Current DISC Programming

Fall 2020

Virtual Scholar Activist Lecture Series: The Ink of a Poet: Writing & The Art of Transforming the Wretched with Antonio Lopez

Thursday, September 10 

Join Duke Alumni as they talk to the personal, intellectual, academic, and spiritual trajectory through life, Duke, and graduate school.

Born and raised in the East Palo Alto, CA Antonio López received his B.A. in Global Cultural Studies and African & African-American studies from Duke University. He's received scholarships to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Home School, Tin House Summer Workshop, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the Vermont Studio Center. He is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop, a CantoMundo Fellow, and a 2019 Adroit Summer Mentor. His nonfiction has been featured or is forthcoming in PEN/America, The Latino Book Review, and Insider Higher Education, and his poetry in BOAAT, Hayden's Ferry Review, Adroit Journal, Puerto del Sol, Huizache, Tin House and elsewhere. He was runner up for the inaugural Palette Poetry Spotlight Award of 2019 and the recipient of the 2019 Katherine Bakeless Nelson Award in Poetry for the 2019 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He received his Masters in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers-Newark. As a 2018 Marshall Scholar, he received a Masters in Philosophy in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, where he was also poetry editor of the Oxford Review of Books.

Virtual Lecture: Juhood Talks: Anti-Black Racism in the Arab World with Amuna Mohamed

Thursday, September 17

Join Juhood Magazine for their inaugural Juhood talk which features Amuna Mohamed, founder of Black Arabs Collective.  Amuna will lead a conversation that explores the Black Arab/Afro-Arab identity, intersectionality, and racial contexts across different regions.  She’ll also discuss her work with the Black Arabs Collective.

Virtual Lecture: Souvenirs of leisure & entertainment in the late Ottoman Empire: Photographs and postcards from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library with Berin Golonu, Ph.D

Friday, September 18

Art historian Berin Golonu will discuss the production of leisure space by looking at selections of Ottoman and Turkish Republican postcard imagery held in the Duke Libraries. Golonu is currently working on a book project on Ottoman sites of leisure referred to as public gardens or “people’s gardens,” which were modeled after European-style urban parks. Golonu will look at how these gardens replaced older sites of leisure in Thessaloniki and Istanbul, and contextualize their imagery with Ottoman novels, newspaper columns, or memoirs of the day. As public, semi-public and social spaces, these gardens can be viewed as a symptom and cause of the modernizing changes remaking Ottoman society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Born in Istanbul, Berin Golonu holds a PhD from the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester, an MA from the California College of the Arts and a BA from Vassar College. Golonu’s research interests include Ottoman and Turkish modern art and visual culture, art and environmentalism in developing Asian countries, and photographic histories of the Middle East. She is currently working on a book titled People’s Garden’s (Millet Bahçeleri): Structuring Public Leisure Space in the late Ottoman Empire which traces the establishment of European-style public parks in key Ottoman cities during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Virtual Scholar Activist Lecture Series: Navigating Afro-Arab Studies in Graduate School with Razan Idris

Thursday, September 24

Join Duke Alumni as they talk to the personal, intellectual, academic, and spiritual trajectory through life, Duke, and graduate school.

Razan Idris is a Sudanese-American third-year PhD student in History at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies histories of blackness in Afro-Arab communities on the African continent and in diaspora. For her current project, Razan has been exploring black identity at the religious institute of al-Azhar in Egypt since 1800. Razan is also the curator of the online #SudanSyllabus open project, collecting resources on Sudanese social, cultural, and intellectual history

Virtual Scholar Activist Lecture Series: Rednecks, White Muslims: Whiteness and Religious Normativity in the American South with Zachary Faircloth

Thursday, October 28

Join Duke Alumni as they talk to the personal, intellectual, academic, and spiritual trajectory through life, Duke, and graduate school.

Zachary Faircloth is a PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill in the Department of American Studies. Previously, he studied Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University and holds a Master's degree from the University of Florida from the Department of Religion. His work focuses on the entanglement of race and religion, rurality in the US South, and Critical Ethnic Studies. He is originally from Horry County, South Carolina.

Virtual Lecture: Problems of Islamic Reform: Nigeria, Egypt and the United States with Dr. Sarah Eltantawi

Tuesday, October 20

Sarah Eltantawi is Associate Professor of Modern Islam in the Department of Theology at Fordham University in New York. She is a specialist in contemporary Islam and Islamic law, with a focus in authoritarian and post-colonial contexts. Professor Eltantawi holds a PhD from Harvard University in the Study of Religion (Islamic studies), where she was the Jennifer W. Oppenheimer Fellow, an MA from Harvard University in International Studies (Middle East), and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Rhetoric and English literature.

Professor Eltantawi's book Shari'ah on Trial: Northern Nigeria's Islamic Revolution (University of California Press, 2017) examines why Northern Nigerians took to the streets starting in 1999 to demand the re-impimentation of shari'ah law. Her book focuses on the career of the stoning punishment in Islam, centered on the famous case of Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to death by stoning at the turn of this century for committing adultery (and ultimately acquitted). Professor Eltantawi is currently at work on two projects: one that examines the political theology of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and another, a book of essays that looks at several issues in Contemporary Islam, especially in the United States, most of which concentrate on problems attending the question of Islamic reform.

Professor Eltantawi has held fellowships at the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, at Brandeis University as a Scholar in Residence in Religion, Gender, Culture and the Law, at the University of California, Berkeley, as the Sultan Fellow in Arab Studies, and at the Forum Transregionalle at the Wissenschaftskoleg in Berlin as well as the Freie Universität in Berlin. She is also a political analyst, columnist, and radio show host.

Virtual Scholar Activist Lecture Series: Chronopolitical Assemblages with Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou

Thursday, October 20

This talk elaborates the relationship between race/ism, sexuality, and time in the discourses of Euro-American modernity that overdetermine structures of relationality in the contemporary Middle East (and its diaspora) as they have been/are affected by encounters with European and American peoples and cultures. I argue that the Euro-Enlightenment social and political constructions of time that have been adopted by Iran and its neighbors, as a practical Occidentalism, espouse antiblack raced and gendered assemblages. Such chronopolitical assemblages remain largely unaffected by Iran’s turn to counter-modernity, specifically, by its turn to political Islam in 1979.

