Other Events


The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2017 Senior Honors Thesis Presentation by:

Alex Ridley, "Language Attitudes toward Queer Epithets in Arabic: A Sociolinguistic Investigation"

Wednesday April 26th, 3:00pm in Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Synopsis: This Senior Honors Thesis investigates the language attitudes held by Arabic speaking men who identify as queer toward four epithets used to describe queer identities: lūṭī, šāḏ, miṯlī, and gay. This thesis uses two instruments to probe implicit and explicit attitudes of queer terminology: matched guise and overt questionnaire. To probe the implicit attitudes held by queer Arab men, this study experiments with a covert technique, matched guise. While the majority of matched guise studies investigate the attitudes of phonological features, this investigation extends the matched guise instrument to probe the attitudes toward lexical items. In the matched guise task, participants rank four speakers who identify as lūṭī, šāḏ, miṯlī, or gay on gradient adjective scales. In the next task, which probes explicit attitudes, participants respond to direct questions about their relationships to the lexical items under investigation. The results of both measures in the survey provide three major contributes to the intersection of sociolinguistics and the Arabic language. One, the results of this thesis contribute quantitative data to support the qualitative data about attitudes toward queer terminology in Arabic. Two, the consistent results of the matched guise and the overt questionnaire demonstrate that the guise voice technique can be extended to probe attitudes toward lexical items. Three, the findings of this thesis provide insight about in-group member's attitudes toward queer epithets to outsiders.


Please join us on Wednesday April 19th at 2:00pm in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Michael Raish, PhD Candidate in Arabic.

Title: The Measurement of the Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency of Written Arabic


The current study investigates the multicomponential nature of L2 Arabic writing by adapting a number of direct measures of linguistic complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) to the measurement of written Arabic texts produced by L2 Arabic learners and Arabic Native Speakers (NSs). Previous studies of L2 writing have established that such measures are reliable indicators of learners’ developing interlanguage, however few efforts have thus far applied CAF analyses to spoken or written Arabic, which presents researchers with a number of language-specific challenges. The results of the measures explored here are triangulated with learner responses to several independent estimates of Arabic proficiency, including a novel “short-cut” estimate in the form of an Arabic C-test. Instead of a longitudinal design, in which a learner or group of learners are asked to provide data at different stages of L2 acquisition, the current study entailed the collection Arabic production along a spectrum of writing ability, spanning from learners at the end of their first year through Arabic NSs.

Significant findings of this study include the fact that learners appear to “move” toward more natively-like written production as their overall facility with the Arabic language increases. Furthermore, learners scores on the various selected CAF measures correlate highly with each other, as well as with the selected independent measures. C-test consistently emerges via regression as the most reliable predictor of variability in written CAF among the selected explanatory variables, followed closely by self-estimated overall Arabic ability. Conversely, however, this study establishes that sentence-based measures are shown to be unreliable for the modeling of learner-produced Arabic texts, as well as the fact that communicative Arabic writing does not necessarily benefit from lemmatization prior to lexical analysis, in spite of features of the Arabic script and morphology that may argue otherwise. Additionally, regression models presented here establish that the commonly used independent measure Years of Study is shown to be an unreliable predictor of learner CAF among the participants in this study. Ultimately, the measures and analyses presented here represent an initial effort to model L2 Arabic writing according to widely used CAF measures, however the findings presented here nevertheless have important implications for the Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) field. 

Spring Middle eastern movie series

**Food and Drinks will be provided**

Thursday April 6th - Arabic

When: 6:00pm Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Discussion with Heba Arafa to follow the movie

Sea Laughter

Written and directed by Muḥammad Kāmil al-Qalyūbī

Synopsis: The story takes place in Alexandria around Ḥasan, a hard-working employee who never gets the praise or promotion he deserves. He suddenly decides to make some major changes in his life; so, he abandons his wife, quits his job, roams around the streets searching for his self-esteem and for things he hasn't done before. He marries four new women but eventually divorce them. When he meets Naʿīma, he finds in marring her all the stability and security he always wanted. Having received his first baby from Naʿīma, he refuses to get back to his early life.

Tuesday April 18th - Arabic

When: 6:00pm, Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Discussion with Abdallah Soufan to follow the movie

Mirsīdis (or Mercedes)

Written and directed by Yousry Nasrallah (Yusrī Naṣr Allāh)

Synopsis: This is a story of a man whose young years fall during dramatic political events, including the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Monday April 24th - Turkish

When: 2:00pm Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Korkuyorum Anne (in Turkish with English Subtitles)

Directed by Reha Erdem, Written by Reha Erdem & Nilüfer Güngörmüş

“Mom I’m Scared”

In an Istanbul apartment building where neighbors, friends, and family are living in close quarters, the main protagonist’s loss of memory spurs a search for the meaning of being human. Director Reha Erdem sheds light on the cultural, communal construction of masculinity with a light touch and slyly amusing style.


When: 3:30pm Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Facing Mirrors - Aynehaye Rooberoo

Rana has chosen a path in order to support her family, while Adineh (Eddie) has fled his home and city to escape his complicated situation as a transsexual man prevented from living as his true self by his family. They find themselves on the same journey and caused to know each other in a better way.

first millennium network

Apocalypse and Eschatology in the First Millennium

When: Friday April 28th Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)



Muriel Dubié (École pratique des hautes études, Paris)
Matthew Gabriele (Virginia Tech)
Annette Reid (University of Pennsylvania)
Stephen Shoemaker (University of Oregon)

With special thanks to:

Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University

Department of History, University of Maryland


The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is very pleased to present the Arabic and Islamic Studies Graduate Colloquium, a forum of graduate students' research projects. The Colloquium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars.

Mike Raish "Measuring the Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency of Written Arabic"

When: Thursday, January 26th, 12:30pm
Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Tesneem Akiek "Ibn al-Qayyim's Aḥkām ahl al-dhimmah"

When: Thursday, February 9th, 12:30pm
Where: ICC 462

Marya Hannun "Islam and the environment: an untold history"

When: Thursday, March 16th, 12:30pm
Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Roundtable on Shahab Ahmed's book What is Islam? The importance of being Islamic

When: Thursday, March 30th, 12:30pm
Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Nick Mangialardi "Ṣawt-scapes: Sound and Song in Middle East Studies"

When: Thursday, April 20th, 12:30pm
Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

**Food will be Provided**

Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) 17-20 Nov. 2016

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is participating at the annual meeting for Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) in Boston. Faculty members, students and alumni are panel organizers, presenters, chairs and discussants.  

Prof. Suzanne P. Stetkevych: Mourning and Performing: al-Maʿarrī’s Elegy to al-Sharīf al-Ṭāhir al-Mūsawī


Marya Hannun (PhD candidate): Gender and Conflict: Activism, Resilience, and Disengagement


Nabil Hage Ali (PhD): Reconceptualizing Islam in 1970s Shī‘ī Lebanon: The “Men of Mosques


Pamela Klasova (PhD candidate): Dramatizing narrative through eloquent speech: The khuṭab of al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf in history and adab works


Prof. Suzanne P. Stetkevych: Purpose, Cross-Purpose, Re-Purpose: Performance and Politics in the Classical Arabic Qasida


Cynthia Brandenburg (PhD candidate): The Elegy as Double-Edged Sword: Jarīr’s Rithā' to his Wife



Heba Arafa Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Monday November 7th at 1:00pm in ICC Room 550 for the dissertation defense of Heba Arafa, PhD Candidate in Arabic & Islamic Studies.

Title: Dreams of Alternative Modernities on the Nile


This study is an archaeology of the alternative forms of modernity prevalent in Egyptian popular culture through the lens of cinema, a modern art form negotiating overt and covert censorship in the public sphere. Focusing on the inter-revolutionary period of 1919-1952, the study accounts for the ability of Egyptian cinema as modern form of art and popular culture to critique rigid social realities and imagine modern social experiences, thereby pushing boundaries towards social change, despite overt and covert censorship regimes.

