Fall 2018 CCAS Newsmagazine

Page 1

CCAS Center for Contemporary Arab Studies

Georgetown University




Fall 2018

DIRECTOR’S NOTE Rochelle A. Davis


ulture and the arts—the

theme of this season’s newsmagazine—have long been important areas of academic inquiry at CCAS. This issue showcases culture and arts that are part of our faculty teaching, alumni accomplishments, public events, and rich education-outreach programming. One of the academic concentrations for students in our Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program is Culture and Society, and CCAS offers several courses in these areas, including “Prison Literature,” “Media in the Arab World,” “Contemporary Arab Society,” and—new for 2019—“Oral History and Documentary Filmmaking” (taught by Joan Mandell in Spring 2019) and “Art and Politics in the Arab World” (taught by Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi in Fall 2019). CCAS courses are complimented by the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies courses, such as “Revolutionary Culture” and “Arab Theater.” For those outside of the Georgetown community, know that we are actively engaged in bringing our expertise to you. Our productive collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler allows us to offer workshops for teachers and the public, held regularly in the museums. Much of this work is made possible through a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which has named CCAS a National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa, and which also funds students through Foreign Language Area Studies scholarships. As part of this new grant-cycle, we are forming a Speakers’ Bureau and will travel around the country to offer lectures and workshops for all ages and knowledge levels. Please reach out to us if this is of interest to you. In addition, throughout 2019-2020, we are looking forward to celebrating 40 years of our MA in Arab Studies

degree and 45 years of CCAS’ existence. It was most fitting that this year’s Kareema Khoury Distinguished Lecture allowed us to honor the Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata, whose logo design from 40 years ago continues to be a proud part of CCAS today. We have created this special version of the CCAS logo to mark a series of celebrations surrounding our “40-45” anniversary, which we will launch on May 4, 2019 with a MAAS-ive alumni event at Georgetown. Zaghruuuuta!



The CCAS Newsmagazine is published twice a year by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, a component of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Core Faculty

Rochelle A. Davis Associate Professor; Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Fida J. Adely Associate Professor; Director, Master of Arts in Arab Studies Program Clovis and Hala Salaam Maksoud Chair in Arab Studies Osama W. Abi-Mershed Associate Professor Marwa Daoudy Assistant Professor Daniel Neep Assistant Professor Joseph Sassoon Associate Professor and Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah Chair Judith Tucker Professor

Affiliated Faculty

Mustafa Aksakal Associate Professor Mohammad AlAhmad Assistant Teaching Professor Belkacem Baccouche Assistant Teaching Professor Bassam Haddad Adjunct Professor and ASJ Editor Yvonne Y. Haddad Professor, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding Noureddine Jebnoun Adjunct Associate Professor Suzanne Stetkevych Sultan Qaboos bin Said Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies; Chair, Arabic & Islamic Studies Department


An online version of this newsletter is available at: http://ccas.gerogetown.edu

Dana Al Dairani Assistant Director Susan Douglass K-14 Education Outreach Coordinator Kelli Harris Assistant Director of Academic Programs Vicki Valosik Multimedia & Publications Editor Brenda Bickett Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Bibliographer, Lauinger Library

CCAS Newsmagazine Editor-in-Chief Vicki Valosik Design Adriana Cordero

Special thanks to Isabel Roemer for her help with this issue


Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Welcome to the CLASS OF 2020!

ً‫أهالً و سهال‬ ً‫أهالً و سهال‬ ً‫أهالً و سهال‬

In This Issue 8 Faculty Feature Literature Born of Captivity How the writings of prisoners in the Arab world go beyond documenting abuses to call for resistance and hope SPECIAL FEATURE

Alumni in the Arts

10 Reshaping Dominant Narratives Through Film 11 Bridging Political Engagement and the Arts 11 For the Love of Music 12 Quilting the Arabesque 13 Preserving a Genre Under Duress

This fall, CCAS welcomed an incoming cohort of 31 stellar students, the largest MAAS class in more than a decade.

About the cover art: “Unfinished Journeys”

11-color silkscreen created with Navigation Press at George Mason University


4 Faculty News

5 Center News Beyond the Classroom: “Lab” in Jordan puts theory into practice

“I began painting these little children’s shoes in the summer of 2015. My concept was to bring attention to the plight of the youngest victims of war, to show these bright, colorful shoes that embodied the beauty and innocence of young children, many of whom lost their lives, their childhoods, crossing borders, fleeing their ravaged villages. I had 22 little shoes painted when the three-year-old body of Aylan Kurdi washed ashore in Turkey. My silkscreen called “Unfinished Journeys” was about the dreams and hopes of these children, dreams that would never come to pass, journeys never taken.”

16 MAAS on the Move News from our alums

—Artist Helen Zughaib (Read a Q&A with Zughaib on page 22)

23 Donor Profile: A. Joseph Howar A Place to Gather



Vicki Valosik, Helen Zughaib

14 Saudi Arabia’s Artists of Change

his issue of the CCAS Newsmagazine, themed around arts and culture in the Arab world, includes a feature article by CCAS Teaching Professor Dr. Mohammad AlAhmad on how the writings of prisoners serve dual roles as documentary literature and instruments of resistance. MAAS alum Sean Foley writes about Saudi Arabia’s artists of change, the subject of his forthcoming book. You’ll also find interviews with two prominent artists—Kamal Boullata and Helen Zughaib—who recently spoke

Public Events 18 Reading the Arabesque with Kamal Boullata 20 Travel Bands 21 Education Outreach Ikat: New Fashions, Ancient Techniques Film Project: The Sultan & the Saint 22 Q&A with…. Featured Artist: Helen Zughaib 24 Dispatches A Day in the Life of Beirut’s Cultural Attaché NEW SECTION

at CCAS and were kind enough to share their work in this issue. The section “Alums in the Arts” spotlights several MAAS grads whose professional or personal passions touch on both the arts and the Arab world—including three award-winning filmmakers, a volunteer “impresario” who has helped bring dozens of Arab musicians to Washington audiences, a master quiltmaker who takes his inspiration from ancient Islamic designs, and the founder of the world’s largest archive of posters on Palestine. For the back page “dispatch,” we check in with MAAS alum Kristin Smith

about her work as Cultural Affairs Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. You’ll also find updates from faculty and staff on the many activities at CCAS, including announcements about the CCAS Title VI award and the new CCAS Assistant Director, along with an article about a development class that put theory into practice during a “lab” component in Jordan. We hope you enjoy the issue. Vicki Valosik, Editor

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


FACULTY NEWS In September, Associate Professor and MAAS Academic Director Fida Adely gave a presentation at CCAS with Prof. Betty Anderson of Boston University on their collaborative field-research project, “Mapping Amman, Jordan: Living and Moving in a 21st Century City.” Dr. Adely has also given talks this fall at the University of Oslo, Yale University, and the University of Minnesota on the topics of women’s labor migration, gender and relationships, and childhood education, respectively. Her article “Getting in and Getting Through: Navigating Higher Education in Jordan,” which she co-authored with MAAS alums Afaf Al-Khoshman and Angela Haddad, was recently accepted by the journal Comparative Education Review. Assistant Professor Marwa Daoudy was selected as a 2018-2020 Mortara Faculty by the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown. She is also currently serving on the Academic Advisory Board for the Arab Center Washington. Dr. Daoudy is completing her book manuscript, Origins of the Syrian Conflict: Climate and Human

Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬

Security, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press.

publication in a forthcoming volume with Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬

Associate Professor and CCAS Director Rochelle Davis is working on a number of research projects around displacement in the MENA region, including a project with Professor Emeritus Susan Martin, and MAAS grads Grace Benton and Zoya Waliany, on international responsibility-sharing for refugees, which was published by the World Bank KNOMAD project. As part of her work with the International Organization for Migration’s longitudinal study of 4000 Iraqi households, Dr. Davis published two articles with colleagues and GU students: “Iraqi IDPs Access to Durable Solutions: Results of Two Rounds of a Longitudinal Study” in International Migration and “Home After ISIS: A Study of Return as a Durable Solution in Iraq” in the Journal of Peacebuilding & Development. Adjunct Assistant Professor Noureddine Jebnoun’s paper, “Civilian Control and Military Effectiveness in Tunisia: Patterns and Implications,” was accepted for

Associate Professor Joseph Sassoon received a fellowship from the Katz Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is spending the fall semester writing his book The Global Merchants: The World of the Sassoons. This fall, Dr. Sassoon has given talks about his research at Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania.

Board Member Profile


Professor Judith Tucker co-authored an op-ed published in the Washington Post about gender reforms in Saudi Arabia. She also published the chapter “Arab Families and Islamic Law,” in Arab Family Studies: Critical Reviews (Syracuse University Press, 2018) and the article “Essential Readings: Women’s and Gender History in the Early Modern/ Modern Middle East,” for the Mid­​ dle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (Tadween Publishers, 2018). She delivered the Presidential Address at the 2018 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Conference.

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬

Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬

Education Outreach ‫لتثقيف التربوي‬ CCAS Welcomes 2018-2019 Visiting Fellows Alienor Van den Bosch Qatar Post-Doctoral Fellow

Graham Pitts American Druze Foundation (ADF) Fellow

In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬ Dr. Graham Pitts earned both his MA and PhD from Georgetown University’s History Department and his BA from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. As ADF Fellow at CCAS, he is exploring the environmental history of the Druze from the late Ottoman period until the present. During the spring semester, he will teach “Sectarianism in the Middle East.”

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬


Vicki Valosik, Graham Pitts

Dr. Van den Bosch holds an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown and a PhD in Politics from Princeton University. During her Qatar Post-Doctoral Fellowship, she is furthering her research on the effect of non-state elite groups on government spending patterns and the role of oil in shaping political survival strategies for authoritarian regimes. Dr. Van den Bosch will also teach the course “Oil and Politics” during the spring semester.

