From the Chair

Submitted by Rick Aguilar on

At a time when news from and about the Middle East has been devastating, our department’s educational mission is more important than ever. MELC aims to help students to become informed and prepared to continue learning about the complexities of the areas we study: the Near and Middle East, North Africa, Central Eurasia, and the Horn of Africa. MELC explores the contemporary cultural diversity of the region, its ancient and medieval roots, and its relevance to modern societies. We are gratified that the ten-year review of MELC which took place in 2022-2023 brought us positive encouragement from the deans of the Graduate School and the College of Arts and Sciences. Their final report commended MELC, stating that the department “meets and exceeds the UW’s expectations for excellence.”

Among the wonderful new developments in the department since last year’s newsletter:

*MELC is conducting a search for an Assistant Teaching Professor in Languages and Cultures of the Horn of Africa. The position is slated to begin in Autumn 2024. Stay tuned for updates and information about the new curricula that this appointment will provide.

*MELC is launching a new summer study program, Arabic Language and Culture in Morocco, under the direction of Professors Amina Moujtahid and Hussein Elkhafaifi.

*Prof. Melike Yücel-Koç has received the Ray Verzasconi Northwest Postsecondary Language Educator of the Year award from the Pacific Northwest Council for Languages (PNCFL). She will be honored at the 75th anniversary gala awards ceremony of PNCFL (March 22, 2024). Congratulations, Melike!

*MELC awarded Dr. Michelle Quay the inaugural Mo Habib Translation Prize, for her translation from Persian to English of Reza Ghassemi’s novel, Woodwind Harmony in the Nighttime.

*The initial Iraj Khademi Residency in Persian Literature will occur in November 2024. MELC will invite novelists Shahzoda Nazarova and Asef Soltanzadeh, as well as doctoral candidate Laura Catterson (UC Davis).

*MELC has been energetically organizing and hosting a series of public events. Among them, notably, are the Farhat J. Ziadeh Lecture, "Enslavement in Botany and Agriculture: Black Stewards of Early Islamic Lands," delivered in 2024 by Prof. Kristina Richardson of University of Virginia; the Walter Andrews Memorial Lecture, "Performance, Subversion and Gender-Bending in Ottoman Poetry" delivered by Prof. Didem Havlioglu of Duke University; and the Afrassiabi Lecture, Persian Literature Across Borders: The Cases of Afghanistan and Iranian Azerbaijan" delivered by Dr. Nasir Arian and Mehrdad Rahimi-Moghaddam.

*MELC courses are contributing to a new major in Global Literary Studies that launched at UW in Winter 2024. Courses our faculty teach -- on graphic novels in the Middle East, Jewish poetry across centuries, the politics and poetics of translation, myths of the ancient world, and more -- add to the richness and vitality of this new, division-wide Humanities major. MELC faculty have been instrumental in helping make possible new initiatives in instruction and cooperative, cross-departmental curriculum.

*Special congratulations go to Prof. Hussein Elkhafaifi, recipient of the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Teachers of Arabic.

In this newsletter you can find more information regarding the department activities and public events, faculty appointments, Digital Humanities projects, and student interests and accomplishments.

We also take this opportunity to recognize with appreciation the visiting scholars and instructors who have contributed to this year’s activities in MELC: Amina Moujtahid, who has taught courses in our Arabic program; Elham Monfaredi and Shabnam Entezar, who have taught Persian language classes; Hunter Bandy, who has been teaching courses in Arabic and Islamic Studies; Naghmeh Samini, who taught Advanced Persian as well as Middle East through Cinema in Autumn 2023; and Jamal Gabobe, who is scheduled to teach Introduction to the Horn of Africa in Spring 2024. Corinna Nichols (PhD student, NMES) is scheduled to teach Biblical Archaeology in Winter 2024; Alex Iacobucci (PhD student, Anthropology) is scheduled to teach Ancient Technologies of the Middle East in Spring 2024; and Mindy Cohoon (PhD student, NMES) is scheduled to teach Digital Media: Middle East and Central Eurasia, also in Spring 2024. Damla Aydin has served as our Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant in Turkish this year. We likewise thank all of our MELC Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants: Anna Learn, Corinna Nichols, Jack Robinson, Elyakim Suissa, and Brianna Voss.

FYI: MELC plans to hold its Convocation–honoring students who are completing a major, minor, or MA in our department–on Friday, June 7 at 3:00-5:00 in the afternoon. Please save the date!

Watch our website for more announcements, news updates, and an archive of departmental activities. Many thanks to Kat Medill, Elham Monfaredi, Naghmeh Samini, Rick Aguilar, and Paul Siscel for their work on this newsletter.

                                                                             Naomi Sokoloff