Arabic and Islamic Studies Graduate Colloquium

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is very pleased to present the Arabic and Islamic Studies Graduate Colloquium, a forum of graduate students' research projects. The Colloquium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars.

Richard Sutherland, "A New Perspective on the Ottoman Safavid War of 1623-39"
When: Wednesday October 26th, 12:30pm
Where: ICC 450

Mohammed Bushra, "Dissection of a Digital Debate with Dāʿish: Muḥammad al-Masʿarī vs. Turkī al-Binʿalī on Tawḥīd, Shirk, and ʿIbādah"
When: Wednesday November 16th, 12:30pm
Where: ICC 241 (CCAS Boardroom)

**Food will be provided**

CAS & AIS Co-sponsored lecture with Professor greg thomas

Please join us and CCAS for a lecture by Professor Greg Thomas on "George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine" with an introduction by Professor Elliott Colla, on October 4th, from 6:00-8:00pm in the CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241).

Poetry lecture with Professor Nasser Nasser Athamneh

Please join us for a poetry a lecture, buffet lunch and reception 12:00-2:00 pm Wednesday, 7 September in ICC 462. The lecture will be given in Arabic.

Arabic Abstract

Poetry Texts


by Dr. Naser Yousef al-Hassan Athamneh, Professor of English

Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan

Muzaffar al-Nawwab (1934-2013) is a contemporary Iraqi poet. His poetry proves him to be a champion par excellence of Arab political opposition. While his poems reflect an unusual capacity for oscillating within the same poem between the themes of love/women, Sufism, philosophical reflection, and politics, staunch and uncompromising political opposition to present-day Arab regimes and political elites remains the major theme of his poetry.

One major device al-Nawwab employs to promote his ideology and assert his political stance is intertextuality. This becomes evident when we notice how replete his poems are with references to cultural landmarks from the Arab-Muslim tradition and heritage, together with biblical references and, to a lesser extent, references to contemporary revolutionary figures. By manipulating such references and using them as contexts for the themes and characters of his poems, al-Nawwab succeeds in accentuating the impotence and futility that he systematically and unequivocally associates with present-day Arab regimes and political systems. By the same token, he stresses the dire need for political awareness and uncompromising struggle on the part of Arab people, whom he characteristically pictures as exploited and oppressed. Indeed, al-Nawwab evokes the past relentlessly to incite revolution and rebellion against Arab regimes and the political status quo throughout the Arab World. 

The lecture will start with a brief introductory note and biographical sketch of Muzaffar al-Nawwab, followed by reading aloud of some samples of his poetry, and leading to a discussion of and critical commentary on some samples of his poetry in which intertextuality serves as a means of assertion and foregrounding of the notion that the political status quo in the Arab World is no longer to be tolerated.


Tuve Floden dissertation defense

Please join us on Tuesday August 23rd at 10:00am in Poulton Hall Rm. 230 for the dissertation defense of Tuve Floden, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: Televangelists, Media DU‘Ā, and ‘ULAMĀ’: The Evolution of Religious Authority in Modern Islam


The rise of modern media has led to debates about religious authority in Islam, questioning whether it is fragmenting or proliferating, and exploring the state of the ‘ulamā’ and new groups like religious intellectuals and Muslim televangelists.  This study explores these changes through a specific group of popular preachers, the media du‘ā, who are characterized by their educational degrees and their place outside the religious establishment, their informal language and style, and their extensive use of modern media tools.  Three media du‘ā from the Arab world are the subject of this study: Amr Khaled, Ahmad al-Shugairi, and Tariq al-Suwaidan.  Their written material – books, published interviews, social media, and websites – form the primary sources for this work, supplemented by examples from their television programs.  To paint a complete picture, this dissertation examines not only the style of these preachers, but also their goals, their audience, the topics they address, and their influences and critics. 

This study first compares the media du‘ā to Christian televangelists, revealing that religious authority in Islam is both proliferating and differentiating, and that these preachers are subtly influencing society and politics.  Second, it presents a theoretical analysis of their main audience – Muslim youth.  Youth are strongly encouraged to take action, and thus serve as both the media du‘ā’s tool for change and the target audience for their religious messages.  Third, it provides evidence of how these preachers blend old sources with new issues and how they are shifting religious discourse to focus on life in this world, not just the afterlife.  Finally, this study explores the ties between the media du‘ā and the ‘ulamā’.  There is no clear line of demarcation between the du‘ā’s ideological views and those of the ‘ulamā’, at least on big issues, and, the media du‘ā often defer to the religious authority of the ‘ulamā’.  This study thus concludes that these preachers have two roles in society, that of agenda setters and motivators.  This allows them to suggest issues that require attention, subtly affecting religious discourse, and then encourage their audience to act, thereby slowly enacting social and religious change.


Please join us on Tuesday July 12th at 10:30am in Poulton Hall Rm. 230 for the dissertation defense of Francesco Sinatora, PhD Candidate in Arabic.

Title: Hybridity and Superdiversity on Syrian Dissidents’ Facebook Pages. An Online Ethnography of Language, Identity and Authenticity


This work contributes to the discussion about the role of social media in political mobilization by analyzing the writing practices of a group of Syrian dissidents on Facebook. Challenging the assumption that Western technology inhibited political activism, this work shows how Syrian dissidents appropriated a global medium like Facebook to negotiate, construct identities and create political participation. In particular, it demonstrates how the resources and the discursive strategies utilized by two Syrian dissidents before and after the revolution underlay respectively the construction of new individual, cosmopolitan identities and the collective identity of dissidents as authentic Syrians. The latter emerged in concomitance with a claim made by Bashar al-Asad at the beginning of the uprisings, who alleged that protestors were foreign infiltrators spreading religious fragmentation and sedition.

The methodology for this study was informed by Androutsopoulos’s (2008b) Discourse-Centred Online Ethnography and Barton and Lee’s (2013) Mixed-Method Approach, which advocate the integration of text analysis with interviews with text producers and readers. This work embraces a social constructionist approach to language and identity (cf. De Fina, Schiffrin and Bamberg 2006), which investigates identity as emergent in discourse and interaction. In addition, it builds on ideas proposed by Blommaert and Rampton (2011) in their agenda for the study of language in superdiversity, including their own call for language ethnography.

Among the main findings is that identities are more often indexed through hybrid, including creative and strategically bivalent forms, rather than separate codes. This finding contributes to sociolinguistic theory, highlighting the importance of a hybridity focus for the study of language in superdiversity. Moreover, the emergence and negotiation of new identities in a short period of time and the different values attributed to similar linguistic resources and strategies based on online interaction triggered by socio-political events reinforces the validity of a notion such as superdiversity.


Please join us on Thursday July 7th at 10:30am in Poulton Hall Rm. 230 for the dissertation defense of Nabil Al-Hage Ali, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: Rebel Preachers: The Making of Islamic Activism in Shī‘ī Lebanon (1960-1985)


This dissertation investigates the intellectual and organizational genesis of the Shī‘ī religious community that burgeoned in Lebanon in the 1970s. It reveals how the contemporary Shī‘ī Islamic community, including Hizbullah that appeared in 1982, evolved through several overlapping phases of education, mobilization, revolutionization, and consolidation, on religious bases. Predominant academic opinion links the formation of new religious consciousness and new religious movements that succeeded the formation of Hizbullah in Shī‘ī Lebanon to Iran’s exportation of its “Islamic Revolution.” Not only does this dissertation reopen the discussion on the transformation of religiosity in Shī‘ī Lebanon, but it also elucidates the identity and origins of groups and ideas that constitute the contemporary Shī‘ī milieu that crystallized in the 1980s. It looks at various religious paradigms that interacted in the contexts of sectarianism, economic crises, and wars. This dissertation, moreover, links the eruption of religion in the Lebanese public sphere in the 1980s to a larger tide of global religious renaissance, which, in the Shī‘ī case, began around the middle of the Twentieth century in Iraq and Iran.