Faculty Research: ‫حاث هيئة التدريس‬

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Center News ‫أخبار المركز‬


MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬

CCAS Named a National Resource Center by Department of Education

Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬

Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬ Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬

We are proud to announce that CCAS has been awarded a 1.9 million dollar grant to be a National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa (NRC-MENA) through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program. This 4-year grant supports our wide range of K-14 education outreach and public programming, and the teaching of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew. CCAS was also awarded the Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) grant to support student scholarships and language study.

Board Member Profile

‫خاص من المجلس األ‬

Since 1997, CCAS has formed the core of Georgetown University’s NRC-MENA, and we look forward to continuing to serve our local community—through engaging lectures, workshops, film screenings, cultural events, and summer institutes—and beyond with online videos and podcasts of our programming! Check our website for details.

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬ Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬ Education Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬ In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬ Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬ Students in CCAS Visiting Professor Jeffrey Ghannam’s fall-semester class “Media and the Arab World” visited the Al Jazeera office in Washington, D.C., Research: where they met with Bureau Cheif Abderrahim Faculty ‫التدريس‬ ‫أبحاث هيئة‬ Foukara, watched a live broadcast, and toured the studios. Pictured (left to right): MAAS students Stuart Foster, Minatullah Alobaidi, Eliza Campbell and Lennon Jones with Ghannam


‫تعميم الت‬ MAAS alum named

CCAS Assistant Director

Jeffrey Ghannam, CCAS


‫خاص من المجلس األستشاري‬

CCAS is pleased to announce that Dana Al Dairani has joined the center as CCAS Assistant Director. Dana holds a BA in English Literature from Damascus University and an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown. She brings to her position more than 14 years of professional experience in the field of educational development in the Arab world, with a focus on youth empowerment through learning and education, community engagement, and refugee integration into host communities. During her studies at Georgetown, Ms. Al Dairani was a Kuwait America Foundation Fellow. She was also a 2014 John Smith Trust Rule of Law Fellow, and a recipient of the 2015 World of Difference Award from the International Alliance for Women.

Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬ Congratulations to CCAS Education Outreach Coordinator Dr. Susan Douglass, who received the 2018 Miami Dade County (Florida) Social Studies Council’s “Paul Hanson Social Studies Award” for her dedication to the social studies community. Dr. Douglass graduated from the MAAS program in 1993. This fall, CCAS Multimedia and Publications Editor Vicki Valosik designed and taught a new class for the School of Foreign Service, “Fundamentals of Writing for Graduate Students,” which she will teach again in the spring. Vicki previously taught the Master of Arts in Arab Studies Thesis Writing Colloquium for three years.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


Center News ‫أخبار المركز‬


MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬

Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬

“Lab” class in Jordan helps students Staff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬ put theory into practice. By Samar Saeed

Board Member Profile

‫خاص من المجلس األستشاري‬

Dispatches ‫برقيات‬ Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬ Education Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬ In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬ Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Faculty Research: ‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬


Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬


chised groups through education and grassroots organizing. According to Adely, the value of the Jordanian lab component was made clear in the student projects and discussions that followed the trip, when students had a chance to contextual their experience in relation to the theoretical frameworks they had been studying. “The opportunity to go to the region and hear firsthand from local actors about the ways in which they were trying to meet the needs of their communities was invaluable and complemented the learning in our semester-long class.” She added that the “site visits enabled students to see and hear first-hand about the challenges of aid dependency and of protracted displacement for stateless Palestinians expelled from Gaza in 1967, and the educational needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as displaced Somalis and Sudanese.” Layla Najjar, a senior in the SFS, found that seeing the ways in which displacement and development are being addressed in the Arab world gave her a new perspective on these issues. She hopes that all SFS students could have similar opportunities because “student interactions with the Arab world cannot occur solely through the medium of Arabic courses and government internships,” said Najjar.

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

April, CCAS Professors Fida Adely and Rochelle Davis led a group of fourteen undergraduate students to Jordan for eight days to explore local and community-based approaches to development in the Middle East. The trip was a component of the semester-long class titled “Development and Displacement in the Arab World” that Adely and Davis designed and co-taught as part of the School of Foreign Service’s Centennial Labs—experiential classes built around an issue, idea, or challenge in a community. The first few weeks of class laid the theoretical foundation for understanding displacement and development. The “lab” component in Jordan enabled students to examine these theories within a practical context and explore the impact and consequences of developmental programs on both refugees and host communities. While in Jordan, students visited organizations representing community-based and state-led development initiatives from the agricultural, economic, educational, and civic-engagement sectors. These included the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature; the One Love campaign based in Gaza Camp; 7iber, an independent online news platform; and Ruwwad, a community development project that works with disenfranhis

Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

Opposite: In Al-Baydha before the start of a 17-km hike into Petra; Clockwise from top left: At the Archaeological Park in Madaba, where students learned about tourism development; Students Ana Madero, Aly Panjwani, Cassidy Casteiger, and Maria Victoria Silva exploring Petra; The group had dinner with MAAS alum Timothy Loh at the Art Hotel in Amman. Pictured here: Anya Bharadwaj, Shifaa Alsairfai and Maria Victoria Silva with Loh.

“Only by examining the interplay of culture, society, and communitybased development in a non-academic setting can sweeping changes in policy—whether in the Arab world or the U.S.—be made.” This idea was echoed by Lauren Stricker, also a senior at the SFS. She found that concepts from class began to “click” during the trip. “Listening to an Iraqi refugee discuss her reasons for keeping her children out of school caused me to reevaluate the assumptions I had about the relationship between displacement and education. I used to believe that poor schooling was undeniably better than no schooling. Refugees deserve to make choices about their lives and livelihoods as much as any other human beings, but too often expectations and structure constrain these choices.” Stricker added that the trip also encouraged her to think about the impact of studying and pursuing careers in the region: “Reflecting on the best ways to use our skills and knowledge without taking the place or voice of someone better suited is crucial to finding the most meaningful and impactful ways to work in the Arab world.” Both the students and professors viewed the trip as a great success, despite the wind storm in Washington D.C. that delayed their arrival to Amman. “The people we met with were frank—discussing organi-

zational and political challenges openly—and very welcoming,” said Adely. “We had a fantastic tour guide who (unaccustomed to such tour groups) sat and learned with us on these site visits. He was a wealth of knowledge about the history and archeology of the country.” She added that “the students were fabulous—flexible, respectful and engaged. They were also a lot of fun!” CCAS welcomes such experiential classes as part of its core mission for students to understand the language, as well as the socio-economic, cultural, and political situation in the Arab world. Trips such as this offer a way for them to gain new kinds of knowledge—not only through meeting with officials and international organizations, but also by engaging in conversations directly with the people most impacted by international and national policies, and listening to their stories. This communication is key to preparing students—our future leaders—to make sound judgements and informed decisions.  Samar Saeed is a second-year student in the Master of Arts in Arab Studies program at Georgetown. She accompanied Professors Davis and Adely and their students on the trip to Jordan.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬

Literature Born of Captivity

CCAS Professor Mohammad AlAhmad discusses how Arab prison literature goes beyond documenting the prison experience to serve as an instrument of resistance and to hold readers accountable for their silence. By Mohammad AlAhmad Translated by Dana Al Dairani “Freedom” by Mohammad Sabaaneh Mohammad Sabaaneh is a Palestinian cartoonist living in Ramallah in the West Bank. Many of his works depict the experiences of Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israel. He is the principal political cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority’s daily newspaper, and has recently published a collection of his illustrations in his first book White & Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine (Just World Books, 2018).

L 8

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Mohammad Sabaaneh

iterature written by prisoners can be found dating back to 16th-century England and even to ancient Greece, but over the past few decades, the cannon of literature by prisoners in the Arab world specifically has been growing. This category of writing, known as “prison literature,” includes not only texts written by prisoners during their time in jail or after their release, but also the work of writers who were never imprisoned themselves but write about the prison experiences of others, whether fictional or based on interviews. These works are important because they chronicle periods of authoritarian rule in which repression and torture have been used to maintain power, and can also serve as instruments of resistance and expressions of hope for a better future. Although prison literature includes works from different genres— poetry, novels, plays, short stories, biographies, and memoirs—the content, purpose of writing, and themes of the stories vary more so according to the historical, social, political and cultural contexts of the prison systems from which they emerge. For example, prisons in the Arab world, where regimes are authoritarian and military-controlled are different from Western prisons under democratic governments. In his book, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison, Michel Foucault

discusses the historical development of Western prisons and their evolution from delivering brutal, physical punishment to a “softer” kind of torture—the confiscation of personal freedoms. Meanwhile, in the Arab world, the more brutal elements of psychological torture and physical punishment still exist alongside the near-complete confiscation of personal freedoms. In the Arab world, there are two kinds of prisons: state prisons and prisons run by security apparatus. The former are governed by state authorities, must abide by set regulations for admitting prisoners, and are subject to supervision by international human-rights authorities. The latter, in contrast, are linked to the security apparatus of the regime in power and exist to arrest, torture, and kill regime opponents. These prisons fall under the mandate of state security courts and military tribunals, cloaking them with a false appearance of legitimacy. They are often built in remote areas like deserts; examples of these include Nuqrit al-Salman prison in Iraq, Tadmur prison in Syria, the Wahhat prison in Egypt, and Tizmamart prison in Morocco. Since the majority of detainees in security prisons in the Arab world are intellectuals who have been active in opposing the ruling regime, many literary books, such as novels, memoirs, biographies, diaries, and poetry, have emerged about their experiences of detention and torture. Some of these authors were writers before their imprisonment, while others developed literary talents during their imprisonment. In the contemporary Arab context, works of prison literature are of