M. Shadee Malaklou is a critical race and gender and sexuality studies scholar with expertise in Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952). Her research argues that gender and sexuality are produced as identity and type through the exclusion of black people from Euro-American discourses of modernity-or, from its social and political construction of time (i.e., its chronopolitics). This research contributes significantly not just to the study of racial blackness but also to how we understand how the non-black subaltern. In addition to writing for academic journals, she regularly publishes think pieces, most recently, in The Conversationalist, The Feminist Wire, and CounterPunch (and here) and periodically contributes to Always Already: A Critical Theory Podcast as the Frantz Fanon correspondent. In addition to her appointment at Berea College, Malaklou serves as visiting faculty in the Centre for Expanded Poetics at Concordia University in Montreal. She received her PhD in Culture and Theory and graduate certificates in Critical Theory and Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Irvine and her BA in Cultural Anthropology and Women's Studies from Duke University.

Spring 2020

Symposium “Black Muslim Atlantic”

Thursday, January 30 and Friday, January 31

This symposium was envisioned and organized with Imam Abdul Hafeez Waheed to honor the Black Muslim community in North Carolina and beyond, its culture, literature, history, and legacy from slavery until the present. Black Muslim Atlantic pays tribute to the work and writings of Omar ibn Sayyid through a pioneering project by Professors Carl Ernst and Mbaye Lo to translate his writings and create a digital archive. The symposium showcases the work of these professors and their students from their course "Arabic and the Writings of Enslaved Muslims." The term Black Muslim Atlantic was coined by Margari Aziza, the co-founder and program director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, as "an endeavor of transnationalism through literature, intellectual exchange, visual and performance art." This work expands Paul Gilroy's understanding of the Black Atlantic toward acknowledging the powerful role played by Islam in forging cultural and political solidarities across the global south.

For more information and a detailed schedule, visit here:

This event is sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center, African and African American Studies Department, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Franklin Humanities Institute, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department, Religious Studies Department, Duke Performances, and the Trent Foundation.

Film Screening: Docunight #64 [Durham]: Fight Feast

Thursday, February 13

#64: Fight Feast (بزم رزم)
Directed by: Seyed Vahid Hosseini
2018 / 123 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

Fight Feast (بزم رزم) is about the vicissitudinous story of Iranian music between 1979-1989, the years just after the revolution through the end of Iran-Iraq war. The narrative of restrictions and obstacles told by musicians, composers, and state authorities. The confrontation between music and politics. The simultaneous narration of two stories: the story of young people who sacrificed their lives for their homeland, and the story of musicians who on one hand entered the battlefields by their own language and on the other hand kept Iranian music alive and thriving.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Workshop: Gnawa LanGus: Community Music and Dance Workshop

Wednesday, February 26

Join Gnawa LanGus, fronted by GRAMMY-nominated musician Samir LanGus, for a free community workshop on the indigenous music and dance traditions of Morocco and North Africa. For all levels of ability.

Gnawa music is the ritual trance music of Morocco’s black communities, originally descended from slaves and soldiers once brought to Morocco from Northern Mali and Mauritania. Often called “The Moroccan Blues,” Gnawa music has a raw, hypnotic power that’s fascinated outsiders as diverse as writer/composer Paul Bowles, jazz giant Randy Weston, and rock god Jimi Hendrix.  

Concert: Gnawa LanGus: Building Bridges: Muslims in America

Thursday, February 27

The Gnawa blended their own traditions with native religious beliefs - just as displaced sub-Saharan West Africans did in the Americas - and healing music was created for private use by a community that was not permitted to directly observe their relationship with Allah. Played with percussive instruments, Qarqaba (large iron castanets), polyrhythmic clapping, and a three-stringed, bass lute-like sintir - Gnawa music draws on an abundant African-Islam history of ritualistic music believed to heal people possessed by jinn, or spirits. Gnawa LanGus, led by sintir master Samir LanGus (founder and bandleader of the GRAMMY-nominated Innov Gnawa), fuses the raw hypnotic power of the utterly singular and centuries-old North African tradition with Berber, Indian, Saharan, and Flamenco music. In its concert at Motorco Music Hall, the culmination of its weeklong Building Bridges residency, the ensemble showcases "a familiar musical idiom that can connect different worlds-the francophone with the anglophone, the trans-Saharan with the trans-Atlantic, [and] Africa with the Orient" (The New Yorker).

Gnawa LanGus is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative, funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center

Lecture: “Muslim Women: Unity & Diversity in A Global Tradition” with Professor Kecia Ali (Boston University)

Monday, March 2

Though 'the Muslim Woman' has often been portrayed one-dimensionally, Muslim women and girls defy easy generalizations. Nearly one of every eight people on the planet is a Muslim woman or girl, and Islam is only one facet of their lives. Drawing from global examples, but emphasizing the United States, this talk explores how ideas about women are central to debates over Muslim identity and religious authority-and to outsiders' negative stereotypes about Islam.

Kecia Ali (Ph.D., Religion, Duke University) teaches a range of classes on Islam. Her research focuses on Islamic law; women and gender; ethics; and biography. Her books include Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (2006, expanded ed. 2016), Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (2010), Imam Shafi'i: Scholar and Saint (2011), and The Lives of Muhammad (2014), about modern Muslim and non-Muslim biographies of Islam's prophet. She co-edited the revised edition of A Guide for Women in Religion, which provides guidance for careers in religious studies and theology (2014). Her research also includes gender, ethics, and popular culture.

