The Middle East Insitute - Columbia University



The Middle East Institute of Columbia University, founded in 1954, has helped to set the national pace in developing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the present, with a primary focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. Fostering an inter-regional and multi-disciplinary approach to the region, the Institute focuses on the Arab countries, Armenia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Central Asia, and Muslim Diaspora communities.

The Institute sponsors approximately 30 lunch-time talks per year on topics ranging from art and literature to current events, hosts conferences, and provides a neutral atmosphere for scholarly and student exchanges of views on issues concerning the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. It offers courses and outreach seminars to teachers and adult education groups, briefs journalists, and generally acts as a clearing-house for requests for information on the region and its peoples by the media, educational professionals, and the interested public, drawing upon the expertise of its own staff and the faculty of the School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia University.

Events – SPRING 2014

  • Wednesday, January 29
    Screening and Round-table discussion
    Time: 6:15 pm
    Location: 721 Broadway, 6th Floor, Michelson Theater, Department of Cinema Studies, NYU Tisch School of the Arts

    Discussion moderated by:
      Hadi Gharabaghi, New York University
      With Panelists:
      Agnes Devictor, University of Paris 1, Pantheon - Sorbonne
      Jean-Michel FRODON,, Sciences Po Paris, St. Andrews
      Alisa Lebow, University of Sussex
      Mohammad Salemy, Independent Curator
    Free and open to public.

    This event is sponsored by NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia's School of Art and Film, the Iranian Studies Initiative and the Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 6
    From Gezi Protests to State Crisis: Turkey's Domestic Politics in a Critical Election Year
    Time: 12:30 - 2:00 pm
    Location: IAB Room 410

    Following more than a decade of AKP administration, growing social cleavages and a deficit of democratic checks and balances became clear with the June 2013 Gezi protests and the December 2013 graft crisis. This talk will explore the issues that will define Turkish political agenda ahead of a set of critical elections.

    Dr. Ioannis N. Grigoriadis is an Assistant Professor and Jean Monnet Chair of European Studies at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bilkent University and Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

    This event is sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

  • Thursday, February 13
    Kimberly Hart on: "The Gendering of Religious Practice in Rural Turkey"
    Time: 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
    Location: Schermerhorn Hall Extension, Room 754

    Due to inclement weather, this event has been postponed. Please check back for updated information on the rescheduled date of this event.

    The Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life welcomes Kimberly Hart to speak on her recently published ethnography by Stanford University Press, And Then We Work for God. She will focus on the gendering of religious practice in rural western Turkey and ethnographic method.

    Kimberly Hart, Assistant Professor at SUNY Buffalo State in Anthropology, is a social-cultural anthropologist whose current work focuses on Turkish configurations of Sunni Islam, rurality, state power, and neo-tarikats. Her doctoral work on the DOBAG project, a women's carpet weaving cooperative in western Turkey, explores gendered configurations of power among the western founders of the project and the villagers who implement and sustain it, as well as marriage, morality, and memory. Here recent book, And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2013), is based on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in villages in rural Western Turkey.

    This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and the Middle East Institute

  • Friday, February 14
    Unsettlement and Decolonization: New Directions
    Time: 8:30 am - 5:45 pm
    Location: Heyman Center, Common Room

    Plenary Speakers:
    • Kevin Bruyneel (Politics, Babson College).
    • Jodi A. Byrd (English and American Indian Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
    • Mark Rifkin (English and Women's and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro).
    • Dale Turner (Government and Native American Studies, Dartmouth College).
    • Elizabeth Povinelli (Columbia University); Audra Simpson (Columbia University).
      Phanuel Antwi (St Mary's University), Hadeel Assali (Columbia University), Bruno Cornellier (University of Winnipeg), Melissa Forbis (SUNY Stonybrook), Shiri Pasternak (Columbia University), Mezna Qato (Columbia University). And featuring artist Stephen Paul Jackson (presenting as Stron Softi) and filmmaker Hadeel Assali presenting on their creative work.

    This conference is organized by Dr. Michael R. Griffiths Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University and co-sponsored by Department of Anthropology, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Center for Palestine Studies, INTERACT Initiative, The Middle East Institute, and The Heyman Center for the Humanities.

  • Friday, February 14
    House Arrest in Iran: Remembering the Leaders of the Green Movement
    Time: 5-8 PM
    Location: 501 Schermerhorn Hall

    Due to inclement weather, this event has been postponed. Please check back for updated information on the rescheduled date of this event.