multidimensional value. First, they are important historical and political documents that record and expose the practices of authoritarian regimes and call for resistance, change, and respect for human rights. Second, many of these works have great literary value. However, they range in artistic quality, from basic to mature, and often emerge from a desire to document or create an emotional response in readers. Yet despite their variance in artistic quality, similar themes run across the majority of these works, the most important of which are torture, resistance to power, the fight against madness, and personal struggles around memory and obliviousness. Third, prison literature offers a lens through which scholars of social and human sciences, such as political sociology, anthropology, or psychology can better understand aspects of the contemporary Arab world. It is particularly useful for psychologists studying the effects of psychological and physical torture in cultures that don’t typically acknowledge or discuss what happens behind prison walls—especially sexual violations—preferring to expose these abuses through literature. Dozens of literary works have emerged over the past two decades with a particular focus on the experiences of those detained in the Syrian desert prison Palmyra between the late 1970s and the end of the 1990s under Hafez al-Assad’s oppressive regime. These writings document the detention, torture and murder of the regime’s political opponents. Perhaps the most famous and widely-read work about Palmyra is The Shell by ​​Mustafa Khalifa, a former Syrian political prisoner who was detained from 1979 to 1994, first in Palmyra and then in Sednaya prison, because of his membership in the anti-regime Communist Action League. His novel’s popularity is due not so much to its artistic value—it favors a direct reporting style over modern narrative techniques such as pluralism of meaning and points of view and the poetics of time—but rather, due to its content and timing. The Shell was published in 2008, only three years before the beginning of the Syrian revolution, which led to increased interest in literature opposing the al-Assad regime, both within the country and beyond. The Shell was translated into English in 2016, which greatly expanded its readership. The novel depicts the story of a young, Christian Syrian man who is arrested upon returning home from France, where he had completed his education in cinematic production. The protagonist is detained and tortured in Tadmur prison for 12 years before being transferred to a prison in Damascus, where he spends an additional year—all because of a joke he told one evening that ridiculed Hafiz al-Assad. The joke was heard by an informant who reported the protagonist to the security authorities in Damascus. In Tadmur prison, the aspiring cinematic director is kept in a cell designated for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, where he suffers from isolation and alienation for many years because of the secular and atheistic views to which he admitted during interrogation. Khalifa maintained in more than one interview that The Shell tells the story of a friend, not his own. However, he did make use of what he called a “synthesis” of character, combining experiences from his own imprisonment with stories from other prisoners. In comparing Khalifa’s novel with other literature and testimonies about Palmyra prison, it appears to be objective and close to factually accurate, preserving historical events that unfolded in Palmyra during that time period while changing only people’s names.

Khalifa charges his narrative with images and emotions to induce sympathy toward his characters and to foster an awareness in the reader to what happened, and is still happening, in the prisons of the al-Assad regime. For this reason, Khalifa, like many authors of prison literature, deliberately describes the details of the physical and psychological torture practiced by prison authorities against regime opponents. He also attempts to dive into the inner worlds of the prisoners and reveal their more individual human suffering. In The Shell, he does this by showing the isolation that the protagonist experiences, first in prison because of his religious beliefs, and again after his release when he is unable to integrate back into the larger community that has become submissive to the repressive regime. In his writing, Khalifa tries to undermine the discourse presenting al-Assad as a national hero and the builder of modern Syria who worked to spread popular democracy. In his writing, Khalifa tackles issues related to changing social values, the abduction of one’s will, confiscation of freedoms, abolition of political action, control of wealth and people’s livelihoods, and the spread of moral and governmental corruption, as well as the importance of the media and education. The author seems to be desperate for the Syrian people to act and to influence the political and social realities of the country. Prison literature in the Arab world carries a mission. It not only exposes the true nature of authoritarian regimes, but also seeks to shame them both locally and internationally and to dismantle their false rhetoric about democracy, human rights, freedom and modernization. Above all, these literary works speak to readers in direct and explicit ways that can sometimes be painful, making them aware of the horrors taking place in these prisons and holding them accountable for their silence.  Dr. Mohammad AlAhmad is Assistant Teaching Professor at CCAS. Among other classes, he teaches the popular Arabic-content course “Prison Literature.”


If you are interested in reading prison literature from the Arab world, here are a few books by Syrian authors to get you started:

• The Shell, a novel by ​​Mustafa Khalifa • The Scent of the Heavy Step, a collection of short stories by Ibrahim Samuel

• The Banana Fingers, a collection of short stories by Ghassan al-Jiba’i

� The Betrayal of Language and Silence: My Alienation in the Jails of the Syrian Intelligence, a book of poems by Faraj Bayrakdar

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


ALUMNI IN THE ARTS Reshaping Dominant Narratives through Film Three MAAS grads share how careers in documentary filmmaking have enabled them to give voice to untold stories and reshape dominant narratives. By Isabel Roemer


Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program equips students to work in a range of fields after leaving Georgetown, including—as this issue demonstrates—those that promote cultural understanding through artistic lenses. These three MAAS grads have chosen filmmaking as a means to inform and inspire, and each have gained international recognition for their talent at telling stories on the big screen. he

Mahasen Nasser-Eldin (‘01), an independent film-

“These phenomenal elders are trusting me with their most sensitive and painful memories, but they’re hungry to have their stories heard. And I have the weighty responsibility of holding, then communicating all of this information.” Unbowed has received a fellowship from the Tribeca Film Institute and was jury-selected by the Palestine Film Institute for the 2018 Cannes Producers Network. Khader says her natural love of storytelling was informed by her work at MAAS on the Palestine Poster Project (see page 13), which revealed new possibilities about nontraditional ways to document people’s histories, particularly those of Palestinians. “I want to upend the false narratives about Palestine and the Palestinians, and for my people to see and recognize themselves in honest, excellent, futuristic stories.”

10 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University


maker and lecturer based in Jerusalem, Palestine, specializes in reconstructing historical narratives using audio and visual archives. Her carefully-researched documentaries tell stories of resistance, resilience, and empowerment, and have been screened at both local and international film festivals. Nasser-Eldin won the 2017 Ramallah Doc Pitch Dorothée Kellou (‘12), an award-winning journalist for her film We Carve Words in the Earth, which folbased in France, is newer to the world of film, but lows the Palestinian women’s movement before the since beginning work on her documentary tempo1948 Nakba. Having recently been awarded a grant rarily titled Out of Place, she has received grants from from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Nasserthe Center of National Cinematography in Paris, the Eldin is currently building on the work of her latest Arab Fund For Arts and Culture in Beirut, and Indocumentary, Restored Pictures, about an important ternational Media Support in Copenhagen. Kellou’s female Palestinian photographer of the early 20th film tracks her journey with her father to the Algecentury. She holds an MA in filmmaking from rian village where he was raised but had not returned Goldsmiths College in London in addition to her for fifty years, shedding light on the wounds caused MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown. by France’s forced resettlement of rural Algeria. “Being a creative practitioner in documentary “I could never understand why he hadn’t tried to film has deepened my understanding of how film pass on his Algerian heritage,” says Kellou. “It’s as is able to revive meanings of the past within colo- From top: Mahasen Nasserif he had forgotten a part of himself.” Then, when Eldin; Nehad Khader; Dorothée nized societies where local narratives have been lost Kellou was 25, her father—a filmmaker himself— Kellou and abandoned by dominant histories,” says Nassgave her the script for a film he’d never shot called er-Eldin. “Film has the potential to capture representations of history Letter to My Daughters. “The storyline opened my eyes to his upbringthat respond to local, on-the-ground needs for cultural expression ing. He had grown up in the shadow of barbed wire, in a village placed that locates lost knowledge and can lead to reflections on how the past under French military surveillance.” is constructed and represented with a lens relevant to present times.” Kellou’s documentary grew out of the thesis she wrote at MAAS. A grant from the program enabled her to conduct research at the military Nehad Khader (‘11), senior programmer for Philadelphia’s Black- archives in France, meet with French soldiers who had served in her Star Film Festival, also views film as a way to capture cultural his- father’s village, and travel with her father to to collect testimonies. “I tories. Having produced White Fright—a short documentary that am very proud that the story of more than three million Algerians cross-examines America’s segregated system of national security and who, just like my father, have remained silent about their lives in openthe media’s role in perpetuating that divide—Khader is now making air resettlement camps, will be known to a greater audience,” says Kelher directorial debut with the feature documentary Unbowed, about lou. “Cinema is a powerful tool to tell and reshape narratives.”  a Palestinian activist who was arrested and tortured into signing a confession that would come back to haunt her half a century later and includes interviews with former prisoners. Isabel Roemer is the CCAS Multimedia and Publications Assistant. She is “Documentary work is as difficult as it is rewarding,” says Khader. studying Health Care Management & Policy at Georgetown.