Film Screening: Docunight #65 [Durham]: Platform

Thursday, March 5

#65: Platform
Directed by: Sahar Mosayebi
2019 / 87 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

A ROCKY-esque tale of determination and grit, PLATFORM follows three Iranian sisters as they compete to become international champions of Wushu, a Chinese martial art. The sisters’ thrilling underdog story explores not only their dedicated training but also their surprising place in society as they challenge traditional gender roles on the path to success.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Virtual Event: Research Workshop on “Church and State”

Wednesday, April 29

 You are cordially invited to the end-of-year Research Workshop on "Church and State" presented by the 2019-20 cohort of Religions and Public Life graduate fellows, Wednesday, April 29, 2:00-5:30pm on Zoom.  Each panelist will give a 6-8 minute “TEDx”-style presentation, followed by open discussion and Q&A for each panel.

 Panel 1, “The Good Life” in religion and politics, includes a presentation by Shreya Parikh (Sociology, UNC) on “Exploring what it means to be Black and Muslim in France and Tunisia when the idea of Muslim authenticity offered by the state as well as the religious authorities equates Muslimness with Arabness.”

Panel 2, “Theological underpinnings of political actions and institutions” includes a presentation by Hannah Ridge (Political Science, Duke) on “New research indicates Muslims in Morocco and Egypt may place a high value on economic policy while supporting a system in which civilians participate in the government. They also demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the role religion should play in the government.”

Panel 3, “Religious communities as sites of both worship and political action” includes a presentation by Devran Ocal (Geography, UNC) on “Studying mosques as spaces where unique political perceptions and practices are negotiated and reproduced, as well as dynamic and fluid spaces of everyday transnational politics.”

Sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, the 2019-20 Religions and Public Life Graduate Student Working Group focuses on the theme of “Church and State.” Ten master’s and doctoral students were selected out of a competitive application pool, representing nine different departments and degree programs, three schools, and two universities (Duke and UNC). Graduate Fellows developed their research interests and discussed recent scholarship during monthly meetings. Several scholars are also supported by generous collaborations with the Center for Jewish Studies, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center, the Duke Islamic Studies Center and the Program for American Values and Institutions.

Virtual Middle East & Islamic Studies Trivia
Wednesday, April 22

Celebrate the end of the semester with us this evening! The Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the Duke Islamic Studies Center have planned a fun game of online trivia. Join us for an entertaining and informative evening, and test your knowledge with questions related to the Middle East and Islam. 

Sponsored by the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, Duke University Middle East Studies Center, and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Virtual Middle East Trivia: Middle Eastern Cultures Edition

Wednesday, May 27

Join us for another fun game of online trivia on the Middle East! This entertaining and informative evening will feature questions related to Middle Eastern cultures. Test your knowledge with questions on music, film, literature, art, and more. Register in advance at  Sponsored by the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies; Duke University Middle East Studies Center; Duke Islamic Studies Center; Middle East, North Africa, South Asia Initiative at Portland State University; and the Portland State University Middle East Studies Center.

Fall 2019

Film Screening: Docunight #60 [Durham]: Finding Farideh

Wednesday, September 4

#60: Finding Farideh
Directed by: Kourosh Ataee, Azadeh Moussavi
2018 / 88 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

Iran’s entry for the international feature film category in the 92nd Academy Awards (the Oscars) in 2020.

“Finding Farideh” is a feature-length documentary about an Iranian girl named Farideh, who had been abandoned in a holy shrine in Iran when she was 6 months old in 1976, and then she got adopted by a Dutch couple and left Iran to the Netherlands to start her new life. Her parents promised to take her to Iran when she turns 18, but it never happened because they always thought that Iran is a dangerous country to go. Now, she overcomes her fears and starts a personal journey to her motherland Iran for the first time to meet three families who claim to be her biological family and to find out about her Iranian identity and culture.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Concert: Mumu Fresh

Saturday, September 21

Maimouna Youssef’s “regal combination of black power and Native American pride” (NPR Music) became most apparent on 2017’s pliant Vintage Babies LP, capturing her and collaborator DJ Dummy dream weaving in and out of upbeat soul jams and activist-inspired dirges. As “a divine music healer” (Rolling Out), Youssef, or Mumu Fresh, grew up pivoting between genres and styles — singing gospel, jazz, and African-inspired songs with her mother in an African American Muslim household in Baltimore, and gleaning religious practices and songs from her Choctaw and Muscogee grandparents. By age 11, Youssef was transcribing and memorizing Wu-Tang Clan and Black Star lyrics — a practice that would inform her development as both an emcee and vocalist. Following a GRAMMY nomination for her vocal work with The Roots and recording as the featured artist on the DJ Jazzy Jeff-produced Chasing Goosebumps II, Youssef has blossomed into a well-respected musical force. As part of its Building Bridges initiative, Duke Performances presents Youssef at The Pinhook in downtown Durham, the culmination of a multi-day residency on campus and in town.  Mumu Fresh is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative, funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center. 

Lecture: Human Rights, Faith, and the Border with Omar Suleiman

Monday, September 23

Join us for the annual Human Rights at Duke Lecture featuring Imam Omar Suleiman.  Suleiman is a world-renowned scholar and theologically driven activist for human rights. He is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University.  Most recently, he was recognized by CNN as one of the 25 most influential Muslims in America and included amongst the Fredrick Douglass 200 most influential Americans whose modern-day work embody the legacy of the great abolitionist. Sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Center for Muslim Life, Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke Middle East Studies Center

Lecture: From Salsa to Jalsa: Race, Music and the Global Andalus with Professor Hisham Aidi

Thursday, September 26

Hisham Aidi is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.  He is the author of Redeploying the State (Palgrave 2008) a comparative study of market reform and labor movements in Latin America; and co-editor, with Manning Marable, of Black Routes to Islam (Palgrave 2009). Aidi is the recipient of the Carnegie Scholar Award (2008) and the Open Society Foundation Fellowship (2010). His most recent book Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture (Pantheon 2015) won the American Book Award in 2015. He is currently a scholar-in-residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, leading a research project titled "W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-Arab World."  Sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center, Center for Jewish Studies, Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke Performances, Focus Program, and Romance Studies. 