Feriel bouhafa Dissertation defense

Please join us on Friday July 8th at 2:00pm in CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241) for the dissertation defense of Feriel Bouhafa, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: Natural Justice under the Scope of Rhetoric the Written and the Unwritten Laws in Ibn Rushd’s Political and Legal Philosophy


This dissertation explores the works of Ibn Rushd, and identifies an appropriation of Aristotle’s concept of natural justice, paying attention to the distinction he makes between the written laws (al-sunnan al-maktūba), and unwritten laws (al-sunnan ghayr al-maktūba) in his Middle Commentary to Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Talkhīṣ al-khaṭāba), and parallel views in his legal works. My study argues that Ibn Rushd’s legal and political philosophy advances a concrete view of Aristotle’s natural justice, which anchors ethic in the normative framework of sharī‘a. Ibn Rushd’s conception of natural justice, I propose, is best evidenced in his view on the political and epistemological value of rhetoric and its relation to law. I further argue that Ibn Rushd asserts the necessity of rhetoric to ensure justice—which he considers key to political stability. Ibn Rushd, therefore, constructs his conception of natural justice under the epistemological scope of rhetoric, through the prism of the unexamined opinion (bādi’ al-ra’y al- mushtarak), a quasi-rational view of instinct opinion shared among people. I locate this discussion within Ibn Rushd’s views of the written laws and unwritten laws and their relation to natural justice. The thesis proposes that Ibn Rushd identifies two modes for natural justice: in potentiality, based on natural human inclination, accessible to the masses; and in actuality, linked to the elite, and only accessible to qualified jurists, through ijtihād. Ibn Rushd successfully bridges this proposed divide between the masses and the elite, through setting public approval as a condition: he grounds the concept of natural justice in the unexamined opinion, thus providing the epistemological criteria for the qualified jurist to frame arguments curated to garner public approval. Finally, I show how Ibn Rushd contextualizes his conception of the Stagirite’s natural justice within sharī‘a, which, he contends, encompasses both the written and unwritten laws: written laws, such as the ḥudūd punishment; and unwritten law associated with the Qur’anic ethical concepts and the objectives of the law grounded in the different legal precepts (al-qawā‘id al-fiqhiyya). The importance of my contribution lies in challenging the dominant position, which has long held that Ibn Rushd equates sharī‘a with truth, instead I underline how Ibn Rushd presents the practical efficiency of sharī‘a as the sole ground to its evidence. In advancing novel discussions and unfolding unexamined connections, the thesis of my work revisit this correlation to underline the proximity between sharī‘a and practical philosophy.

Seraj Assi Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Monday June 13th at 12:30pm in Poulton Hall Room 230 for the dissertation defense of Seraj Assi, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: History and Politics of Nomadism in Modern Palestine (1882-1948)


My research examines contending visions on nomadism in modern Palestine, with special focus on the Mandate period. It is a comparative study that covers British, Arab and Zionist attitudes to nomadism. By nomadism I refer to a form of territorialist discourse, one which views tribal formations as the antithesis of national and land rights, thus justifying the exteriority of nomadism to the state apparatus. Drawing on primary sources in Arabic and Hebrew, I show how local conceptions of nomadism have been reconstructed on new legal taxonomies rooted in modern European theories and praxes: labor, cultivation, ownership, property, surplus and other capitalist modes of production. By undertaking a comparative approach, I maintain that the introduction of these taxonomies transformed not only local Palestinian perceptions of nomadism, but perceptions that characterized early Jewish literature. The purpose of my research is not to provide a legal framework for nomadism on the basis of these taxonomies. Quite the contrary, it is to show how nomadism, as a set of official narratives on the Bedouin of Palestine, failed to imagine nationhood, let alone statehood, beyond the single apparatus of settlement.

Three major, intertwined questions run through my study. First, how British, Arab and Jewish perceptions of nomadism have been shaped within the matrix of power relations in Mandate Palestine, one which involved British colonialism, Labor Zionism, and Palestinian nationalism? Second, how perceptions of nomadism have been constituted within a web of discursive strands, such as race, nationhood, statehood, autochthony, modernity, settlement, and land rights? Third, how nomadism as a discourse on the Bedouin of Palestine has emerged across fields as diverse as raciology (scientific racism), ethnography, anthropology, political economy, legal theory, and climatic (declensionist) narratives on tribal invasions? What I am asking, in short, is: Can we treat nomadism as a field of historical inquiry, a formative discourse by which British officials, Zionist pioneers, and Palestinian nationalists imagined, managed and governed the Bedouin of Palestine?

Nazir Harb Michel Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Friday, May 27th at 12:00pm in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Nazir Harb Michel, PhD Candidate in Arabic.

Title: Coordinating Mass Protests in Tahrir Square: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Engroupment, Multi-Modal Intertextuality & Revolution

This dissertation poses three central questions about the 2011 Egyptian Arab Spring:

1) What catalyzed and perpetuated Egypt’s 2011 ‘revolutionary interval’?

2) How effective were various messaging channels (vocal, gestural, ecological, technological) in initiating and coordinating newcomers into smaller protest formations and the larger revolutionary formation?

3) What processes were involved in ‘engrouping’ smaller protests into the mass ‘revolutionary formation’ of the 18 Days of Tahrir?

The overarching problem is describing how messages that perpetuated the revolution were conveyed through both oral and embodied channels and how that multi-channel language for communicating about and spreading the revolution transformed the people who developed and used it. This language was a vehicle that became a voice that ordinary citizens could use to create a politically-empowered identity. Indeed, those voices and identities of the 2011 Egyptian revolution came to topple the three-decades-old regime of Hosni Mubarak. While some argue Mubarak’s resignation was a short-lived victory given Egypt’s trajectory back toward authoritarian rule since then, I am more interested in how this intense period of popular revolution gave way to a political performative idiom, or what I call “voices” that enabled lay Egyptians to challenge the rules of Arab political discourse as revolutionaries who wielded political power. I explain the charged historical moment and the public spaces in which incumbent institutions and structures were challenged in the political idiom of the revolution in terms of ‘the revolutionary interval’ (i.e. '18 Days of Tahrir’). I discuss the disruption of the fragile institutional status quo through a framework that brings together approaches from multimodal interaction and intertextuality. I focus on how individuals and smaller protest groups combine into larger groups around shared goals, and ultimately into the formations captured in now-popular images of a seemingly-unified mass of Egyptians demanding Mubarak’s resignation. I discuss these processes in terms of distributed cognition, semiotics, and cybernetics theories. I conclude with a description of an experimental computational-sociolinguistic simulation of the methods of communication deployed in Tahrir Square. The simulation models the relative conversion efficiencies of five communicative channel types used to initiate newcomers and coordinate protesters into a revolutionary formation.

Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2016 Senior Honors Thesis Presentation by:

Zaynab Malik, "Psychological Displacement in Nakba Literature"


Amin Gharad, "Sacred War & Solidarity"

Wednesday April 20th, 2:00pm in Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Abdul Rahman Mustafa Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Monday, April 11th at 10:30 am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Abdul Rahman Mustafa, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: From God's Nature to God's Law: Theology, Law and Legal Theory in Islam

In Praise of the divine beauty: The Philosophy of Ptolemy and its Greek, Arabic and Hebrew Reception

When: May 3rd - 4th, 9:00am - 5:00pm

Where: CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Organizer: Emma Gannagé


Alain Bernard (Centre A. Koyré, Paris); Alan Bowen (IRCPS, Canada); Jacqueline Feke (University of Waterloo); Gad Freudenthal (CNRS, Paris); Emma Gannagé (Georgetown University); Damien Janos ; Alexander Jones (ISAW, New York); Maria Mavroudi (University of California at Berkeley); George Saliba (Columbia University, New York).



Spring Middle Eastern Film Series

Feb. 4th -- Persian: The Song of Sparrows, Discussion following the film with Yasser Teimouri

Feb. 11th -- Turkish: Kusursuzlar (The Impeccables), Discussion following the film with Dr. Filiz Cicek

Feb. 18 -- Arabic: Sigara wa Kass (A Cigarette and a glass), Discussion following the film with Mejdulene Shomali

Feb. 25 -- Arabic: The Attack, Discussion following the film with Nana Asfour

Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

When: 5:30pm

Arabic Linguist Job Talks

Alexander Magidow

“Approaches to the History of the Arabic Language”

Monday November 30th, 1:30pm, Poulton Hall, Room 230

Uri Horesh

“Language Variation and Change in Palestine: Effects of Language Contact and Dialect Contact on Varieties of Palestinian Arabic”

Wednesday December 2nd, 1:30pm, CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

Ahmad Alqassas

“The Locus of Negation in the Clause Structure of Standard Arabic”

Friday December 4th, 11:00am, ACMCU Conference Room (ICC 270)

Ashraf Abdou

“Corpora in Arabic Linguistic Research and Pedagogy”

Monday December 7th, 1:30pm, Poulton Hall, Room 230

Spring 2015 Graduate Symposium

The Arabic and Islamic Studies Symposium is a forum of graduate students' research projects. The Symposium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars. Led and organized by our graduate students, the Symposium meets once a month.

Please find below the program for the first semester:

Abdul-Rahman Mustafa

"From God's Nature to God's Law: Theology, Law and Legal Theory in Islam"

When: Nov. 5th, 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450 

POSTPONED: Robert Ricks

"Hard Language or Hardest Language?: Moving Beyond the Myth of Arabic Difficulty"

When: TBD

Where: TBD

**Lunch will be provided

Robert Ricks Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Thursday, October 15th at 10:00 am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Robert Ricks, PhD Candidate in Arabic.



Lexical knowledge is an essential component of language knowledge. Vocabulary size has consistently been found to be correlated with other measures of language proficiency and to predict functional language ability. Assessment formats designed to measure lexical knowledge have been influenced by the rich description of lexical patterns made possible by recent advances in corpus linguistics; in particular, these assessments have incorporated word frequency statistics as an organizing structural principle. This dissertation details the development of three frequency-based, web-delivered assessments, modelled on established English as a Foreign Language formats, designed to measure the vocabulary knowledge of non-native learners of Arabic. Word frequency data for these assessments was taken from Buckwalter and Parkinson’s Frequency Dictionary of Arabic. This study represents the first empirical, frequency-based investigation of learner vocabulary knowledge carried out for Arabic. Primary research questions investigated in the study include (1) the effect of word frequency ranking on item performance, (2) the ability of learner independent variables to predict assessment performance, and (3) the internal correlation of the three assessment measures.

Following an assessment development and piloting process, 161 non-native learners of Arabic of varying proficiency and experience levels completed the assessments and a learner history questionnaire. Results were analyzed to determine lexical profiles of individuals and groups; they were also subjected to traditional item facility and Rasch analysis. Results indicate that word frequency was significantly correlated with item facility ratings. Learner years of study and self-reported proficiency were both effective predictors of performance on the assessments. Results on the two measures of vocabulary size were highly correlated with each other and with the results of the third format, designed to measure depth of vocabulary knowledge. Aggregate group performance by years of study indicates an acquisition rate of 800 to 1000 words per year, although some caution may be necessary in generalizing the results of this population to the larger population of L2 Arabic learners. The study also discusses challenges inherent to the development of Arabic pseudowords and limitations of both space-delimited strings and raw lemmas as Arabic word units.

Arabic Poetry Reading

Please join us for a poetry reading in Arabic & English with Bahraini Poet Qassim Haddad. The event will be held in the Baker Scholar Conference Room, Regents Hall, Room 550, 5th Floor, Date and time TBA.

Roshan Iqbal Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Wednesday, July 15th at 10:00 am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Roshan Iqbal, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: A Thousand and One Wives: Investigating the Intellectual History of the Exegesis of Verse 4:24 and its Implications for Islamic Sexual Ethics


My dissertation, “A Thousand and One Wives: Investigating the Intellectual History of the Exegesis of Verse 4:24 and its Implications for Islamic Sexual Ethics,” provides the intellectual legacy of the exegesis of Qur’an 4:24, which is used as the proof text for the permissibility of mut’a (temporary marriage). The chronological span of the twenty-five Qur’an commentaries examined extends from the first extant commentary to the present day. My dissertation is the only work in English that includes a plurality of voices from minor schools (Ibadi, Ashari, Zaidi, and Ismaili), largely neglected by Western scholars, alongside major schools, and draws from all available sub-genres of exegesis in three major Islamicate languages.

As Western academia’s first comprehensive work concerning the intellectual history of mut’a marriage and sexual ethics, my dissertation illustrates the power of sectarian influences in how scholars have interpreted verse 4:24. I explore how doctrinal self-identity, rather than strictly philological analyses, shaped the interpretation of the verse. By revealing ambiguities in the interpretation of mut’a, my work challenges accepted sexual ethics in Islamic thought, as posited by both classical and modern Muslim and Western scholars—and thus opens up space to theorize Islamic sexual ethics anew. 


Graduation Luncheon!

Join us on Friday, May 15th at 11:30am in Poulton Hall for a party to celebrate our Spring 2014 graduates!


Please join us on Wednesday, April 29th at 12:30pm in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Enass Khansa, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.



The present monograph is a study of al-‘Iqd (The Necklace), a twenty-five volume anthology purportedly compiled and written in Córdoba by Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ‘Abd Rabbih al-Qurṭubī (d. 328/940).  Specifically, the study looks at al-‘Iqd as a work of adab whose production advances the caliphal venture of the Umayyads in in 4th/10thcentury Iberian Peninsula, and in which Arabo-Islamic political and cultural genealogies are established through the rhetoric of restoration.  To this purpose, I examine the competing premises within the work’s historiographical and epistemological enterprises: al-‘Iqd claims to incorporate and eclipse the major works of the powerhouses of the Islamic east.  As such, the anthology serves as a space for formulating historical and cultural narratives in ways that produce and sustain the foundations of Umayyad legitimacy.  While serving to transmit and encode an ideology of the Islamic empire to the new caliphate in Córdoba, al-‘Iqd, nonetheless, simultaneously introduces itself as a unique work of adab, and a harbinger of an emergent golden age.  My inquiry focuses on two concepts of classical Arabo-Islamic culture that have been challenged and transformed in al-‘Iqd’s negotiation of the political and cultural conditions of its production.  Primarily, al-‘Iqd places emphasis on critical acumen and on the concept of choice/selection (al-ikhtiyār) which is introduced as a superior alternative to the source of knowledge and to isnād (chains of authority in transmitting knowledge)—thus questioning the long accepted attitudes toward authority, authorship and views of the past.  The second is al-‘Iqd’s unprecedented scope (themes, genres and vernacular language) that participates in creating a cultural repertoire within which specific notions of authority are infused: it unabashedly transforms conception of the paideutic role of knowledge production, and with that, notions of readership/audience and the political potentiality of adab in 4th/10th century Arabo-Islamic culture.