    As the international community marks with cautious optimism the noticeable détente between Iran and the US over the nuclear issue, attentions are inevitably drawn to the domestic scene and the conditions of political prisoners in general and that of the leaders of the Green Movement under house arrest.

    Three leading dissidents, Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest for three years, as have been many other political prisoners for the singular sin of having opposed tyranny in their homeland.

    The panelists will discuss these and related issues.

    Speakers: Hamid Dabashi, Abdolkarim Soroush, Akbar Ganji, Hossein Kamaly, Ali Mirsepassi.

    * Please note: The talks will be in Persian, with summaries translated into English.

    This event is sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

  • Monday, February 17
    Al-Intithar, inside Jordan's Zaatari Refugee Camp
    Time: 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
    Location: IAB Room 403

    Join Mario Rizzi for a screening of his documentary Al-Intithar (The Waiting), which narrates the life of a Syrian refugee mother and her three children in Jordan's Zaatari Camp. The short film was first shown at the Berlin Film Festival competition in February 2013. Film to be followed by a Q&A with the director.

    This event is sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

  • Wednesday, February 19
    Through the Lens of the Law: The "Jewish and Democratic State"
    An evening with Hassan Jabareen
    Time: 7 PM
    Location: Columbia Law School, Jerome Green Hall, Room 102B

    How do the legal values of the State of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" impact the rights of Palestinians? Join us for an evening with Attorney Hassan Jabareen, founder and general director of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel who will discuss how the values of the State of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" are expressed in the law. Attorney Jabareen has litigated landmark constitutional rights cases before the Israeli Supreme Court on behalf of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He is also a Schell Center Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.

    This event is sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies. Middle East Institute, Human Rights Institute, Adalah - The Legal Center For Arab Minority Rights In Israel and Social Justice Initiatives.

  • Thursday, February 20 (CANCELLED)
    Time: 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Location: Room 1501, 15th Floor, International Affairs Building, Columbia University

    Due to issues rescheduling our panellists after last week's storm, this event has been cancelled. Please be on the lookout for information regarding its re-scheduling, likely next fall.

    Want to work for Endeavor in the Middle East?
    Is Booz Allen your dream internship?
    Need to learn more about becoming a Foreign Service Officer?

    Come learn from and network with professionals.

    The conference is organized around breakout sessions-- an ideal networking setting. Already confirmed are esteemed representatives from the New York Times, Endeavor, US Foreign Service, UNDP, Citi, The Economist, Council on Foreign Relations, and Al Hayat. This event is organized by SIPA's Arab Student Association with the support of the Middle East Institute. For more information, please email: Anthony Guerbidjian, or Ellen Brooks,

  • Monday, February 24
    The Syrian Civil War: Human Rights, Law, and Strategy
    Time: 6:00 pm
    Location: Jerome Green Hall, Columbia Law School

    Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch researcher on Syria and Lebanon, will talk about her work on the human rights crises in Syria after more than two years of civil war. She will discuss the overall approach and strategy involved in working as a human rights lawyer, including how HRW chooses areas of focus and applies tools strategically. Ms. Fakih previously worked for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project. She is a graduate of NYU law school. For full bio, please visit

    Free and open to the public.

    Dinner will be served.

    This event is co-sponsored by Rightslink, CSIL, the Human Rights Institute, the Middle East Institute, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association and SIPA's Arab Student Association.

  • Wednesday, March 5
    Kamran Shirdel and His Cinema: Screening and Round-table with Kamran Shirdel, Amir Naderi and Hamid Dabashi
    Time: 7:15pm-9:30pm
    Location: Columbia University, Schermerhorn Hall 501

    Kamran Shirdel is considered one of Iran's most influential documentary filmmakers. Women's Prison (1966), Tehran is the Capital of Iran (started in 1966, but finished in 1980), The Red Light District (1967-80) and The Night It Rained (1967) are among his most well-known films made during the Pahlavi era. Throughout the 70s and 80s, he directed a substantial number of commissioned industrial documentaries, many of them now considered as the classics of their genre in Iran, for their lyricism, abstraction, and irony.

    For more information on Kamran Shirdel, please visit:

    Amir Naderi, now living in New York for more than two decades, has directed some of the most celebrated films in the history of Iranian cinema. After a number of years of working in the film industry as a still photographer, he made his feature debut Goodbye Friend in 1970, and in 1971 The Dead-end. Shot in stark black and white, these two films offered shockingly dark images of the urban sprawl that is the capital of Iran. The Runner made in 1984 became the first film from the post-revolutionary Iran to gain international acclaim. In 1993 Naderi made Manhattan by Numbers, his first film after moving to New York.

    Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. After finishing his first college degree at the University of Tehran he moved to the United States, where he received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Max Weber's theory of charismatic authority with Philip Rieff, the most distinguished Freudian cultural critic of his time. He engages with Iranian cinema by not only placing specific filmic texts within the larger socio-political context, and the Iranian intellectual history, but also by opening them to other artistic modes such as Persian poetry and fiction.

    Free and open to the public.

    This event is sponsored by Columbia's Middle East Institute, MESAAS, and School of the Arts (FILM).

  • Friday, March 28
    From Armenia to New York: Five Short Films An Evening with Young Armenian Filmmakers
    Time: 7:00pm
    Location: Schermerhorn 501, Columbia University

    Please join us for a screening and discussion of five short films by up-and-coming Armenian filmmakers Ophelia Harutyunyan, Jesse Soursourian, Viktorya Aleksanyan, Eric Shahinian, and Anahid Yahjian, followed by a Q&A with the directors moderated by Raffi Asdourian (from A&E, Sundance Channel).

    This event is free and open to the public. Food and refreshments provided.

    This event is organized by the Columbia graduate student group OASIES (Organization for the Advancement of Studies of Inner Eurasian Societies), and sponsored by the Armenian Society of Columbia University, the Harriman Institute, the Middle East Institute, the Kurdish Studies Student Association, and the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

  • Saturday, March 29
    Seventh Annual OASIES Graduate Student Conference
    Hinge of the World: Connections, Networks, and Linkages in Inner Eurasia
    Time: 9:00 am- 5:00pm
    Location: IAB Room 1512, Columbia University

    The Harriman Institute and the Organization for the Advancement of Studies of Inner Eurasian Societies at Columbia University, Princeton University, and New York University are pleased to announce its 7th Annual OASIES Conference.

    Inner Eurasia has been and continues to be particularly fertile terrain for thinking through ideas of connections, networks, and linkages across culture, space, and time. The very language of connecting and linking, however, can inadvertently simplify the complex and mutually constituting qualities of interactions at the point of impact. While the popular concept of globalization, for example, often highlights the entangled nature of politics, history and society, its theorizations also open up possibilities for more thorough investigation into the different elements of these entanglements. In other words, a productive engagement with connections and networks must be coupled with a re-interrogation of the basic units of analysis that might otherwise be too easily presupposed. Bearing this in mind, this year's conference asks: in what ways can rethinking connections, networks, and linkages not only reconfigure but re-conceptualize the categories that structure our scholarship on Inner Eurasia?

    The conference considers Eurasia past and present, spanning from the Black Sea to Mongolia, from Siberia to South Asia. Stressing multi-disciplinarity, submissions are welcome from a variety of departments, programs, and centers, including but not limited to: Anthropology, Archeology, Art History, Comparative Literature, Fine Arts, History, Political Science, Religion, Sociology, Caucasian Studies, Central Asian Studies, Inner Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, the Middle East Institute, Mongolian Studies, Slavic Languages and Literature, South Asian Studies, and Tibetan Studies.

    For a full program, please visit:

  • Tuesday, April 1
    Tunisia's Transition to Democracy: A Discussion with Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa
    Time: 6:00pm - 7:00pm
    Location: Uris Hall, room 301 (Columbia Business School)

    Earlier this year, Tunisia, the country that launched the MENA region into a wave of popular uprisings in January 2011, adopted one of the Middle East's most liberal constitutions yet. Though strained by the multiple layers of its social fabric, notably tensions between Islamists and secularists, liberals and left-wing partisans, Tunisia today offers a glimpse of optimism against a somber post-Arab spring backdrop. An agreement between Prime Minister Ali Larayedh of the Ennahda party and opposition parties diffused the political crisis which had paralyzed the country following the assassination of two prominent secular politicians. Larayedh stepped down on January 9th in order to be replaced by Mehdi Jomaa, who previously served as the Minister of Industry. Jomaa as caretaker prime minister will oversee the government ahead of elections later this year.

    On Tuesday, April 1st, prior to his meeting with President Obama, Mehdi Jomaa will come to Columbia to speak and answer questions on Tunisia's historic democratic transition.

    Registration is required. Register here for this event:

    This event is sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the Middle East Institute; Tuness; the Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion; the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business; and the Institute of African Studies.

  • Wednesday April, 30
    The Struggle for Syria: A talk with Patrick Cockburn, Award-Winning Journalist and Correspondent for the London-based Independent
    Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
    Location: Shapiro Hall, Davis Auditorium

    This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS), Alwan for the Arts, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and the Middle East Institute

  • Past MEI Events

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