Wednesdays at the Center: “Black Arts, Black Muslims: Race, Religion, and Culture” with Professor Ellen McLarney (Duke University)

Wednesday, October 2

Recent, cutting edge scholarship on Black Power and its “spiritual sister” the Black Arts Movement chronicles an important era in the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the United States. This literature, however, does not fully account for the catalytic role played by Islamic mobilization, Islamic movements, and Islamic arts in what is now known as the “civil rights era.” Islamic commitments are equated with a retrograde and reactionary black nationalism systematically understood as violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic—in short, as produced by the context they were trying to resist. A number of poets, writers, artists, musicians, and activists converted in the 1960s and 1970s bearing eloquent witness to deeper reasons for their identification with Islam, testimonies woven into an extensive body of poetry, drama, autobiographies, essays, music, and art. Black Arts, Black Muslims charts the development of an Islamically inflected arts, music, and poetics that gave expression to a black cultural sensibility, creating solidarity in a community under siege.  This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Lecture: “The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba: Architecture, Memory, and the Future” with Professor Michele Lamprakos (University of Maryland)

Thursday, October 3

Most scholars know the Great Mosque of Cordoba as one of the great monuments of Islamic civilization. But for almost eight centuries, it has been the city's cathedral. Unlike other mosques on the Iberian peninsula, which were demolished and replaced by cathedrals and churches at some point after the Christian conquest, the Great Mosque of Cordoba survived. It was progressively adapted for Catholic worship with relatively minor changes. Then, in the 16th century, a strange thing happened: a massive choir and presbytery began to rise from the middle of the building. Over the course of the next two centuries, the surrounding fabric was progressively "christianized" - only to be "re-islamicized" in the 19th-20th centuries, in the era of Romanticism, Liberalism, and colonialism. Paradoxically, re-islamicization reached its highpoint under Franco's ultra-Catholic dictatorship (1939-1975). It might be expected that, with transition to democracy and freedom of religion, there would be greater openness to the Islamic past in Cordoba. But in fact, the opposite occurred: the last two decades have seen a new wave of christianization, as Church authorities have sought to downplay, discredit, and even deny the Islamic past. The long struggle over the building's fabric and meaning attests to the continuing power of the Islamic architectural legacy. But it is also a barometer of changing attitudes toward the Islamic past - and the meaning of that past for Spanish culture and society. Sponsored by Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke Middle East Studies Center, The FOCUS Program, Romance Studies and Wired! Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture. 

Film Screening: Docunight #61 [Durham]: The Broker

Wednesday, October  3

#61: The Broker
Directed by: Azadi Moghadam
2018 / 61 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

Inside this traditional Iranian dating agency, the manager, Mrs. Sadri, and her female employees are determined to find their clients a husband — regardless of their personal feelings or preferences.  Shuffling through files and making agitated phone calls, they constantly remind their mortified customers that it’s the man who gets to choose and that a woman without a spouse doesn’t have an identity. Even a temporary marriage would be better than remaining unwed, they say. Which doesn’t mean these surprising brokers don’t harshly lecture their male clients as well, or that their conservative views don’t come with a good dose of humor — especially since two of them are, ironically, single. Shot almost entirely inside the confines of their tiny office, The Broker conveys a sense of claustrophobia that mirrors many women’s situations and offers a shocking, tragicomic reminder that the fiercest agents of the patriarchy aren’t always men. Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

The Life and Writings of Omar ibn Sayyid

Thursday, November 07

Please join us for a roundtable discussion focusing on the Arabic writings of Omar ibn Sayyid (1770-1864), who in 1831 wrote an autobiography in Arabic while enslaved in Bladen County, North Carolina.  The discussion and presentations will address over a dozen manuscripts about his enslavement from West Africa/ Senegal, his tumultuous life journey in the Carolinas, his Muslim faith and training in Islamic sciences, the Qur’an and the Bible and the controversy over the supposed conversion of Omar to Christianity.  A light dinner will be served.  Co-sponsors: AMES (Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), The Arabic Halaqa, The FOCUS Program, and Duke Islamic Studies Center. 

Film Screening: Docunight #62 [Durham]: Homework

Thursday, November 7

 #62: Homework
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
1989 / 86 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

"Homework" is a documentary Abbas Kiarostami directed in 1989 after realizing he was having difficulties assisting his son with his homework. Kiarostami interviewed young male students at a local school to find out what kind of problems kids faced completing their homework, which in Iran requires a great deal of parental assistance (or did at the time).  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Concert: Rafiq Bhatia Breaking English, Building Bridges: Muslims in America

Thursday, November 07

A member of heralded experimental pop trio Son Lux, Rafiq Bhatia — a Raleigh native and the son of Muslim immigrant parents — was recently described by The New York Times as “one of the most intriguing figures in music today.” The guitarist and composer’s 2018 album Breaking English finds a visceral common ground between ecstatic avant-jazz, mournful soul, tangled strings and building-shaking electronics, using surprise and contrast to fuel a meticulous, hybrid style all his own. It’s an enveloping piece of musical cinema, demonstrating just how challenging and exciting Bhatia’s songcraft can be to listeners eager to break free from the predictability of genre or categorization. Bandcamp praised this sui generis full-length as “less about easily-understood messages, and more about the passion it takes to push through the barriers that separate us.” Following a weeklong Building Bridges residency at Duke and in Durham, Bhatia’s trio performs Breaking English at the von der Heyden Studio Theater alongside entrancing visual projections.  Rafiq Bhatia is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative, funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Public Talk: Brothers Behind Borders: Islamism and Nationalism in the Middle East

Friday, November 08

In the wake of the 2010-2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the emergence of Islamist parties as leading political actors in the post-authoritarian transitions, Western analyses were teeming with predictions that not only would groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and similar movements in other Arab countries sweep to power in their respective states, but that they would come together to form a unified front of Islamist-led governments from Morocco to Yemen. This paper seeks to interrogate the logic behind such analyses by challenging long-held assumptions regarding the relationship between Islamism and nationalism. It argues in favor of a historical approach that traces the process by which Islamist movements effectively localized what was once a universalist mission with a strong transnational component. By recasting Islamist movements as thoroughly nationalist actors operating within clearly defined political and sociocultural boundaries, we can better understand their posture in relation to domestic and regional developments. The diverging experiences of Islamist actors in the cases of Sudan and Tunisia, including their ideological formation, social mobilization, and political contestation, clearly demonstrate the impact of nationalist realities on the evolution of Islamism.  Organized by the Duke University Middle East Studies Center. Co-sponsored by the Islamic Studies Center and the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.