Keegan Terek Presents His Senior Honors Thesis

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2015 Senior Honors Thesis Presentation by:

Keegan Terek

"Georgetown Arabic Students Abroad: Comparing the Linguistic Perceptions of Future and Former Study Abroad Students in the Arab World."

Tuesday, April 28th, 10:30am in ICC 450

A Talk by Professor George Saliba

“Experimentation in Arabic Science and Philosophy: Exploring the Concept of I‘tibār.”
When: Wednesday March 5th, 6:00pm
Where: CCAS Board Room, ICC 241

This talk will focus on a representative sample of medieval Arabic texts which employ the term I‘tibār or its derivatives and try to explore the various meanings in which this term was understood. It will also explore its relationship to what we now call experimentation, in a variety of fields including literary, scientific, as well as philosophical domains.  

Spring 2015 Graduate Symposium

The Arabic and Islamic Studies Symposium is a forum of graduate students' research projects. The Symposium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars. Led and organized by our graduate students, the Symposium meets once a month.

Please find below the program for the first semester:

Robert Ricks, "Assessing L2 Arabic vocabulary knowledge"
When: February 27, 12:15 pm (Lunch will be served)
Where: Poulton 230

Tuve Floden, "More Than Oneself: How Muslim Televangelists Empower Individuals to Change the World"
When: March 19, 4:30 pm
Where: Poulton 230

Abdallah Soufan, "Could there be a private language? Ibn Taymiyyah against the Ash'arite conception of God's speech"
When: April 23, 4:30 pm
Where: Poulton 230


Please join us on Friday, March 6 at 10:00am in ICC 462 for the dissertation defense of Aja Chaker, PhD Candidate in Arabic.
Title: Elite Engagement in Language Policy and Planning: Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi and the Advancement of Arabization in Algeria

This dissertation looks at elite engagement in the process of language policy and planning in Algeria after independence, highlighting the connection between ideology and the development of national identity. To achieve this, the study examines the memoirs of Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, Algeria’s Minister of Education from 1965-70 and Minister of Culture and Information from 1970-77, focusing on specific linguistic markers and narrative techniques to understand how Ibrahimi came to construct his own identity, as well as a collective Algerian identity that he sought to promote through education and the media. Theoretical bases include a social understanding of language as per Bakhtin, Billig’s work on banal nationalism, Ager’s understanding of the role of elites in developing national language policy, and Suleiman’s treatment of the Arabic language and its place in the development of national identity.

The methodology of the study draws on narrative analysis as per De Fina, highlighting instances of pronominal choice, positioning, voicing, and categorization. Analysis indicates that Ibrahimi uses these strategies to construct a multi-layered personal and social identity to preserve and promote what he perceives as his political legacy. In a unique application of De Fina’s approach, the study demonstrates that Ibrahimi also attempts to construct a collective identity that defines Algeria as an Arab, Muslim, and Arabic-speaking nation—a notion that would be propagated among the people through the education system and media. This dissertation concludes that elite policymakers who are actively engaged in the construction and/or reproduction of language policy do so as much for personal and ideological reasons as for more overt political reasons such as the reproduction of official narratives. The study also concludes that narrative analysis, when applied to written texts such as memoirs, provides a fruitful approach for understanding the complex connections between language and identity, particularly in the Arab world.

Book Launch with Professor Jonathan Brown: "Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy"

Professor Jonathan Brown will be discussing his new book, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Lunch will be provided.
When: Thursday February 5th, 12:30pm
Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Spring Arabic Film Series

The Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies and Center for Contemporary Arab Studies are proud to present our spring film series. Pizza and refreshments will be provided.

Thursday January 22nd, 5:30pm, Location: CCAS Boardroom ICC 241

Silences of the Palace
Thursday January 29th, 5:30pm, Location: CCAS Boardroom ICC 241

Al Bayda wa al Hajar
Thursday February 5th, 5:30pm, Location: CCAS Boardroom ICC 241

Port of Memory
Thursday February 12th, 5:30pm, Location: CCAS Boardroom ICC 241

The Lady from Tel Aviv

The Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies and the Center for Contemporary Studies invite you to a reading event, Translation Workshop, of the "The Lady from Tel Aviv" by Raba'I Al-Madhoun  (Author) and Elliott Colla (Translator).
When: Feb. 26th, Time: 6:00 - 8:00pm
Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Katrien Vanpee Dissertation Defense

Please join us on Friday, December 12 at 11:00am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Katrien Vanpee, PhD Candidate in Arabic.

Title: Nation-Building, Poetry, and Patronage: the Nabaṭī Qaṣīda Waṭanīya in Qatar and the UAE
This dissertation is a work on the role of nabaṭī poetry in Qatari and Emirati projects of nation-building and the construction of national history. This role is double. On the one hand, as this research demonstrates, the history of nabaṭī poetry is itself constructed to reflect the longevity that helps legitimize a nation. On the other hand, nabaṭī poetry is, like classical Arabic poetry, well-suited to contribute to projects of history construction based on its mythopoeic capacity. This dissertation studies the body of nabaṭī poetry that stands most directly in the service of nation-building projects: waṭanīya poetry.

A comparison of waṭanīya poetry with pre-modern nabaṭī praise and boast poetry demonstrates that these thematic units have been combined and repurposed in the waṭanīya. Based on a close-reading of a variety of waṭanīyāt and their comparison with other texts and practices that serve to enact allegiance, this dissertation argues that functionally speaking, the waṭanīya serves as an enactment of allegiance in poetic form. As allegiance performatives, waṭanīyāt should be understood as one of the many guises of the mubāyaʻa, a complex of enactments of allegiance that includes textually mediated, oral, and non-verbal forms of communication.

Like pre-modern praise and boast poetry,  the waṭanīya engages in myth-making for the sake of community-bonding and the legitimization of rule. The praise and enacted allegiance are now, however, addressed to the national leaders. As adaptation of existing material operating in a new national context, the waṭanīya can be understood as invented tradition on the literary level.

As enactment of allegiance and contribution to the national narrative, waṭanīyat can be considered a symbolic gift. This dissertation includes a study of the televised poetry competition Shāʻir al-Milyūn as an example of institutionalized remuneration for poetic gifts. Based on an analysis of elements of the performance setting and of a waṭanīya performed on the stage of Shāʻir al-Milyūn, this work argues for an understanding of Shāʻir al-Milyūn as system of literary patronage.

Workshop for Arabic Majors & Minors

The Department will be holding a workshop for our Majors and Minors which will have info sessions on fellowships, applications, study-abroad and career paths.
November 7th, 3:30pm - 5:30pm, ICC 450

Spring Arabic Film Series

January 22nd
5:30-7:30, CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

January 29th
5:30-7:30, CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

February 5th. 
5:30-7:30, CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

February 12th
5:30-7:30, CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Arabic & Islamic Studies Symposium

The Arabic and Islamic Studies Symposium is a forum of graduate students' research projects. The Symposium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars. Led and organized by our graduate students, the Symposium meets once a month over a light lunch.

Please find below the program for the first semester:

Enass Khansa, "Conceptions of Authorship in 4th/10th c. Literature".
When: Nov 4th, 12:15pm 
Where: ICC 450

Nabil al-Hage Ali, "Men of Mosques: Early Religious Education and Activism in Shi'i Lebanon (1969-1974)"
When: Nov. 20, 12:15pm
Where: Poulton 230

Lunch will be provided

Sultan Qaboos Lecture:

"Irony, Teleology and 'Stopping at the Ruins' Al-Ma`arri's Luzumiyyat and the Poetics of 11th century Syria"

Please join us Thursday, October 30th at 6pm in the CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241) for the inaugural Sultan Qaboos Lecture with Dr. Suzanne Stetkevych.