Bridging Political Engagement and the Arts A new position at The Palestinian Museum combines MAAS alum’s professional and personal passions. By Isabel Roemer


September, MAAS alum Dr. Adila Laïdi-Hanieh (’92) became Director General of The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, Palestine—a position she says brings together her academic and artistic loves. “I was always interested in the interaction between artistic-cultural practice and political engagement,” says Laïdi-Hanieh. “So I’m happy to combine both pursuits in my job at The Palestinian Museum.” “Initially as a student, I thought I would pursue a career in diplomacy and public affairs, and keep my interest in the arts and culture a private pursuit. I was lucky to have formative experiences in the arts, havn

ing a mother who is a well-know Algerian novelist and writer, then meeting the great Turkish-Jordanian artist Fahrelnissa Zeid, who took me on as one of her art students when I was a teenager.” After graduating from MAAS and working in international relations, however, life took Laïdi-Hanieh to Palestine, where she had the opportunity to rethink her initial career goals. In 1996, Laïdi-Hanieh became founding director of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, a nonprofit in Ramallah that promotes Palestinian arts and culture. A decade later she began teaching at Birzeit University, including courses on modern Arab intellectual history

Adila Laïdi-Hanieh at The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit

and the university’s first course on Palestinian arts. She also published Palestine. Rien ne nous manque ici, the first cultural review of contemporary Palestine. During that period, Laïdi-Hanieh also helped to found two pan-Arab cultural initiatives: the Al-Mawred al-Thaqafy Foundation in Cairo, and AFAC, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in Amman. She then decided to resume her academic studies, obtaining a Fulbright scholarship to pursue her PhD in Cultural Studies from George Mason University near Washington, D.C. Her latest publication is Fahrelnissa Zeid: Painter of Inner Worlds, a 2017 biography of the artist continued on page 15

For the Love of Music

Marcel Khalife and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh (with Arab jazz group Hewar). As a result, the KC invited Chambers to join its Community Advisory Board. Over the next half decade, he co-produced and MAAS alum combines language skills, co-marketed performances by Middle Eastern and Central Asian industry savvy, and a bit of “wasta” to bring artists, including trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, qanunist Hicham Chami, and oudist Rahim AlHaj. Arab musicians to Washington audiences. Most artists have performed on the Millennium Stage. Its free daiBy Isabel Roemer ly concerts fulfill the KC’s mission to make the performing arts more widely accessible. “I offered a ‘win-win solution,’” says Chambers. n 2003, MAAS alum David Chambers (‘88) received a call from “The performers played the Kennedy Center and got an online video the family of the late Munir Bashir, the celebrated Iraqi musician made of their performance. The Kennedy Center got top-quality perwidely regarded as “King of Oud.” Chambers had spent much of formers and larger than normal audiences.” the 1990s in the entertainment industry in Chambers (CEO of Carpamus, Inc., a the Arab world—notably, for the Showsales management consultancy) says knowltime Arabia satellite TV network. Now edge of the Middle East and D.C. connecback in Washington, D.C., he faced a tions have enabled his success as volunteer challenge: how to arrange a gig for Omar music impresario. “I speak two regional Bashir, Munir’s son, in the nation’s capital? languages. I’m a tiny bit m’aruuf thanks to Chambers had seen the senior Bashir my entertainment experience. And I love perform a decade earlier at the Kennedy Middle East music.” Chambers said. “So, Center (KC). He recalls it as “the most I mixed them, cooked up some wasta, and beautiful, powerful” concert he’s ever witgot these artists on stage.” nessed. So, he cold-called the Kennedy Chambers, who also serves on the adviCenter. “I did not ask or offer,” reveals Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh sory board of Washington’s PostClassical Chambers. “I insisted they book Omar. I performs at the Kennedy Center Ensemble, says his chief motivation has assured them: were he only half as good as always been to share music. Thanks to the his father, they’d be hosting one of the great performances of oud in dozens of concerts Chambers has since facilitated for more than 20 America.” The KC did indeed invite Omar, and the concert proved musical groups from the Arab world, his own decades-long love affair such a success that the KC welcomed more. Chambers recommended with music has proven a “win-win” for others as well.

Top: Adila Laïdi-Hanieh; Bottom: The Kennedy Center


‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


ALUMNI IN THE ARTS Quilting the Arabesque

MAAS alum takes inspiration from ancient Islamic designs to quilt kaleidoscopic works-of-art. By Grayson Lee


hen Tighe

geometric quilts based on ancient Islamic designs. As a child, Flanagan learned to sew from his mother. He earned an undergraduate degree in Visual and Communications Arts, but after college his passion for art took a back seat to other professional interests. After serving in Jordan as a Peace Corps volunteer, Flanagan wanted to build his academic knowledge of the region he had lived and worked in, so he joined Georgetown’s MAAS program, focusing on Culture and Society. He then accepted a job as Senior Program Manager of Education Programs

the design and being fascinated with exoticism in a visual form. There wasn’t fidelity—it more so captured what they thought it should look like.” Flanagan says his time at MAAS has influenced his desire to provide context to his quilts and attribute the designs to their original sources. “There’s almost a grammar to Islamic geometric design,” says Flanagan. “When it comes down to geometry, no one has ownership over shapes, but you want to get the most faithful representation.” Although Flanagan has sold several pieces, the cost of a fullsize quilt can be prohibitive to many would-be buyers due to the time, labor, and materials involved. As a result, he is focusing on selling patterns and tutorials, which will be available soon in his online store (tigheflanagan.com). View more of his work at https://www. instagram.com/tigheflanagan/  Grayson Lee interned at CCAS in the summer of 2018 and currently studies at Brown University.

Above left: Tighe Flanagan and his dog Daphne show off one of Flanagan’s latest quilts. Below: The assembly and sewing stages of a quilt piece inspired by a Moroccan zellige

12 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Tighe Flanagan

Flanagan (MAAS ‘12) began quilting, he realized that he could draw inspiration from the decorative art traditions of the Middle East. “The world of quilting and the world of Islamic design and geometric design are natural fits,” says Flanagan. “You see it wherever you find the Islamic Empires of old, where they left their imprint.” Taking his cue from the Arabesque patterns of places like Marrakesh and Al-Hamra, Flanagan translates between two traditional art forms—quilting and mosaics—to sew colorful,

at the Wikimedia Foundation. Though Flanagan appreciated the opportunities the job gave him to travel to the Middle East, after a nearly five years, he felt the need to introduce more creative endeavors into his life. “I felt like my whole life was on a laptop or on a mobile device,” says Flanagan. “I decided I needed to get back into non-electronic spaces, and to do that I reconnected with my passion for making stuff.” Flanagan made a New Year’s resolution to sew a quilt, and soon discovered a new passion. Flanagan uses digital software to translate geometric motifs into quilt patterns and to stay true to the original design. After creating his digital pattern, he begins the intensive work of cutting and sewing. For Flanagan, the most rewarding part of fashioning his quilts is researching “new” motifs. He is interested in how Europeans in the 1700s often exaggerated designs from the Arab World. “They got the shapes right but missed the construction,” says Flanagan. “It was almost like the othering of

Preserving a Genre under Duress

How a class assignment led to MAAS alum Dan Walsh’s lifelong passion for preserving Palestine’s visual heritage By Brittni Foster

The Palestine Poster Project Archives (PPPA)


hen Dan Walsh (MAAS ’11) was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Marrakesh in the early 1970s, his language tutor encouraged him to practice his budding Arabic and Moroccan Darija skills by translating the posters that papered the buildings around town. Walsh, now the curator of the world’s largest collection of posters on Palestine, remembers how grateful he was for the break from verb conjugations but says he never could have imagined how that assignment would change the course of his career. He credits his hours spent walking the streets of Marrakech and Rabat reading posters—Arabic dictionary in hand— with not only improving his language skills, but also igniting what has become one of his life’s passions. The poster that started it all was one portraying an armed guerilla fighter that Walsh spotted on an office building in Rabat. “It only had one word, but I couldn’t translate it,” recalls Walsh. “A man came out of the building and saw me trying to translate this word with my dictionary, so he came over and said, ‘The word is Palestine.’” Walsh responded, “Oh, Palestine! You mean the terrorists?” This was not an uncommon narrative at the time, only a few years after the June 1967 war. Laughing, the man invited Walsh inside the building. Walsh soon learned that this man was the official representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the building was the PLO headquarters in Morocco. Toward the end of their conversation, the officer led Walsh to a closet containing posters about Palestine from all over Europe and the Middle East. Walsh left with dozens of posters under his arm and

Left: Palestinian artist Amer Shomali’s remix of the 1936 poster “Visit Palestine” by Franz Krausz. In 2009, Shomali added a border wall covering Krausz’ depiction of the city of Jerusalem. Above: “Day of Solidarity” by Syrian artist Burhan Karkoutly. Published c. 1984 by the League of Arab States to promote International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

an invitation to return anytime. “That’s how it all began,” says Walsh Following his stint in the Peace Corps and his graduation from Ohio State University, Walsh began a 30-year career running his own design and distribution company, Liberation Graphics. During that time, he continued to build his Palestine poster collection, which now includes 12,000 posters known collectively as the Palestine Poster Project Archives. Though he was often invited to give presentations on the posters, Walsh says that he only understood the genre from the “perspective of an activist and artist.”