Docunight Film Screening: #63: The Story of Boulevard / The Mannequins of Ghale Hassan Khan

Thursday, December 5

#63: The Story of Boulevard / The Mannequins of Ghale Hassan Khan
Directed by: Davood Ashrafi / Sam Kalantari
2019 / 2015 / 40 / 32 mins

Persian with no subtitles

The Story of Boulevard is a documentary about Keshavarz Boulevard, one of Tehran’s important streets, The film is in effect a line-up of histories, events, and narratives of the place and it’s deep-rooted desires and contradictions waxing and waning, a course that makes Boulevard a collective belonging. Davood Ashrafi is an independent filmmaker based in Tehran. A graduate of Cinema from the University of Art and a member of Khane Cinema. He worked for years in feature films as a camera assistant and is now a cinematographer. In his work, he is interested in the intersection between documentary and fiction film. His documentary The Story of Boulevard won the Art & Experience prize at the 11th Cinema Verite Festival and Best film with the focus of Tehran at Shahr 7th International Film Festival.

The Mannequins of Ghale Hassan Khan tells the story of the birth and life of some mannequins. They are all created in the same way but their faith is not the same. Sam Kalantari, bornin 1976 in Tehran, is considered to be the fourth generation of Iranian documentary filmmakers. He began filmmaking academically the same time as he entered university to study civil engineering, he entered the realm of Iran’s professional filmmaking scene by making his first short film “The Unknown Desire” (Tamanaye Majhoul) in 2001. After completing his studies in Ireland, he entered the international realm of Iranian cinema as the director of films “from the House No.37” and “He”.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Spring 2019

Lecture: “Being Muslim: Women of Color in/and American Islam” with Dr. Sylvia Chan Malik (Rutgers)

Tuesday, January 15

 Sylvia Chan-Malik will give a lecture based on her recently published book, Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam. In her lecture, Professor Chan-Malik will discuss the ways U.S. Muslim women's identities are expressions of Islam as both Black protest religion and universal faith tradition. Drawing on archival images, cultural texts, popular media, and interviews, she will show how communities of American Islam became sites of safety, support, spirituality, and social activism, and how women of color were central to their formation. By accounting for American Islam's rich histories of mobilization and community, the talk highlights the resistance that all Muslim women must engage in the post-9/11 United States. From the stories that she gathers, Professor Chan-Malik demonstrates the diversity and similarities of Black, Arab, South Asian, Latina, and multiracial Muslim women, and how American understandings of Islam have shifted against the evolution of U.S. white nationalism over the past century. In borrowing from the lineages of Black and women-of-color feminism, Chan-Malik offers us a new vocabulary for U.S. Muslim feminism, one that is as conscious of race, gender, sexuality, and nation, as it is region and religion.  Sponsored by Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Lecture: “Our Mamas Been Rockin’ Hijab Since Before We Were Babies: The History of Fashionable Modesty in Black Muslim Communities”” with Dr. Jamillah Karim

Thursday, January 17

In the Trump Era, the hijab has become a symbol of resistance to Islamophobia and celebration of Muslim women. But this didn’t happen overnight. It took years of struggle, creativity, and perseverance by Muslim women who don’t get the media’s attention. We owe much to women like Ibtihaj Muhammad and Linda Sarsour, but they stand on the shoulders of African American Muslim mothers who worked hard to make their daughters love being Muslim and feel beautiful at the same time. Through personal and historical narrative, Jamillah Karim introduces us to these amazing Muslim Mamas.  Sponsored by the Center for Muslim Life at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Black Muslim Talkspace presents #BeingBlackandMuslim

Thursday, January 17

Black Muslim Talkspace presents #BeingBlackandMuslim a discussion led by Dr. Jamilah Karim. At our normal Black Muslim Talkspace time we will be having a discussion led by Dr. Jamilah Karim.  Sponsored by Center for Muslim Life at Duke and Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Panel Discussion: China's Concentration Camps: What's at Stake?

Monday, January 28

Credible reports have revealed that China has detained 1-3 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in internment camps, where they are forced to denounce their religion and ethnic identity. An Uyghur survivor of the camp system, Mihrigul Tursun, will provide testimony of her experiences.  This event will shed light on the situation in East Turkestan/Xinjiang - specifically on China’s ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs, mass surveillance state, crackdown on religion, internment camps, a brief history of the region, as well as current responses by the Uyghur diaspora.  Sponsored by Duke Muslim Student Association, Center for Muslim Life at Duke and Duke Islamic Studies Center. 

Film Screening: Docunight #53 [Durham]: " MAHAK - A World She Founded"

Wednesday, February 6

MAHAK - A World She Founded
From “Karestan” Documentary Film Series
Director: Mohsen Abdolvahab
2017 / 57 min
Persian with English Subtitles
The life of Saideh Ghods changed completely when her two-year-old daughter Kiana was diagnosed with cancer. As she confronted her daughter’s suffering, she became aware of the suffering of so many impoverished families in hospital corridors around the country who were dealing with children afflicted by cancer. When, due to the doctors’ timely diagnosis, Kiana was on the path to a full recovery, Saideh Ghods resolved to prevent the unnecessary deaths of children with cancer caused by lack of access to therapeutic facilities or insufficient financial resources.  Ghods founded MAHAK over 25 years ago. It quickly gained fame and support throughout Iran. Today it is one of the most highly functioning and trusted charities in the country. Countless children have been helped and saved.  A few years after founding MAHAK, Ghods, along with a group of Iranian philanthropists, established a fully equipped hospital in Tehran that specializes in treating children with cancer. Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Film Festival: “Iran, Forty Years After the Revolution” with Ahmad Kiarostami

Thursday, February 21 – Friday, February 22

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Join the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke University for a film screening and discussion on the Iranian Revolution with special guest, Ahmad Kiarostami. Ahmad co-produced Coup 53, a feature documentary on the story of Operation Ajax, the CIA/MI6 staged a coup in 1953 in Iran that overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh, and Feathers of Fire, a visually breathtaking cinematic shadow play inspired by the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh (‘The Book of Kings’).  Ahmad also worked with several Iranian directors and has served on the boards of NIAC and San Francisco Cinematheque, the oldest organization in North America promoting experimental cinema and video, and The Roxie, the oldest operating cinema in North America. He makes music videos, which are among the most viewed Iranian music videos on YouTube. In 2014, he started Docunight, an initiative to show Iranian documentaries, with monthly screenings in 20+ cities in North America. Free and open to the public.  Sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke University.