Reception to Follow.

CANCELLED - Syria: The Trojan Woman - Myriad Voices Festival

The Arabic & Islamic Studies Department is a proud sponsor of this event which will be held

  • 18 September, at 7:30pm
  • 19 September, at 8:00pm
  • 20 September, at 8:00pm

in the Davis Performing Arts Center, Gonda Theatre.


Hadia Mubarak dissertation defense

Please join us on Tuesday, June 24 at 11:30am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Hadia Mubarak, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: Intersections: Modernity, Gender and QurʾAnic Exegesis


Modernity imparted a new theoretical significance to the issue of gender reform in the Muslim world. This dissertation examines the impact of modernity on the hermeneutical approaches and interpretations of three modern exegetes. It compares the tafsīr works of Muḥammad ʿAbduh, Sayyid Quṭb, and Muḥammad al-Ṭāhir ibn ʿĀshūr with those of pre-modern exegetes, specifically concerning three different Qurʾanic verses: 2:228, 4:3, and 4:34. These verses gained importance in modern exegetes’ quest to articulate Islam’s position on gender, a debate that was tied to the larger ideological question on whether or not Islam was fit for modern times.

ʿAbduh, Quṭb, and Ibn ʿĀshūr all attempt to demonstrate Islam’s relevance to the needs of modern societies and, in doing so, they anchor their calls for broader societal change in the religion’s foundational text, the Qurʾan. While the works of all three exegetes reflect full engagement with modernity, their approaches are grounded in very different methodologies, traditions, and orientations. As modern Islamic intellectual thought was characterized by both continuity and change, ʿAbduh’s and Quṭb’s works represent a methodological break with the pre-modern exegetical tradition, whereas Ibn ʿĀshūr’s tafsīr represents a more complex hermeneutic that establishes itself in the pre-modern philological exegetical tradition, yet regularly reaches new conclusions. Ibn ʿĀshūr’s ability to undergird new interpretations with long-established, exegetical methodologies is a testimony to the intellectual tradition’s potential to embrace change through its timeless methodologies. This dissertation provides significant insight on the markers of continuity and change in the Qurʾanic exegetical tradition.

The tension between continuity and change in modern Islamic intellectual thought demonstrates that interpretive differences between modern and pre-modern exegetes are not black and white. While ʿAbduh, Quṭb, and Ibn ʿĀshūr reach significantly new conclusions on certain verses, they also echo many of the pre-modern interpretations on gender. As such, the exegetical tradition on gender reflects a variety of interpretations that defies existing generalizations of this tradition as consistently patriarchal.

Michael Lessman Presents His Senior Honors Thesis

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2014 Senior Honors Thesis Presentation by

Michael Lessman

"Triune Oneness in Yahya Ibn ‘Adi’s Treatise on Unity"

Wednesday, April 30th, 1:00pm in Poulton 230

Dunya Mikhail, reading from her new diwan (in arabic)

Dunya Mikhail was born in Iraq and is the author of The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005), which was shortlisted for Griffin and named one of “Twenty-Five Books to Remem-ber from 2005” by the New York Public Library. Her Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (New Directions, 2009) won the 2010 Arab American Book Award. Mikhail has six poetry books in Arabic; the most recent one is The Iraqi Nights (Mesopotamia Press, Baghdad, 2013). In 2001, she was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. In 2013, she was named a Kresge fellow for literary arts.

When: March 28th, 12:30 - 2:00 pm

Where: ICC 450

Movie screening Series (In Arabic)

The Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies Department invites you to join us for a movie screening series, with a discussion after with a Professor. Pizza and drinks will be provided in ICC 227 at 5:30pm.

Feb. 5: Son of Babylon (followed by discussion with Ghayda Al Ali)

Feb 12: 'Ajami (followed by discussion with Dima Ayoub)

Feb 19:  Al-Leil (followed by discussion)

Nassima Neggaz dissertation defense

Please join us on Wednesday, November 27 at 9:30am in Poulton 230 for the dissertation defense of Nassima Neggaz, PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies.

Title: “The Falls of Baghdad in 1258 and 2003: A Study in Sunnī-Shī‘ī Clashing Memories”


This dissertation analyzes the narratives on the fall of Baghdad of 1258, focusing on the question of responsibility for the event: why did Baghdad fall to the Mongols and to whom was responsibility attributed? The dissertation argues that the earliest narratives of the fall of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate demonstrate a plethora of views, which can be explained by the socio-political role of the historians writing for powerful patrons, but also by the critical importance of literary topoi. While some of the earliest works laid the blame on the Shī‘ī wazīr Ibn al-‘Alqamī for the event, this view is expanded among the Sunnī Mamlūk sources, which show a certain consensus around the responsibility of the Shī‘ī community at large for the event. A category of Mamlūk clerics even go beyond accusing Ibn al-‘Alqamī and focus their narratives on the person of Nas̟īr al-Dīn al-T̟ūsī, Shī‘ī philosopher and astronomer. These views should be seen as a direct consequence of the rise of Shi‘ism under the early Ilkhānid Empire and the ‘ulamā’s battle to protect what they saw as “orthodox” Islam in a threatening environment. These polemical views, mostly shaped a century or two after the fall of Baghdad, have a significant impact on today’s communal memories of the events. Polarized discourses have been growing since the fall of Baghdad in 2003: the event has been described by many Sunnī intellectuals, clerics, politicians, but also Iraqis more generally, as a repetition of the Shī‘ī betrayal of 1258, in which the Shī‘a are believed to have brought in the invader. If Nuri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, has been called “the new Ibn al-‘Alqamī,” a new polemical term has been forged to describe the Shī‘ī community at large: the ‘alāqima, used throughout social media and in the press, establishing a link between past and present, and reinforcing the polarization of Sunnī and Shī‘ī historical memories .

A Public Reading in Arabic with Novelist Hoda Barakat (in arabic)

For more than two decades, acclaimed Leb-anese writer Hoda Barakat has pushed the boundaries of Arabic fiction. She is the au-thor of al-Hajar al-dahik (1990), Ahl al-hawa (1994), and Harith al-miyah (2001), novels which narrate the violence, resolve and beauty of modern Lebanese society in remarkably daring ways. She was awarded the prestigious al-Naqid Prize for her first novel and the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her third. Barakat will read from her latest novel, Malkut hadhihi al-ard and discuss her current work.

When: October 25th, 12:30 - 2:00 pm

Where: Mortara Center Conference Room

A Public Reading in Arabic by Hamdy El-Gazzar (in arabic)

Hamdy El-Gazzar is one of Egypt's leading writers and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He will be reading from his newest work, al-Halimun fi-thawra (The Revolution Dreamers).

When: October 15th, 5:00 - 6:30 pm

Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 241

Arabic Coffee Hour

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies invites you to join us every week to practice your Arabic, meet new friends, and enjoy a cup o’ joe!
Meet us every Thursday from 1-2pm in the department, located on the second floor Poulton Hall. Questions? Contact  Mike Raish (mr543@georgetown.edu) the Department (arabic@georgetown.edu)


Caitlin Attal & Ariana Marnicio Present their Senior Honors Theses

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2013 Senior Honors Thesis Presentations by 
Caitlin Attal
The Media War in Syria: A Battle for the Last Word
Ariana Marnicio
Muslim Women, Sex, and Lingerie: Her Private Side Made Public
Wednesday, April 17th, 12:30pm in Poulton 230

Maisa Khawaja Lecture in Arabic: وعي الذات و تناول المحرمات  في الرواية النسائية السعودية

Akiko M. Sumi Lecture - The Motif of the Mirror and Beauty

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies is pleased to present

The Motif of the Mirror and Beauty:
The Frame Tale of The 101 Nights and a Chinese Buddhist Tale from The Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo
A Lecture by Akiko M. Sumi
Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 12:00pm, in Poulton 230

Arabic Exceptionalism and the Dangers of Metonymic Thinking

Please join us for a lecture in memory of Wallace Erwin. This talk will be held on Tuesday, November 13, 3:00pm, in ICC 241.