It was when Walsh became a student in Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Arab Studies program at the age of 55 that the Palestine Poster Project truly began to evolve, thanks to the refined understanding he gained of the Israel-Palestine conflict and support for his project from CCAS Professor of Anthropology Rochelle Davis. “The sort of intellectual architecture that visual anthropology requires meant that I had to study different sources and consider how Palestine posters compare to others published in Russia or Cuba or Europe,” says Walsh. “It turns out that almost everybody everywhere has something to say about Palestine.” For Walsh, preserving the visual and artistic documentation of the Palestinian liberation movement is a key component of the project. “For the first time in history, we may be able to reconstitute an entire lost genre of art,” he says, referring to the destruction of protest posters by Israelis in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli laws banning “political” posters, and other expressions of resistance, as well as the fundamental transiency continued on page 17

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Saudi Arabia’s

Artists of Change

MAAS alum Sean Foley (‘00) discusses his forthcoming book, Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom. By Sean Foley “Evolution of Man” by Saudi artist and physician Ahmed Mater, who describes his work as embracing the paradoxes of science and faith to scrutinize the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia.


n May 19, 2017, Air Force One arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, marking the start of President Donald J. Trump’s first trip overseas as U.S. president. The three-day visit featured a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings on strategic issues, along with events highlighting cultural and social ties. One of the most important of the cultural events, “Saudi Salman publicly “stressed the importance of culture and art in Saudi Arabia and his support for Saudi artists.” For many, including Arabs and most scholars of Saudi Arabia, the rise of a visual arts movement in the kingdom comes as a great surprise. In their view, Saudis are an intolerant, highly religious people who have vigorously sought to preserve their society’s cultural and Hanbali Islamic traditions, which are analogous to those of some evangelical Christian Americans in their puritanism. Such views reinforce a vision of Saudi Arabia as devoid of art—a view that was eloquently voiced by T. E. Lawrence when he

14 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Ahmed Mater

Contemporary Art,” was held at the Diwan al-Malik, the site of Trump’s talks with King Salman and other world leaders. On the second day of the trip, the Saudi king accompanied the president and his wife, Melania, on an official tour of the exhibit, which displayed the work of forty Saudi artists. Television cameras recorded the U.S. president and his wife speaking with various male and female artists. Saudi journalists specifically focused on President Trump shaking the hand of and congratulating Abdullah al-Othman, one of the young artists featured in the show. Echoing the enthusiastic response on Saudi social media to Trump’s visit to the exhibit,

observed, “There was so little Arab art that one could say Arab art did not exist.” One hears a similar perspective among some contemporary Saudis. For example, writing in the Saudi daily newspaper As-Šarq in 2013, Abdulsalam al-Wayel declared: “If we can say that there is a ‘Saudi culture,’ and it has value, then we can also say with high confidence that the contempt for the arts lies at the heart of its values.” This observation is reminiscent of Michael Cook’s description of Wahhabism: “Wahhabism was the classic example of going to see what people were doing and telling them to stop it.” While there are conservative elements in Saudi society—and oil revenues and the ruling bargain between the state and society do shape politics at a structural level in the Kingdom—Saudi society is a multifaceted entity that retains significant agency through its cultural production in fields as diverse as the visual arts, stand-up comedy, YouTube videos, and now film. In both their art and in social media, Saudi artists have created a vision that contains political elements but can nevertheless be presented as “apolitical.” As mirrors of society and as cultural leaders, male and female artists have often stood at the forefront of social change, offering innovative ways to approach contradiction, dissonance, and diversity. It is a dance of intellect and feeling that rouses its audience, including the masses and rulers of Saudi Arabia, to thought. Their work is less an answer to

the problems of a Kingdom long at public showings. Ahmed Mater, seen as paradoxical than it is a a leading Saudi visual artist, has fresh questioning, a constant reremarked that he seeks to inhabit minder of the complexities of life the “grassroots” of Saudi society’s in the twenty-first century. “ecosystem”—a phrase that brings Understanding this perspecto mind the term “organic”—and tive is especially important today to serve as a networker, sharing following the killing of Jamal ownership of ideas and images Khashoggi, which has generwith many others. ated widespread anger at Crown Ultimately, Western journalPrince Muhammad Bin Salman ists and many other observers (MbS) and the initiatives that who come to Saudi Arabia ashe has championed, including sume that the pronouncements exhibitions in the West featurof officialdom define the nation. ing leading Saudi artists. Not In the realm of international polonly have some Western cultural itics there is much truth in this institutions reevaluated their assumption. But the artists who cooperation with Saudi artists populate this book are in touch and artistic organizations, but with another force—the deep some analysts have dismissed consciousness of the people who Top: Sean Foley and his forthcoming book; Bottom: A sign for the Kingdom’s recent artistic and Almeftaha Arts Village, located in Abha, Saudi Arabia. The village, actually live in the country and cultural initiatives as “window a shared space for artists to create their work, is considered the who must deal on a day-to-day dressing” for an authoritarian birthplace of the modern Saudi arts movement. basis with the issues that emerge regime. Such criticisms overlook from living in a place and dealing the fact that Saudi art is very different from capital. Through extensive in-country and with its diversity and contradictory elements. the events tied to the kingdom that dominate online research, I show that Saudi artists suc- What is their country? What “Saudi Arabia” headlines around the world. Remarkably, it ceeded by adopting a role that is analogous to emerges from their perceptions?  was Khashoggi, recognizing art’s ability to Antonio Gramsci’s concept of organic intellecexpress a multiplicity of viewpoints, who, in tuals—namely, individuals who are not part of 2003, brought together four of the pioneer- the country’s traditional intellectual elite, but Dr. Sean Foley is an Associate Professor of Hising individuals whose work and ideas gave who, through the language of culture, articu- tory at Middle Tennessee State University . His rise the movement at the heart of my book. late feelings and experiences that the masses first book, The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil Today, two of the late journalist’s daughters accept but cannot easily articulate. Artists have and Islam, was published by Lynne Rienner are illustrators who continue to play a role in voiced cultural and social views that are at once Press in 2010. His second book—Changing the Saudi artistic movement. both clear and sophisticated without being Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in My new book, Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, necessarily confrontational toward the Saudi the Kingdom—will be published by Lynne Culture, Society in the Kingdom, explores the rise state or political system. Their approach has Rienner Press in February 2019. He has conof the Saudi artistic movement, which began little in common with the modern Western ducted extensive research in Saudi Arabia and nearly two decades earlier in Asir—a fertile ideals of art for art’s sake or artists as godlike held Fulbright fellowships in Syria, Turkey, and and mountainous province 523 miles away individuals who singularly create new culture Malaysia. He graduated from the MAAS profrom the pageantry and palaces of the Saudi in their studios and then share it with others gram in 2000.

Sean Foley

BRIDGING continued from page 13

who had been Laïdi-Hanieh’s teenage mentor as well as the object of a posthumous rediscovery by the international art world. Laïdi-Hanieh’s academic and professional work, particularly her expertise in Palestinian cultural history, have prepared her well for her latest endeavor. The Palestinian Museum, which opened in May 2016, emphasizes a diversity of perspectives on Palestinian history, society, culture, and aims—through its exhibitions and community programming—to “support an open and dynamic Palestinian culture, and strengthen a sense of unifying national identity.” “Palestine being a country which has been dispossessed for much

of its recent history, Palestine and Palestinians’ cultural expression and artistic practice necessarily have to engage with dispossession and with the yearning for freedom and for liberation,” says Laïdi-Hanieh. “The Palestinian Museum sees itself very much as a transnational, trans-border museum. This is so that we can address people who are interested in the Palestinian cause, and reach Palestinians in the diaspora.” The Palestinian Museum, an independent institution offering spaces for creative ventures, educational programs, digital collections, and research, is a flagship project of Taawon-Welfare Association. 

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Alumni News

‫أخبار الخريجين‬

➠ Alumni Article ‫مقاالت الخريجين‬ MAAS ON THE MOVE News from our Alums

MAAS alums, we want to hear from YOU! Send your news items to ccasalum@georgetown.edu or through the form at https://ccas.georgetown.edu/alumni. We look forward to to New research sharing your achievements with our readers. Michael Fischbach, 1986

Michael recently published a book entitled Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color, which explores how conflict in the Middle East shaped the American civil rights movement.

‫ابحاث جديدة‬

Susan Douglass, 1993

Susan co-authored a chapter on faith-based private schools in the U.S. for the Oxford Handbook on Religion and American Education, which was published in 2018. Natana DeLong-Bas, 1993

Dena Takruri, 2008

In October, Dena’s AJ+ video journalism series, “Direct From,” was honored with a prestigious Edward R. Murrow award for its series “War in the Koreas,” which examines U.S. militarism on the Korean Peninsula. Leslie Thompson, 2008

Faculty spotlight

In 2018, Natana was promoted to Associate Professor of the Practice at Boston College and published two books. Islam: A Living Faith (Anselm) aims to challenge ignorant views of Islam by interweaving stories of lived faith with historical and contemporary events. Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford) gives attention to possibilities for reform and progress, including those already underway.

Leslie accepted a civil-service position at the State Department, where she is managing foreign assistance to Syria. She and her husband, Dan Williams, also welcomed their first child, Madeline, in February.

‫إضائة على الهيئة التعليمية‬ Nicole Anderson, 2012

In October, Nicole began working as Program Manager for the Global Bachelor’s program at George Washington University. Dorothée Kellou, 2012

MAAS alum and filmmaker Dorothée Kellou has been awarded a grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to complete her documentary, Out of Place. Read more on page 10. Hannah Beswick, 2014

Hannah is the Women, Peace and Security Adviser and Senior Gender Adviser at the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations. Alia El-Assar, 2016

In May, Alia began a new position as a consultant and researcher at the United Nations International Organization for Migration. Sean Foley, 2000

Sean’s book, Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom, will be published in 2019 (Read more on page 14). Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding will host a book launch on campus in March. Kim Zander, 2002

For the past three years, Kim has been working as the Consul for Development Programs at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem. Her work focuses on human rights and rule of law in Palestine. Robyn Davis, 2006

Robyn is working as the Director of Fellowships at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She is also an Arabic Language Education Consultant.

Jill works as a Regional Security Advisor for the Middle East/Central Asia at the International Monetary Fund D.C. headquarters. Sage Cunningham, 2017

Sage is a U.S. Air Force Officer, currently enrolled in pilot training at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program in Wichita Falls, TX. Madison Marks, 2017

Madison is working at Womena to support gender diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship networks in the MENA region. Kaylee Steck, 2018

Kaylee began a position in July as Program Officer at AMIDEAST, where she supports scholarship programs for students from the MENA pursuing higher education in the U.S.