Lecture: "Interpreting Islam in China - A book talk with Kristian Petersen (Old Dominion University)"

Thursday, February 28

During the early modern period, Muslims in China began to embrace the Chinese characteristics of their heritage. Several scholar-teachers incorporated tenets from traditional Chinese education into their promotion of Islamic knowledge. As a result, some Sino-Muslims established an educational network which utilized an Islamic curriculum made up of Arabic, Persian, and Chinese works. The corpus of Chinese Islamic texts written in this system is collectively labeled the Han Kitab.  Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, and Media Studies. He specializes on two main areas of research 1) the development of Islam in China, and 2) Muslims in Cinema. Sponsored by the Duke University Libraries, Asian Pacific Studies Institute, AMES Presents, Duke Islamic Studies Center and Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Lecture: "Islam in the Modern World” with Omar Suleiman

Thursday, February 28

Join us for a discussion on what it means to navigate Islam in the modern world led by Imam Omar Suleiman! The talk will discuss how to navigate and overcome challenges faced by Muslims in America. It will be followed an interactive Q&A session. Omar Suleiman is an American Muslim scholar, civil rights activist, and speaker named one of "25 Muslims changing America" by CNN. He is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University.   Sponsored by the Duke University Libraries, Asian Pacific Studies Institute, AMES Presents, Duke Islamic Studies Center and Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Panel: "A thematic Conversation on Minority Issues in China”

Friday, March 1

Panelists: Dr. Kristian Petersen (Old Dominion University), Dr. Ralph Litzinger (Duke University), Janice Hyeju Jeong (Duke University) and Aydin Anwar (Duke University)

This thematic conversation will revolve around two aspects: in the fall of 2018 Duke University Libraries acquired the personal photo album of Sir Percy Sykes, the famous British Brigadier-General and Diplomat of his travels to Kashgar in 1915. The album details the culture and topography of Kashgar, one of the centers of the large Muslim minority in China. The album will be the backdrop to the panelists’ different perspectives of (Muslim) minorities in China, with a focus on the Turkic speaking Uyghurs. The current situation for Uyghurs in China is complicated with a government sanctioned suppression of Islam and the development of Internment camps. The speakers will reflect on the changes that have taken place and some of the issues currently facing Muslims in China. Each speaker will speak for 5 minutes leaving plenty of time for discussion and engagement with the audience. Sponsored by the Duke University Libraries, Asian Pacific Studies Institute, AMES Presents, Duke Islamic Studies Center and Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Performance: Brother Ali – Building Bridges: Muslims in America
Thursday, March 7

From his complicated backstory to his compelling rhymes, Brother Ali is a rapper without a rival. Albino and legally blind, he struggled to find peers in the midwestern states where he spent his youth. But in a pivotal moment at age eight, he found rap, which gave him an outlet and, through the references his favorite rappers made, led him to Islam. For twenty years, he has funneled these elements of his distinctive identity into increasingly profound verses, pairing feverish calls for social justice with candid admissions about his own mental fragility. Brother Ali has never walked this tightrope better than on 2017’s gripping All the Beauty in This Whole Life. Written during a period of extreme political upheaval, Beauty not only acknowledges the world’s problems but aims to overcome them — to celebrate love in the face of hate, to cherish wisdom in the midst of madness. Ali turns bad encounters with TSA agents into lessons on humor and empathy, a poem for his son into a sermon on staring down intolerance. His perspective — delivered from Motorco’s stage as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project — feels more necessary than ever, providing hard-won light in the face of darkness.

Brother Ali is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative. Funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Workshop: Chinese Arabic Calligraphy with Haji Noor Deen
Friday, March 8

Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang is an expert in Islamic calligraphy, specializing in the Sini style which originated from the Chinese Muslim tradition.  Co-Sponsored by The Center for Muslim Life, Deen Arts Foundation, AMES Present, DISC, and the Duke Office of Civic Engagement

Wednesdays at the Center: “Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi” with Professor Tim Dobe (Grinnell College) and Professor Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke University)

Wednesday, March 20

Timothy Dobe and Sumathi Ramaswamy will present, compare and discuss several visual images of M.K. Gandhi, each of which embodies important dimensions of Islamic traditions.  They will consider, for example, images of Gandhi by the Indian Sufi writer, Khwaja Hasan Nizami from the 1920s, drawn during Gandhi's rise to fame, and by three iconic Muslim artists of modern India, who to are drawn to painting the Mahatma.  This interdisciplinary conversation will draw on material religious studies and the historiography of visual culture. This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Film Screening: Docunight #55 [Durham]: “October 13, 1937”

Wednesday, April 3

October 13, 1937
Directed by: Baktash Abtin
2018 / 67 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

“October 13, 1937” is a documentary about Iranian-Armenian maestro Loris Tjeknavorian, an Iranian Armenian composer and conductor. He is one of the most celebrated cultural figures in Armenia and Iran.   Tjeknavorian himself said the film is about a mad person, and "I have always said that the mad people make the world and the wise ruin it". "When I was told they were going to make a film about me I was afraid, since we are all making changes every day, I never thought about the replies to the questions in this film and gave the responses immediately. I am still a child and I never want to leave this childhood of mine because that world would have no pleasure for me." Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Performance: Habibi – Building Bridges: Muslims in America
Thursday, April 4