Jonathan Owens (University of Bayreuth) presents the Wallace Erwin Memorial Lecture:

"Arabic Exceptionalism and the Dangers of Metonymic Thinking"

Jonathan Owens is a Professor of Arabic Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth in Bayreuth, Germany. between 2005-2008 he was Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Advanced Study of Language, University of Maryland. Starting his linguistics career with a SOAS PhD on Creole Arabic Nubi of East Africa, he has taught and conducted research at universities in Libya (Garyounis), Nigeria (Maiduguri), and Jordan (Yarmouk). His books include A Grammar of Libyan Arabic (Harrassowitz, 1984), A Short Reference Grammar of Nigerian Arabic (Harrassowitz, 1993), The Foundations of Grammar: an Introduction to Medieval Arabic Grammatical Theory (Benjamins, 1988), Arabic as a Minority Language (ed. Mouton, 2000), and A Linguistic History of Arabic (OUP, 2006/2009). He is currently editing The Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics.

Wallace M. Erwin (BA Princeton, MA and PhD Georgetown) was a distinguished scholar of Arabic linguistics, specializing in dialectology. He chaired the Arabic department at Georgetown for 17 years (1964-1981) and published two pioneering studies on Iraqi Arabic that are still unsurpassed: A Short Reference Grammar of Iraqi Arabic (1969) and Basic Course in Iraqi Arabic (1970) (both Georgetown University Press; both reprinted 2004). He regularly taught first and second year intensive Arabic, as well as graduate courses in Arabic structure and Arabic dialectology. In addition to his interests in diglossia, variation and dialectology, he was a co-author, along with Peter Abboud and Ernest McCarus, of the first audiolingual textbook series for teaching Modern Standard Arabic, Elementary Modern Standard Arabic (EMSA) (Cambridge University Press).

As chairman of the Arabic Department, Wally pioneered the development of the Arabic curriculum and teaching methodology at Georgetown to the point where the department led most other American universities in size, quality, and effectiveness at the undergraduate and graduate levels. His own approach to teaching was energetic, demanding, systematic, and yet deeply humanistic, making a lasting impression on his students. He served on the Executive Board of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic and was elected its president in 1972. He retired in 1986.

Poetry Reading with Ghassan Zaqtan & Fady Joudah

Like a Straw Bird it Follows Me
Bilingual Poetry Reading by Ghassan Zaqtan & Fady Joudah

Friday, October 19, 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Lannan Center (New North 408), Georgetown University

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice invite you to a reading of Palestinian poetry with Ghassan Zaqtan, one of the leading poets of the Arab world. Zaqtan will share his most recent collection of work, translated by Fady Joudah and moderated by Professor Dima Ayoub and Professor Mark McMorris.

In this inspired translation of Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, Ghassan Zaqtan's tenth and most recent poetry collection, Fady Joudah brings to English-language readers the best work by one of the most important and original Palestinian poets of our time. With these poems Zaqtan enters new terrain, illuminating the vision of what Arabic poetry in general, and Palestinian poetry in particular, are capable of. Departing from the lush aesthetics of such celebrated predecessors as Mahmoud Darwish and Adonis, Zaqtan's daily, delicate narrative, whirling catalog, and at times austere aesthetics represent a new trajectory, a significant leap for young Arabic poets today.

"Ghassan Zaqtan's poems, in their constant unfolding invite us to enter them, exit them, map and un-map them, code and decode them, fill them up and empty them, with the living and non-living, the animate and inanimate, towards a true freedom."

Ghassan Zaqtan is a Palestinian poet and author of ten collections of poetry. He is also a novelist, editor, and filmmaker. He was born in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and has lived in Jordan, Beirut, Damascus, and Tunis. He returned to Palestine in 1994 and now lives in Ramallah.

Fady Joudah is an award-winning poet and translator. Among his translations are two poetry collections by Mahmoud Darwish, If I Were Another and The Butterfly's Burden.
For more information, please see the Lannan Center website.


Arabic Coffee Hour

The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies invites you to join us every week to practice your Arabic, meet new friends, and enjoy a cup o’ joe!
Meet us every Wednesday from 6-7pm in the Midnight MUG, located on the second floor of Lauinger Library.Questions? Contact Ms. Jordan Daniels (jbd38@georgetown.edu) or the Department (arabic@georgetown.edu)

Dissertation Defense of Gary Boutz

Please join us on Tuesday, December 6 at 1:00pm in ICC 462 for the dissertation defense of Gary Boutz, PhD Candidate in Arabic.
Title: "Generic Cues and Generic Features in Arabic Science Fiction: The Novels of Kassem Kassem"
Abstract/Summary: Is Arabic science fiction similar to the kind of science fiction with which a reader of English-language science fiction, a watcher of English-language science fiction films, or viewer of English-language science fiction television programs is familiar, or is Arabic science fiction something else entirely? This dissertation constructs a model of the science fiction genre as it has evolved in the English language using prototype theory and the three structural dimensions of genre proposed by John Frow in Genre (2005): formal organization, thematic content, and rhetorical structure. Formal organization includes the use of deixis and pulpstyle features; thematic content addresses the iconography of science fiction, including the icons of the spaceship, the alien, the transformed human, and the robot; and rhetorical structure includes the four features of alternativity, plausibility, extrapolation, and a relationship to science. Five Arabic-language novels that identify themselves as science fiction are chosen for examination based on paratextual criteria: al-rihla (1991), la‘anat al-ghuyum (1993), hadatha an ra’á (1995), lamasat al-daw’ (2001), and jasad harr (2004). The model of the science fiction genre is used to examine these five novels, written by Kassem Kassem, a Lebanese author. It is determined that each of the five novels exhibits features of prototypical science fiction. The implications of the presence of these features for science fiction studies and avenues for further research are discussed.

Arabic-Language Jeopardy! Night

Join us for a weekly showing of the Arabic-language version of Jeopardy!, produced by MBC. Weekly showings will be every Thursday evening at 6:20pm in ICC 207A. Students of all levels are welcome, as the format in which trivia questions in Jeopardy! are presented means that there will be something for all!
Please contact Michael Raish (mr543) with any questions and we look forward to seeing you there!

Arabic Coffee Hour

Just in time for Proficiency Exams and finals, we have finally resumed our Arabic Coffee Hours beginning next Monday, 19 March from 4-5pm in Midnight MUG on the second floor of Lauinger Library. Sarah Sealock (ses223) has kindly offered to host this event which is scheduled to take place every Monday at this time. We hope you will join your friends and colleagues for a free cup of coffee or tea to practice your Arabic as we head toward finals! 