Ethan received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Arkansas in May. His dissertation was titled “Palestinian Labor in West Bank Settlements.” 16 Center Centerfor forContemporary ContemporaryArab ArabStudies Studies- -Georgetown GeorgetownUniversity University

Dena Takruri

Ethan Morton Jerome, 2008

Jill Ricotta, 2016

In Memoriam

Junya Matsuura (MAAS ’93)

Alums Return to CCAS to Teach the Next Generation at MAAS Jeffrey Ghannam (MAAS ‘88) Visiting Adjunct Assistant Professor Jeffrey Ghannam is a lawyer, author, international development practitioner, and former journalist for The New York Times. He previously taught journalism at the University of Michigan and has returned to Georgetown this semester to teach the class “Media in the Arab World.” Ghannam wrote a feature article on this topic for the Spring 2018 CCAS Newsmagazine, which is available on the CCAS website.

Embassy of Japan in Pakistan; Mrs. Motoko Matsuura

Kevin Martin (MAAS ‘00) Associate Teaching Professor After graduating from the MAAS program, Kevin Martin went on to earn his PhD in Middle East and North African History from Georgetown. He specializes in the cultural history of the modern Levant and taught “Near Eastern Languages and Cultures” at Indiana University for eight years. Dr. Martin has returned to CCAS this fall to teach the core course “20th-Century History of the Middle East,” and “Modern Syria,” which he will teach again during the spring semester.


CAS mourns the tragic death of MAAS alum Junya Matsuura, who passed away earlier this year. Mr. Matsuura was serving as the Deputy Head of Mission at Japan’s Embassy to Pakistan in Islamabad, where he worked to promote bilateral relations between the two countries. At times, Mr. Matsuura also served as Japan’s Chargé d’Affaires in Pakistan. Prior to his positions in Pakistan, Mr. Matsuura spent much of his career in the Middle East, including serving as Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs and Representative of Japan to the Palestinian Authority. During his time in Palestine, Mr. Matsuura advanced numerous multi-million dollar projects to improve water security and promote economic, educational, and social development within Palestinian communities. “Junya was very hard working and wellliked by faculty, staff and all his fellow classmates at CCAS,” recalls fellow MAAS alum Ian McCary, who—in his position as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy Islamabad—worked closely with Mr. Matsuura. “He was a brilliant man and an excellent diplomat. His passing has really saddened the international community in Islamabad, and his many Pakistani friends.” “Junya was very proud of his daughter, who attended a Pakistani school,” added Mr. McCary. His friend the Canadian diplomat Jane Alkhouri recalled: “He was an avid rock climber and mentored and trained budding Pakistani climbers. He also established many new climbing trails near Islamabad, one of which is named af-

PRESERVING continued from page 13

of works-on-paper. Though the genre has been under existential threat for a long time, Walsh says its sudden resurgence online, in full color, makes him optimistic about its future. The website of the Palestine Poster Project Archives—a treasure trove for researchers, historians, and artists—contains digitized

From top: Matsuura rock climbing with his daughter, Hana; Matsuura inaugurating an exhibition at the Embassy of Japan in Pakistan in 2016

ter his daughter, Hana.” Following his death, Pakistani newspapers published condolences, describing Mr. Matsuura as “a kind and humble person.” He is survived by his wife Mrs. Motoko Matsuura and his daughter, Hana. The CCAS community shares our sincere condolences with Mr. Matsuura’s family and friends on their great loss. 

images of more than 12,000 posters. Since the website’s launch, it has served as a place for Palestinian artists to curate exhibits, conduct seminars, remix posters and commemorate historical events. And people from around the world are producing Palestine posters at increasing rates, thanks to the “convergence of the internet and JPEG digitalization,” says Walsh. “I don’t think we’re any-

where near the end of evolutions and branchings and discoveries relative to the Palestine posters. Every day brings to light new works and nearly-lost pieces of Palestinian history from around the world.”  Brittni interned at CCAS during the summer of 2017. She is a sophomore at Tufts University.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬


Reading the

Education Outreach ‫ثقيف التربوي‬

with Kamal Boullata

World renowned artist Kamal Boullata reflects on his work, his years in Washington, and the early days of CCAS. By Vicki Valosik


In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

spring, renowned the Color School, whose works he Palestinian artist and longoften stopped to study at a gallery time friend of CCAS Kabetween his home and the Corcomal Boullata returned to the Cenran. “I was seduced by the power ter to deliver the 2018 Kareema of their color and the power of Khoury Distinguished Lecture, a their geometry,” he says. “But I public series that brings eminent felt it was hollow, so I thought scholars of the Arab world to of introducing words in Araspeak at Georgetown. Boullata’s bic from my own cultural backtalk, “Reading the Arabesque,” ground—mostly Christian and explored the correspondence beMuslim sources and idioms uttween the geometric structure of tered by Sufis.” He began exthe arabesque and key features of perimenting with a colorful and Arabic grammar. geometric form of calligraphy, “It was an honor to welcome filling in letters and words square Kamal Boullata back to the Cenby square on graph paper, their ter,” says CCAS Director Roshape influenced by the grid of chelle Davis. “Mr. Boullata has the page rather than the slant or made valuable and lasting contriwidth of the kamish (reed pen) butions as an artist, cultural crittypically used in Arabic calligraic, and art historian—and also phy. “In this way, I was extendcreated the CCAS logo, which ing the art of drawing in creating has been a proud part of our cenwords,” says Boullata. He later ter for 40 years.” Davis adds that abandoned the use of script but hosting Mr. Boullata continues kept the graph paper, dissecting CCAS’ legacy of honoring emisquares diagonally and crosswise, nent scholars such as Edward Kamal Boullata, Thawra/Tharwa, 1978 (Silkscreen, 61 x 50 cm) finding beauty in the multiplying Said, Roger Owen, Albert Hoand changing geometric shapes urani, and Laila Abu Lughod among others, made possible through that would come to exemplify his later works. the Kareema Khoury Distinguished Lecture series. During Boullata’s years in Washington, which spanned the 1970s Born in Jerusalem in 1942, Boullata remembers childhood days through the early 1990s, he produced artwork for books, posters, and spent sketching engravings and geometric patterns in front of the exhibits, wrote extensively, and edited volumes of Arabic poetry. He Dome of the Rock. During summers, while his siblings learned to also collaborated with friends and colleagues—including Hisham play musical instruments, young Kamal honed his craft under the tu- Sharabi, Samia Farouki, and Syrian poet Adonis—to establish the telage of Khalil al-Halabi, an icon painter well-known in the Chris- Arab American Cultural Foundation. The foundation brought totian quarter of the Old City. Boullata formalized his art education at gether Arab intellectuals and artists living in Washington and hosted the Fine Arts Academy in Rome and the Corcoran Gallery School of lectures, musical concerts, and poetry readings, including one given Art in Washington D.C., where he remained for 25 years. by Mahmoud Darwish. Many of the events took place at GeorgeIn Washington, Boullata was influenced by American painters of town’s Gaston Hall. ast

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Faculty Research: ‫اث هيئة التدريس‬

Faculty Feature ‫ص من هيئة التدريس‬

18 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Kamal Boullata, Amanda Ribas Tugwell

Right: Kamal Boullata, Angelus I-3, 2016 (Acrylic on canvas 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy Meem Gallery; Below: Portrait of Boullata by Amanda Ribas Tugwell

In addition to his work with the foundation, Boullata also played an important role in the formation of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and its early intellectual life. In the early 1970s, a circle of scholars and intellectuals—Boullata among them—began discussing the need for an academic center focused on the contemporary Arab world. Dr. Michael Hudson, Professor Emeritus and former CCAS Director, recalls asking Boullata if he would create a calligraphic work to use for events surrounding the formation of the center. “We chose the words ‘al-‘Arab al-yawm’ [“the Arabs today”] because we wanted something that indicated that the center was not going to be a classical or narrow academic center looking only at the past. The word ‘al-yawm’ (today) was significant.” That evening, Kamal sketched out the calligraphy on graph paper, molding the words into an intricate diamond shape. He brought the design back the next morning, thinking it would be used only for a short period. Instead, it became an instant classic and was adopted as the official logo of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies once it was established in 1975 (the logo can be seen on the cover of this issue). “I never thought it would last more than a weekend or I would have spent more time on it” jokes Bullata. “To see that it is still surviving has been quite something.” In the early 1980s, CCAS Professor Barbara Stowasser invited Boullata to co-teach a class on the “gestalt of Arab culture.” Boullata recalls his teaching experience fondly, especially how his students would often join him on his walk home after class, sometimes staying for dinner. Boullata invited several poets and musicians to his class— and even a belly dancer on one memorable occasion. “I wanted the students to know, to realize, that belly dancing is not simply an erotic or sexy dance,” says Boullata. “If one looks at the navel of the dancer, the movements around the navel echo the same movements of an Arabesque, the centrifugal movements.” Boullata recalls what an event it became once the dancer, who was associated with the Yemeni embassy, arrived in traditional costume and bare feet and started dancing to music. “Everyone in the corridor was coming by and started clapping! She was excellent, a brilliant woman! It turned out to be a big story on campus. Like ‘Oh, this is the guy that brought in the dancer to class.’” In 1993 Boullata left Washington to spend two years conducting field research on Islamic art in Morocco as a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellow. Following the fellowship, Boullata and his wife Lily moved to France and have lived in Europe—now in Germany—since. In 2011, Boullata received a Ford Foundation grant to conduct research on post-Byzantine painting and the origins of modern art in Palestine, and in 2012 he was elected as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. Kamal Boullata’s career has been rich and varied, moving regularly between the worlds of writing and of painting. He is the author of four books on Palestinian art, and his essays in English and Arabic

have appeared in catalogues, anthologies, and academic journals. His art is held at a number of prominent public collections, including at the British Museum, Institut du Monde Arabe in, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman, New York Public Library, Sharjah Art Museum, and Museum of the Alhambra in Granada. Even though nearly 40 years have passed since those early conversations about a need for a center focused on contemporary issues in the Middle East, Hudson can see Boullata’s lasting influence at CCAS. “Kamal made a significant contribution toward making the center inclusive of cultural and artistic—as well as political, historical and economic—topics,” says Hudson. “It was more than fitting to bring him back, not only as a distinguished figure respected across the Arab world, but also as someone who had a role in shaping the intellectual and cultural agenda of CCAS from the very beginning.”  Vicki Valosik is the CCAS Multimedia and Publications Editor.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬



Travel Bands

Public Events ‫المناسبات العامة‬

Education Outreach ‫ثقيف التربوي‬

CCAS partners with Georgetown Music Department to produce music series focused on intercultural understanding. By Jon Block*


President Trump signed Executive Order 13769 in Washington University, where she received her Ph.D. January 2017, barring citizens from seven majority MusKareem Roustom, a Syrian-American composer, echoed Arsani. lim countries – Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, “I think any kind of public performance, if nothing else, is a symbol and Libya – from entering the United States, Professor Benjamin of understanding the other,” Roustom said. Given the broader scope Harbert of the Georgetown of this semester’s Friday Music Series, HarUniversity music program bert hopes to expand the impact that the prodecided to try and bring mugram has on campus. sicians from countries listed “Somebody who’s reading in the news on the travel ban to play at about whether or not we should block people Georgetown. More than a from Syria coming in should get a chance year after the initial ban, that to experience Kareem Roustom’s contribuidea became a reality, with a tion to the arts in the United States and be half dozen artists from travel able to hear his negotiation of his Arab and ban countries performing his American identity in his music,” Harbert at the university during the said. “That’s an intimate experience and spring 2018 semester as part that’s a social experience.” of the Friday Music Series. The series provides a space for musicians Harbert and Professor to do more than just perform during their David Molk partnered with concerts. Harbert believes a the Center for Contemporary political message becomes Arab Studies (CCAS) in orstronger when music creates der to better recruit and afford a connection with the audimusicians from across the ence. He has planned talks country and around the world. by the Friday Music Series CCAS was able to provide performers at the end of their additional funding through a concerts to further expand the Department of Education Tipublic conversation. tle VI grant that supports pro“It brings all the music that gramming around the Middle we might not hear as often in East and North Africa. D.C.,” Arsani said. He noted “We’re hoping that this is that music from other parts of just part of bringing awarethe world is often treated as ness to these places, couna once-a-year experience at The Friday Music Series included performances by (top) Syrian Dervish tries, and cultures and showing places like like the Kennedy dancer Khaled AlMaoulaoui and (left to right) musicians Huda Asfour how they aren’t frightening or and Kamyar Arsani. Center, when in reality this scary or something to keep music exists much closer to away from—but instead something to be embraced,” said Ro- home. “There’s a Palestinian oud player, Iranian daf player. There’s chelle Davis, the director of CCAS who helped Harbert put the a Syrian singer next door. There’s a flamenco dancer next door. And series together. it might sound very surreal, yet we all live right next to each other.” Many of the artists who performed believe the series can bring Harbert said that the benefits of the Friday Music Series would benefits to the Georgetown community. “I think that the ‘travel ban not be as strong without the partnership between the music program music series’ is something where we all just have a conversation and and CCAS, which allowed many of these prominent, talented, and I think it brings people together,” said Kamyar Arsani, an Iranian diverse artists to come to Georgetown.  musician based in Washington who performed as part of the series. Palestinian musician Huda Asfour performed with Arsani. Asfour * This is an excerpt of a longer article that was written by Jon Block and also does biomedical and electrical engineering research at George published previously by The Georgetown Voice. hen

In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬ Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Faculty Research: ‫اث هيئة التدريس‬

Faculty Feature ‫ص من هيئة التدريس‬

Tithi Patel, Rochelle Davis

20 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Education Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬


Ikat: New Fashions, Ancient Techniques Teachers at CCAS Education Outreach workshop learn about the ancient art form behind ikat fashions. By Susan Douglass


In the Headlines ‫في العناوين‬

“new” type of fabric that features out-of-focus, striped and geometric patterns in bright colors has been making a fashion appearance recently. Seen most commonly in blouses, scarves, and handbags, this fabric represents imitations of ikat, a style of cloth made through a combination of weaving and dyeing to create rich, complex patterns in silks and cottons. Traditionally to make ikat fabrics, a master designer would take tightly wound bundles of thread, cover some areas with waterproof cloth and then draw on a pattern. The resistdyed areas would then be dyed, unbound, re-bound, and dyed again to make as many as eight colors and to form jagged-edged, dramatic patterns. This labor-intensive technique has been used in Southeast and Central Asia, among other regions, with the finest examples of ikat fabrics tailored into floorlength coats that signaled the wearer’s rank. In May, CCAS led an educator workshop that included visits to ikat fabric exhibits at

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Museum exhibition “Binding the Clouds: The Art of Central Asian Ikats,” where they learned about craft techniques and viewed materials for making natural dyes and looms for weaving ikat fabrics. The Sackler exhibit featured a modern twist, displaying several ikat pieces by Oscar de la Renta, including a gown and a bold trench coat. 

Faculty Research: ‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬ From left: Workshop participants learn about ikat dyeing techniques at the Sackler Gallery; trench coat from the gallery’s Oscar de la Renta Collection; woman’s silk and cotton ikat robe from Central Asia, 19th century

both the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Textile Museum at George Washington University. The teachers enjoyed a docent-led tour at Sackler exhibit “To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia,” followed by lunch in the Enid Haupt Garden and a visit to the Textile

Faculty Feature ‫خاص من هيئة التدريس‬

Freer|Sackler, CCAS

CCAS Education Outreach Coordinator Consults on Film Production

Dr. Susan Douglass is the CCAS Education Outreach Coordinator.

Summer Teacher Institute 2018

Last year CCAS Education Outreach Coordinator Dr. Susan Douglass had the chance to step out of the office and onto a film set when she was recruited by Unity Productions Foundation to lend her expertise during the production of a film about Muslim-Christian peace during the Crusades entitled The Sultan and the Saint. Working in tandem with Alison Kysia, the education outreach coordinator at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Douglass helped create a teaching curriculum and other educational materials to accompany the movie. During the spring semester, CCAS held a screening for teachers, providing each attendee with a copy of the film and the 170+ page curriculum packet. The materials, which include historical background, biographies of major figures in the drama, discussion guides for each videos, handouts, and information on interactions between Muslims and Christians in the artistic and technological realms during that time period, can be found at film’s website (https://www.sultanandthesaintfilm. com/education/). —By Isabel Roemer

This summer’s week-long Teacher Institute, “China, the Middle East and Africa,” took place August 6-11, 2018. It was the fourth in CCAS’s Summer Institute Series conducted as part of CCAS’s role as a Title VI National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa. The workshop featured 13 speakers, including four Georgetown faculty members and nine who teach in other universities in the United States and in East Asia. The presentations addressed labor and resource issues, perceptions between Africans and Chinese, and cultural and economic relations between the Middle East and North Africa, including growing numbers of Chinese living and working in Middle Eastern countries. Each speaker illuminated a different aspect of the China-Middle East-Africa connection, including diplomacy, policy, infrastructure, labor and development, relations between religious groups, and migration. As an innovation that increased the diversity of our audience, CCAS provided 14 travel grants of up to $400, enabling out-of-state teachers to attend, putting the total number of attendees at 40. Travel-grant awardees represented 12 different states and included world history, geography, language arts, humanities, special education, and other subject-area teachers. —By Susan Douglass

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


Featured Artist ‫فنان العدد‬

‫فنان العدد‬


Center News ‫أخبار المركز‬

MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬

Q&A with

Helen Zughaib By Vicki Valosik


elen Zughaib, currently based in Washington D.C., is known for her colorful gouache works that emphasize hope and human dignity, even while depicting themes of mass displacement, political upheaval, and war. Born in Beirut but forced to evacuate during the 1975 civil war, Zughaib spent much of her life in Europe and other parts of the Middle East before coming to the United States to earn her BFA at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Her art has been exhibited at museums, galleries, embassies, and in private collections around the world, including at the White House, the Library of Congress, and the World Bank. Zughaib has served as a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy to Europe and the Middle East and was recently awarded a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. In November, she gave a talk at CCAS on her visual documentation of the Arab Spring, after which she shared the following reflections on her work:

You have written about the importance of the arts in fostering dialogue between the Middle East and the United States. How do you use your art to try to build cross-cultural understanding? At first, I was not creating art that consciously tried to achieve this, but as time went on and the U.S. experienced the tragedy of 9/11, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the backlash against Arabs and the Middle East, I felt the need to communicate even more strongly through my work. I felt as if “our” story was not actually being told by “us.” I began working on pieces to begin to open this dialogue, to invite the viewer in for a closer look, to create a space where dialogue could begin and both sides could inch a bit closer to a better understanding of one another. Through my work, I try to bring our shared humanity, values, traditions, and ultimately empathy for the “other.”