Garage rock delivered in Farsi? That’s what Brooklyn band Habibi plays on Cardamom Garden, its delightful 2018 album. At the start of its finale, singer Rahill Jamalifard launches into a pepped-up rendition of “Green Fuz,” a garage-rock classic, with a bold proclamation rendered in Farsi: “Here we come, and we’re coming fast.” It’s a fitting declaration for a group committed to such surprising unions of cultures and styles. An unlikely juxtaposition of infectious surf pop and riff-heavy punk, imbued with the spirit of Iran’s own psychedelic music, these magnetic songs are hits in the making. Though Jamalifard was born in in Detroit, her family is from Iran. She spent summers visiting family there while absorbing Iranian melodies and practicing Farsi. While living in New York City, she bonded with guitarist Lenaya “Lenny” Lynch through a shared love of Persian culture; alongside their bandmates in Habibi (notably, three other women), they amplify that culture by fusing it with new influences. Habibi performs at Durham’s inclusive rock club, The Pinhook, as the culmination of a weeklong residency for Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project. It’s the perfect setting for rock ’n’ roll that rewrites the rules. Habibi is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative. Funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Fall 2018

Lecture: “After the Rebellion: Religion, Rebels & Jihad” with Professor Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst (University of Vermont)

Thursday, September 6

Religion, rebels, and jihad were redefined in the aftermath of the 1857 Rebellion in South Asia. What it meant to belong to a particular religion—specifically Islam—came to signify one’s political leanings. In turn, religious concepts with long, multifaceted histories—specifically jihad—came to be synonymous with a religion and its religious community. This talk addresses how the events of 1857-1858 minoritized and racialized Indian Muslims, with particular attention to the use of jihad as a rhetorical concept in the colonial period.  Professor Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst specializes in religions of South Asia. Her research deals with Islam in South Asia, historiography, and the development of theories of religion. Other areas of interest include how religion has been defined and relates to both nationalism and colonialism.  Sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center and FHI Humanities Futures.

Concert: Didar – Beholding the Beloved with Amir Koushkani and Seemi Ghazi

Sunday, September 9

Join Amir Koushkani and Seemi Ghazi as they play Persian music and share stories of beholding the beloved.  Amir Koushkani is an ethnomusicologist, composer, performer and instructor of traditional Persian stringed instruments Tar and Setar.  Dr. Koushkani’s training in Persian music began in Iran, where he was introduced to traditional Persian themes, under the tutelage of Master Dariush Pirniakan.  Amir Koushkani holds a Master’s Degree in Western Musical Composition and he also received a PhD in Ethnomusicology at York University, with a dissertation on the history and theory of the Iranian musical transcription. Seemi Bushra Ghazi is a lecturer in Classical Arabic at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She has a special interest in Islamic literature, culture and spirituality, as well as Islam and Gender. Ms. Ghazi is also a student in the Rifa`i Ma`rufi spiritual lineage and a performer of traditional Islamic arts, including recitation of the Qur’an and Hamd, or divine praise songs. She has lectured widely and her interviews and performances have been featured on BBC, CBC, NPR and PBS. Her Qur’anic recitation is available on the CD accompanying Michael Sells’ Approaching Islam: the Early Revelations, as well as on the PBS documentary “Islam, Empire of Faith.”  Ms. Ghazi was educated in the United States at Bryn Mawr College, the University of Chicago, and Duke University, as well as in the Middle East at King Abdul Aziz University (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) and The American University in Cairo.  Co-sponsored by the Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina, the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke University, and Duke Islamic Studies Center

Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States with Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer

Thursday, September 20

Drawing on over two years of ethnographic research, Su'ad Abdul Khabeer illuminates the ways in which young and multiethnic U.S. Muslims draw on Blackness to construct their identities as Muslims. This is a form of critical Muslim self-making that builds on interconnections and intersections, rather than divisions between "Black" and "Muslim." Thus, by countering the notion that Blackness and the Muslim experience are fundamentally different, Muslim Cool poses a critical challenge to dominant ideas that Muslims are "foreign" to the United States and puts Blackness at the center of the study of American Islam. Yet Muslim Cool also demonstrates that connections to Blackness made through hip hop are critical and contested-critical because they push back against the pervasive phenomenon of anti-Blackness and contested because questions of race, class, gender, and nationality continue to complicate self-making in the United States. Professor Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Professor of African and African American Studies will be Dr. Khabeer's respondent. Co-sponsored by Duke Islamic Studies Center, African and African American Studies (AAAS), Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (AMES), Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship, Cultural Anthropology, Duke Performances, Focus Program, and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

جشن مهرگان Mehregan Festival

Saturday, September 22

A festival of love!  Join us for Persian Folk music and dance this Saturday in Goodson Chapel. Sponsored by GSAID, AMES Present, Duke Islamic Studies Center, Persian Studies Program at UNC Chapel Hill, and the Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina Free.

Wednesdays at the Center: “Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition” with Professor Omid Safi (Duke University)

Wednesday, September 26

Dr. Omid Safi will highlight his new book, Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition (Yale University Press, 2018). The collection brings together sayings from the Qur’an, Hadith and Hadith Qudsi, the poetry of Rumi, Sa’di, Hafez, and stories from ‘Attar, Abu Sa‘id-e Abi ‘l-Khayr, Kharaqani, Sulami, and others. Dr. Safi hopes Radical Love anthologizes Sufi poetry in a way that is both faithful to the original and poetic in translation.  Omid Safi is the Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and a professor of Iranian studies in the AMES department. He specializes in the study of Islamic mysticism and contemporary Islam and frequently writes on liberationist traditions of Dr. King, Malcolm X, and is committed to spiritual traditions that link together love and justice. Omid was recently invited to speak at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel as part of the 50th annual commemoration for Dr. King. Omid is among the most frequently sought out speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, and other international media.  This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Wednesdays at the Center: “Betraying the Spectacle” with Rashida James-Saadiya 