Fady Joudah: Poetry Reading and Book Signing

Join us for a poetry reading and book signing of Like a Straw Bird it Follows Me with esteemed poet Fady Joudah followed by a Q&A with the author and reception.
This event will be in Arabic with an English translation.
Date: 12 April 2012
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: ICC 241 (CCAS Boardroom)

Spring 2012 Dissertation Defenses

 Please join us on Friday, April 20th, 2012 for the dissertation defenses of Gergana Atanassova, PhD candidate in Arabic, Rebecca Hernandez, PhD candidate in Arabic, and Younus Mirza, PhD candidate in Islamic Studies. All defenses will be held in Poulton 230 at the corner of 37th and P Streets. 
Candidate: Gergana Atanassova, Arabic
Time: 10:00 am
Title: "Beginning and advanced learners' awareness of corrective feedback in the Arabic foreign language classroom"
Advisor: Dr. Kassem Wahba
Abstract: Corrective feedback as part of conversational interaction has been shown to facilitate language development (Li, 2010; Russel & Spada, 2006), but learners differ in the extent to which they benefit from it.Awareness is one cognitive process that has been proposed to play a supportive(Gass, 1997; Schmidt, 2009) to essential (Carroll, 2001) role in moderating feedback effectiveness. Language proficiency has also been suggested to influence the way learners engage with feedback (Ammar & Spada, 2006; Philp, 2003). However,the relationship between proficiency and awareness of feedback during classroom interaction has not yet been empirically addressed.
In this study, five intact Arabic classes – four beginning and one advanced – were observed and videotaped during unscripted whole-class conversational activities. Volunteers from each class (26 beginners, 5 advanced) then participated in a stimulated recall interview in order to gauge their awareness of the target and corrective intent of classroom feedback. The interview protocols were coded for presence or absence of awareness, and analyzed in relation to three characteristics of the feedback episode to which they were referring:type, linguistic target, and direction. Qualitative thematic analysis of the protocols was used to identify additional factors in learners’ awareness of feedback.
Advanced learners reported awareness of correction 79% and awareness of target 41% of the time, significantly more frequently than beginners (54%and 27%, respectively). None of the feedback characteristics investigated in the study was significantly associated with advanced learners’ awareness, but all three were significantly associated with beginning learners’ awareness. Thematic analysis of interview protocols showed that learner awareness was additionally influenced by the presence of new information in the episode, affective response to the feedback or its addressee, and external factors such as fatigue. The findings highlight the role of proficiency in feedback awareness and suggest a need for further exploration of the influence of affect on learner engagement with feedback.
Candidate: Rebecca Hernandez, Arabic
Time: 12:00 pm
Title: "Framing The Jurist: The Legal Persona of Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti"
Dr. Felicitas Opwis
Abstract: This research looks at attempts by the Egyptian polymath Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505) to frame his authority as a jurist in his legal writings. The research aims to access the multi-faceted legal persona that the author constructs through his use of the written word. I suggest that al-Suyuti seeks to assert his authority as a superior scholar at a time in which claims to practice independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) were often met with hostility by members of the scholarly community.
Each chapter is intended to analyze in detail a different aspect of al-Suyuti’s legal persona as well as a different rhetorical strategy that the author uses to establish, defend, and maintain his authority. The texts examined as case studies include: a legal opinion (fatwa) concerning scholarly stipends funded by ‘public’ endowments, a fatwa condemning the study of logic, independent treatises and sections of the author’s autobiography dealing with the concepts of ijtihad and tajdid (religious renewal), and a book on legal precepts (qawa‘id).
I assume that the author’s choice of form and genre is deliberate and that his use of language speaks to his pragmatic goals. In order to claim the rank of mujtahid (jurist capable of independent reasoning) and mujaddid (renewer of religion), al-Suyuti must speak and act as such. To understand how al-Suyuti uses language to accomplish these goals, I incorporate into my analysis theories and methodological tools from the realm of sociolinguistics, including framing techniques, interdiscursivity, communities of practice, critical discourse analysis, and pragmatics. Sociolinguistic theories are a valuable means with which to understand not only what the author wishes to convey but also how he says it and why he chooses to say it in the way that he does.
Finally, this research allows me to evaluate, to some degree, the relative effectiveness of al-Suyuti’s efforts to frame his persona as a jurist and to negotiate this identity in the world through practice. I conclude that, while al-Suyuti’s framing effort may have failed to convince most of his contemporaries, he is vindicated by the continuing legacy of his works.
Candidate: Younus Mirza, Islamic Studies
Time: 3:00 pm
Title: "Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) - His Intellectual Circle, Major Works, and Qur’anic Exegesis"
Advisor: Dr. Felicitas Opwis
Abstract: My dissertation focuses on one of the most popular medieval Muslim figures in modern times, Ibn Kathir. My thesis argues that Ibn Kathir’s work reflects a critical theological struggle in the history of Islam between those who emphasized the original sources of the Qur’an and prophetic practice (traditionalists) and those who insisted on the incorporation of scholastic theology and the accumulated experience of the community (Ash‘aris). Previous scholarship considers Ibn Kathir simply a student of the great traditionalist jurist and theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328). Ibn Taymiyya was the symbolic leader of the traditionalist movement and was imprisoned multiple times because of his attempts to challenge the established Ash‘ari social order. Ibn Kathir’s ardent support of Ibn Taymiyya led many Arabic biographers to subsume Ibn Kathir under the hagiography of Ibn Taymiyya. Modern Western scholarship builds off the Arabic biographical literature to the point that Ibn Kathir is perceived as the mere “spokesperson” for Ibn Taymiyya and his Qur’anic exegesis a simple implementation of Ibn Taymiyya’s Qur’anic hermeneutic. Yet, through examining Ibn Kathir’s intellectual circle, major works, and Qur’anic exegesis, this dissertation demonstrates that Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Kathir represent two different types of traditionalism. Ibn Taymiyya believed in an intellectualized traditionalism which delved deeply into philosophy and scholastic theology to argue for scripture’s rationality. Ibn Kathir, on the other hand, subscribed to a fideist traditionalism which was content with the superiority of the transmitted sources and the use of rational tools to analyze scripture. Ibn Kathir’s Qur’anic exegesis, his most famous work, was thus less a product of Ibn Taymiyya than that of his fideist traditionalism and his attempt to respond to the dominant Ash‘arism.


Arabic Coffee Hour

Starting Monday, September 13
Students are invited to join us every Monday to practice your Arabic, meet new friends, and enjoy a cup o’ joe!
Date: Every Monday
Time: 12:30-1:30pm
Location: ICC 462 (one floor above MUG)
Questions? Contact the department at arabic@georgetown.edu

Persian Coffee Hour

Students are invited to join us every week to practice your Persian, meet new friends, and enjoy a cup o’ joe!
Date: Every Thursday
Time: 9-11am
Location: ICC 450
Questions? Contact the department at arabic@georgetown.edu

April Hebrew Proficiency Exam

This exam will take place on Monday, April 4, 2011 in Gervase 420 at 9:15am. The deadline to register is Monday, March 14, 2010. Please send an email to Carolyn Reed with your name and GUID.
Students are required to complete three years of Hebrew in the university level before taking the exam. The Exam is offered in November and April. The format of the exam for BSFS and MSFS students includes an oral interview of 30-40 minutes and a reading comprehension text that would be provided to students 15 minutes before the beginning of the exam. In order to pass the exam, students are expected to perform at the minimum level of Advanced Low, in accordance with ACTFL guidelines.

North African Film Festival, Smithsonian Museum of African Arts

Admission is free!

Persian Film Festival, Freer Sackler Museum of Asian Art

Admission is free and seats are first come, first serve.

Dynamics of Islamic Public Opinion in Turkey

Our very own Judd King, PhD student in Islamic Studies, will be speaking about public opinion in Turkey on Thursday, March 3 at 12pm.
The rise of political movements centered around Islamic identity has proven to be one of the most complex challenges analytically and in terms of policymaking. The "public opinion" dimension of the issue is critical to the success as well as failure of "Islamist" political projects. In the case of Turkey, the "hidden agenda" argument about the ruling center-right AK Party in Turkey implies that the conservative public opinion can be reduced to "religious" references. Is conservative public opinion shaped solely by Islam? What are the basic dynamics of the relationship between conservative public opinion and Islam in Turkey? How can we determine the set of "moral values" at work and do these values necessarily derive from Islam?