U.S. State Department

Tell Zeidan Team

Tell Zeidan Team (Author’s Image)

The hope was that once peace was restored, this collected data could be returned to local groups to aid in the process of rebuilding. Problematically, often the focus was on famous archaeological sites, museums, or monuments. A significant emphasis was placed on the destruction of Christian sites and monuments, while far less was published about smaller, lesser-known archaeological sites, especially sites from the prehistoric or Islamic period, Islamic monuments, or modern urban centers, though these were also visible via satellite photography. The largest loss of cultural heritage went underacknowledged.

In the modern day, much of the focus has now transferred to the training of archaeologists in-country, as well as rebuilding some subsection of what was destroyed. However, which sites and regions are being rebuilt is itself an ongoing question. These projects are often highly reliant upon foreign sources of money for rebuilding, which is then contingent upon the whims of those who are financing the projects—and this presents questions regarding interests not dictated by the preference of the Syrian people. For example, the Russian government has given money for the rebuilding of the Roman site of Palmyra, while the UAE has helped fund reconstruction of the Old Town of Aleppo. However, as these major tourist sites are being revitalized, the living neighborhoods that surround these major landmarks are still rubble. Such projects are of aid to Syria in general but do little to help those who live in these regions.

One lasting response and perhaps a reason for hope for the discipline, is more archaeologists have focused away from excavation or museum research, and now concentrate on the preservation of cultural heritage and studies into the black-market trade of cultural heritage materials. This is a truly emerging field, with a growing number of scholars working in it, perhaps to better rectify the shortcomings of the responses by the archaeological community. The future of archaeology is extending more and more beyond the scope of the trowel and the museum case.


To maintain the Middle East Center’s leading role in advancing knowledge and understanding of the past, present, and future of the Middle East and North Africa, we count on your generous financial support.

We would be grateful if you would consider contributing to our mission by making a financial donation to the Jere L. Bacharach Middle East Studies Fund.

Your financial gift will help us organize student activities and public events at the University of Washington and beyond.

Thank you for supporting our many activities for UW students and the general public!

We look forward to seeing you at future Middle East Center events on campus and online!