Middle East Studies

Research Projects

Kurdish Project

Kurdish studies have historically been sidelined within Middle East studies or reduced to the study of Kurdish nationalism. While there has been a proliferation of Kurdish studies across the US and Europe in recent years, there has been only limited engagement with Kurdish society in its complexity. The aim of this project led by Nadje Al-Ali, Robert Family Professor of International Studies, is to support and contribute to critical and original Kurdish studies that combine theoretically cutting-edge and empirically grounded work while highlighting creative approaches (films, art, literature) to the study of Kurds and Kurdish societies.

 This year, the Kurdish Studies initiative supported a lecture by a visiting scholar, a teach-in, and a research project that resulted in a co-authored article.

Article Abstract
Jineolojî, the women’s science proposed and developed by the Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement, has become central to their transnational organizing both in the Middle East, as well as in Europe and the Americas. Activists of the Kurdish women’s movement critique positivist and androcentric forms of knowledge production as well as liberal feminism, and instead propose Jineolojî, which aims to rediscover women’s histories and restore women’s central place in society. Based on a series of interviews with Kurdish women involved in developing Jineolojî, this article firstly situates Jineolojî within wider transnational and decolonial feminist approaches, and secondly draws out the main underlying ideas constituting Jineolojî

Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples

This multi-year project, led by John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History Omer Bartov, seeks to provide a forum for a deeper understanding of the region and its peoples. The century-long conflict over the land of Israel/Palestine has raised a plethora of questions about historical narratives and rights of possession, the morality of return and the injustice of displacement, the correction of past wrongs and the imponderables of reconciliation, the promises and conundrums of coexistence, and the centrality of self-determination. Precisely because this is a dispute over attachment and belonging to a place that both sides consider to be their historical and spiritual home, it is exceedingly difficult for each of them to recognize the other’s longing for, yet ongoing inability, to feel at home.

This project therefore seeks to gain and provide a more nuanced and empathetic view of the myriad ways in which the land of Israel/Palestine has become part of the two peoples’ mental, mythical, and religious landscape. Since 2015 the project has hosted seven international workshop where well over a hundred papers were presented and discussed, on topics such as “nationalism, settler colonialism, and decolonization”; “the Holocaust and the Nakba”; “Faith, Ideology, and Education”; “Space and Time”; “Future Scenarios”; and “Partitions.” An edited volume with some of the most important contributions will be published next year. The project has also hosted a series of invited, public lectures, by such speakers as Tom Segev, Benny Morris, Gershon Shafir, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Anita Shapira, Derek Penslar, David Myers, and Eric Weitz. Plans are under way to host another workshop in the fall 2020 semester on the question of federations within the framework of two states–one homeland.

Arts and Social Change

Arts and Social Change logo

The arts have played a pivotal role in shaping and transforming Middle Eastern and Muslim societies, past and present. Through annual workshops, curated exhibits and performances, as well visiting professorships and lectures, this research initiative cultivates a network of scholars passionate about the relationship between the arts and social agency. The aim is to support innovate work and shape research agendas in the fields of Islamic art and architecture, Middle Eastern cinema and photography, fine arts and visual culture, and music and dance.  

Arts and Social Change Events Series


Displacement logo

Displacement is formative of power relations of inclusion and exclusion. This research initiative pushes at the seams of the humanities, social sciences, and the natural and physical sciences by exploring long-term drivers of displacement. The wager here is that focused interdisciplinary conversation about historical, ecological, and subjective dimensions of displacement as an enduring and global phenomenon, can lay the seeds for imagining alternative futures.

Engaged Scholarship

Engaged Scholarship logo

Engaged Scholarship explores the politics and ethics of knowledge production in zones of conflict. The aim is to generate critical conversation among scholars from across the disciplines and area studies around the question of what it means to put intellectual work in the service of the social good, broadly defined. 

Engaged Scholarship Website

Digital Islamic Humanities

Digital Islamic Humanities logo

The Digital Islamic Humanities Project is a research initiative devoted to supporting data-driven scholarship on the history, literature, and cultures of the Islamic world. Over the past few decades, humanistic inquiry has been problematized and invigorated by technological advances and the emergence of what is referred to as the digital humanities. Across multiple disciplines, from history to literature, religious studies to philosophy, archaeology to music, scholars are tapping the extraordinary power of digital technologies to preserve, curate, analyze, visualize, and reconstruct their research objects. Through the sponsorship of annual gatherings, workshops, symposia, and other kinds of research projects, this initiative aims to support the state of the art in digital scholarship pertaining to Islamic & Middle East Studies. 

Digital Islamic Humanities Website