Generations Lost by Helen Zughaib (30 x 40” gouache on board, 2014)

22 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

my work. I chose a small flower Faculty News ‫أخبار هيئة التدريس‬ as the motif I used in my paintStaffthis Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬ ings to express new–found hope for change that spread Board Member Profile ‫ص من المجلس األستشاري‬ from country to country after beginning in Tunisia. Dispatches This ‫ برقيات‬flower motif continued in my paintings Publicthough Events ‫العامة‬it‫المناسبات‬ and installations, has changed and morphed someEducation Outreach ‫تعميم التثقيف التربوي‬ what, over the nearly eight years that the “ArabInSpring” has gone the Headlines ‫العناوين‬ ‫في‬ on and devolved into the civil Mabrouk!millions ‫مبروك‬ war in Syria, killing and forcing the largest refugee crisis Faculty Research: ‫أبحاث هيئة التدريس‬ in history. I feel that the desperation of the people fleeing their homes from war and starvation needs to be told, needs not to be forgotten, even as it does not make the front pages of newspapers anymore. I made a promise to one young Syrian boy who was forced to flee his village and, after two years, allowed to come to America. He visited me in my studio and we shared our stories with one another. I promised him I would keep telling his story, that I would not let people forget about him. Women feature prominently in your work. What do you hope viewers will understand, or see anew, through your visual portrayals of Arab women? Not only do I identify with women, being one, but in my experience I have seen the incredible strength, incredible perseverance many women display in the face of war and unimaginable circumstances. Often it is the women left behind, after or during war, who struggle to find refuge and shelter for their children, to find food, or to try to earn money to feed their families. To create some kind of normalcy for their children, to continue to teach them, even in the most adverse situations. Their strength, their beauty is powerful. 

Helen Zughaib

You have been documenting the Arab Spring—from the early days of hope to the devolution into war and displacement—building a collection of more than 70 paintings and installations. How does your art reflect the changes you’ve seen over time? I finally returned to the Middle East after thirty-five years, the first time since our evacuation from the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. I went to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Shortly after my return to America, the “Arab Spring” began. Those early days of hope and optimism, the nascent struggles for a sense of equity and democracy, inspired

Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬

Donor profile

‫نبذة عن المانحين‬


A Place to Gather

Featured Artist ‫فنان العدد‬

The CCAS benefactor behind one of Washington’s most iconic cultural and religious institutions

‫فنان العدد‬ Center News ‫أخبار المركز‬

MAAS News (Student News) ‫أخبار الطالب‬ Visiting Scholar ‫باحث زائر‬

Faculty News ‫هيئة التدريس‬ ‫أخبار‬ From left: The Washington Islamic Center; Mohammed Issa Abu Al Hawa in 1904 beStaff Updates ‫آخرأخبار الموظفين‬ fore changing his name and immigrating to the United States; A. Joseph Howar in 1952 Board Member Profile

Arab American National Museum


Joseph Howar, an immigrant from Palestine who became one of the most prominent ArabAmericans of the early 20th century, touched the lives of countless people during his 103+ years. A talented real-estate developer with an uncanny instinct for location, Mr. Howar was determined to give back to both his adopted country and his homeland. A proponent of education, he built a school and mosque in Palestine, and was the catalyst behind the creation of the Washington Islamic Center, which remains an important cultural and religious icon on Washington’s Embassy Row. Even closer to home, Howar’s legacy continues at Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, where for more than 25 years, the Howar family has generously funded a scholarship in Joseph’s memory for students of the Master of Arts in Arab Studies program. Abraham Joseph Howar (originally Mohammad Issa Abu Al-Hawa) was born around 1879 in Tur, Palestine. Leaving home at the age of fourteen, determined to reach America, Howar stowed away on a ship that took him to India. He worked odd jobs in Bombay and later in England before booking passage

to New York. On the ship, he asked the steward where the king of the United States lived. The steward told him there was no king but that the president lived in Washington, D.C. Howar responded, “If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.” Howar finally settled in Washington in 1902, where he peddled fine lace and eventually opened a clothing store. Around 1920, he invested in an apartment building designed by an architect he knew. He paid close attention to the construction process, learning enough about the industry to start his own highly successful real-estate development company. Howar is best known among Washingtonians for spearheading the construction of the Washington Islamic Center, the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere at the time, and the first mosque in the nation’s capital. Designed by Italian architect Mario Rossi, the Islamic Center includes a library and classrooms where classes on the Qur’an and the Arabic language are taught. Howar was inspired to build the Center after the death of Turkish ambassador Munir Ertegun in 1944, which highlighted the need for a place for Muslims to gather and worship in

‫خاص من المجلس األستشاري‬

‫برقيات‬ the Washington,Dispatches D.C. area. His role in finding the space and the funds for construction, even during a shortage of materials caused by the Korean War, was integral to its completion in only ten years. The mosque was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957. Howar received international recognition for his efforts, including the Egyptian Order of Merit and the Jordanian Medal of Honor, among other awards. The mosque not only served the local Muslim community—and continues to do so today—but also became a destination for dignitaries, presidents, and visitors of many faiths from around the world. Despite the lasting roots he established in Washington, Howar always maintained a deep love for his homeland and returned often to Palestine to build schools and a mosque, and to marry his wife of many years, Bader Haki. The couple had five children—Raymond, Edmond, Patricia, Joyce, and Nancy— and 17 grandchildren. Howar passed away in 1982, leaving behind a lasting legacy that will continue to impact future generations. The Howar Scholarship, established in memory of A. Joseph Howar at CCAS, is meritoriously awarded each year and has provided more than $147,000 in crucial financial support to students of the Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program, including many of Arab-American descent. 

This article was jointly written by Vicki Valosik, Isabel Roemer, and Nancy Howar. Read more about Mr. Howar in his biography A. Joseph Howar: The life of Mohammed Issa Abu Al-Hawa by Harry Sweeney and online at the Arab American National Museum’s Howar Family Collection.

‫مركز الدراسات العربية املعاصرة – جامعة جورجتاون‬


Dispatches ‫برقيات‬

DISPATCHES Notes From Abroad

A Day in the Life of Beirut’s Cultural Attaché Q&A with Kristin Smith (MAAS ’14) Public Events ‫بات العامة‬ By Vicki Valosik


or Kristin Smith, MAAS alum and Cultural Affairs Officer

for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, culture and diplomacy go hand-in-hand. “My job is really using culture and art to bring people closer together,” Smith told the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star at a U.S. Embassy event celebrating the Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. “It’s not just about deepening our ties and getting to know each other on a cultural level though. If we have these similarities in [the arts], then perhaps that will lead to future cooperation in other ways.” During her time in the MA in Arab Studies program, Smith—who holds a BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization from Harvard—pursued an academic

night I might find myself at an independent theatre in one of Beirut’s hip neighborhoods downtown to watch a performance by a former participant in one of our International Visitor Leadership programs. The days vary drastically, but the range of cultural affairs work is vast and exciting.

Education Outreach ‫وي‬ How did the MAAS program prepare you for this position?

Studying Arabic five days a week in the MAAS program allowed me to hit the ground running. Through the intensive program, I tested above the language requirement for my position, which enabled me to jump right into the job without needing a year of language study. I was immediately able to engage with the media using Fousha d an re ltu cu g usin My job is really [formal Arabic] and felt confident in. er th ge to er le clos art to bring peop tegrating Arabic into public remarks. r ou g in t deepen It ’s not just abou At the same time, my studies laid a ch ea to know ties and getting solid foundation for speaking and unIf . gh ral level thou derstanding Lebanese Arabic. other on a cultu he [t ilarities in MAAS prepared me in another way we have these sim to s that will lead that was unexpected. I manage a budarts], then perhap n in other ways. get of approximately 5 million dolfuture cooperatio ebanon) lars in grants and consistently use the -The Daily Star (L knowledge I acquired in my development courses at MAAS to evaluate a program’s potential biases as well as its From top: Smith snaps a selfie during a visit concentration in Culture and Society, man- to Jordan by the U.S. Secretary of State; potential for success. As a yoga studio aged a yoga studio, and served as a Public Smith, who often gives interviews in Arabic, manager, I learned how to supervise Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Consulate speaks to the press at the opening of a local and empower employees, manage monfilm festival supported by the U.S. Embassy General in Casablanca. Following graduaey, and communicate with clients—all in Beirut. tion, she joined the Foreign Service, serving skills that are the foundation of what I in Taiwan before beginning her current position in 2017. Her port- currently do. Georgetown helped me hone these raw skills and core folio as Cultural Affairs Officer covers five primary issues: arts and competencies and apply them in the international affairs context. culture, non-formal education, academic outreach, interfaith and minority outreach, and alumni programming. What do you like best about your job and how do you feel it

In the Headlines ‫لعناوين‬

Mabrouk! ‫مبروك‬

Faculty Research: ‫دريس‬

What is a typical day for a Cultural Affairs Officer?

At our embassy, “cultural affairs” includes not only arts and culture, but also several integrated programs in the civil-society and academic spheres. I like that my team and I are able to shape innovative tools to serve different communities and address a variety of socio-economic issues, even though they may not always involve what people consider to be “cultural” activities. These have ranged from an entrepreneurship program that addresses unemployment among underserved youth in Tripoli to a tourism-promotion project to rehabilitate a hiking route in a mountainous village. It’s never a dull moment, and I like that I am helping people implement tools that help their communities, while also strengthening our people-to-people ties. 

24 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - Georgetown University

Kristin Smith

A typical day could begin at 8 a.m. walking though the Cultural Affairs offices speaking to my team about the priorities for the day. An hour later I’d find myself drinking coffee at the gallery of a local artist with whom I’m discussing a grant for a film festival screening that touches on an aspect of U.S. culture. Within an hour, I might travel to speak to a group of rural English teachers about the importance of religious diversity inside the classroom. At 4 p.m., I snag a few minutes at my desk to review budgets for our large grant programs and make a quick phone call to Main State to discuss an upcoming MOU on preventing cultural heritage trafficking. At

impacts others?

Faculty Feature ‫التدريس‬

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