Wednesday, October 3

“Betraying the Spectacle” is a visual response to mass media constructions of the black body as one of turmoil or commodity. Fragments of everyday life will be captured through combining photography with personal narratives, creating a visual exhibit highlighting the intersections of blackness, spirituality and creative resistance in the lives of Black Muslim women living and working in the American South.  Rashida James-Saadiya is a visual artist, writer, and cultural educator invested in transforming social perceptions through creative literature. Her work explores migration, identity, and the transmission of spirituality through poetry and song amongst Muslim women in West Africa and the American South. Also, she is an Arts & Culture editor for Sapelo Square a digital hub documenting the experience and legacy of Black Muslims in America and the Creative Director of Crossing Limits, a multi-faith non-profit organization which utilizes poetry as an instrument for social change, highlighting the intersections of faith and social injustice. This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center, the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Film Screening: Docunight #50 [Durham]: "Poets of Life"

Wednesday, October 3

Poets of Life
From "Karestan" documentary film series
Producer: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
2017 / 73 mins
Persian with English Subtitles
Shirin Parsi is a rice farmer, but not an ordinary one. After receiving a BA in French literature from the University of Paris, she returned to Iran and decided not to live in the megapolis capital, Tehran. Her husband had inherited land in Shanderman, a village near the Caspian Sea, so they moved there and took up rice farming. The Parsi family - including their two sons, who have stayed to farm with their parents - has instituted innovations in rice production. They promote sustainable farming and refrain from using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In a region where more and more farmers are selling their farms at very cheap prices to developers, the Parsis produce 100% organic rice. Shirin and her family have chosen an exemplary lifestyle which is rich in indigenous values. In addition to rice farming, she spends time as a social activist and volunteers with several local NGOs. She is especially active in women's groups where she focuses on raising awareness. This film follows Shirin preparing the rice paddies until the rice harvest, as well as showing her social activities, as she attempts to bring about social and environmental change. Karestan documentary films series are the story of Iranian entrepreneurs (men and women) who, both in big and small terms, take risks and change their lives and those of others by creating innovative ideas and values. Their impact, although confined to a small scale and within a limited and local geography, will bring about an inspiring atmosphere for change.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Performance: Amir El Saffar and Hamid Al-Saadi – Building Bridges: Muslims in America
Thursday, October 4

Amir ElSaffar is one of the United States’ most inventive musicians. With his Two Rivers Ensemble, he plays trumpet, layering Middle Eastern melodies with jazz improvisation in search of tarab, or musical ecstasy. The son of an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother, ElSaffar is also an ardent advocate for Iraqi maqam, a centuries-old musical repertoire built on yearning melismatic melodies, shimmering microtonal modes, and entrancing cyclical rhythms. In his Iraqi maqam ensemble, Safaafir, the only such group in the United States, he plays santur, a hypnotic hammered dulcimer central to maqam’s enveloping sound.  As part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project, ElSaffar’s teacher Hamid Al-Saadi, one of the last living masters of Baghdadi maqam, makes a rare stateside appearance with Safaafir. The lively instrumental trio — santur, the hourglass-shaped doumbek drum, and the bowed rebab — supports Al-Saadi’s powerful and plangent baritone voice. Living links to one of the world’s most sophisticated and mesmerizing classical forms, Al-Saadi and Safaafir create a vital connection to Iraq’s glorious musical heritage.  Amir ElSaffar & Hamid Al-Saadi are presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative, funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Performance: Oddisee – Building Bridges: Muslims in America
Thursday, October 18.

Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, or the incisive rapper and elegant producer Oddisee, grew up in two worlds. The son of an African-American mother and a Sudanese father, he spent his weeks in affluent Maryland suburbs, and his weekends in tougher D.C. neighborhoods. To his Sudanese family, he was the exotic western cousin, raised on rap and big-city trappings; to his Washington family, he was the suburban Muslim nerd who watched too much news. That tension has made Oddisee a modern musical visionary, “a focused beam of hip-hop soul that rattles loudly in our present political moment,” as Pitchfork exclaimed.  Oddisee arrives in Durham for Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project and ongoing Hip-Hop Initiative. At Motorco, with an airtight live band, he funnels his perspective as a Muslim Sudanese-American artist into his music. Oddisee’s songs sound joyous, with cascading horns and mellifluous keyboards. But as a lyricist, especially on 2017’s brilliant The Iceberg, he addresses broader questions about the American experiment. A daring thinker and rapper, Oddisee delivers hip-hop that makes us ponder the world’s trials and triumphs — one ebullient beat and breathless rhyme at a time.  Oddisee is presented as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges Initiative, funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Lecture: “Women of Daesh: Quests for Paradise, Empowerment and Adventure” with Professor Katherine Brown (University of Birmingham, UK)

Wednesday, October 24

Discussions about western women’s involvement with the violent terrorist group Daesh (also known as ‘Islamic State’) tend to focus on their exceptionality. We are reminded of how unusual it is to have such high numbers of women joining a group such as this; to have women publicly advocate for positions of authority and violence; and to have women ‘give up’ the trappings of a liberal western feminist lifestyle. The women are consequently doubly deviant and exceptional for their actions. The challenge analysts have with this framing is that these are not necessarily unusual among women who engage with terrorism, and the women themselves are not so extraordinary. As a group they’re diverse, but have lived relatively mundane and mostly boring lives. Even those we ascribe great military intelligence to (the so-called White Widdows) have little in their past lives that are dramatically different from the general populations of Europe, Australia, and North America. However, these women’s ordinariness gives us an opportunity to question a range of assumptions about how religion, terrorism, and gender interact. Their participation throws into sharp relief the failings of the ‘gender blind’ theories of mainstream radicalization and terrorism studies. This paper after demonstrating the limitations of existing theories, then unpacks some themes that emerged from analyzing the propaganda and interviews with Western women who are linked to Daesh: paradise, empowerment, and adventure. These are powerful themes, I argue, because they offer (false) grand solutions to ordinary problems. So how then should we understand these ordinary women's radicalization in a way that doesn’t end up in the same quest for exceptionality that I have critiqued the mainstream for embarking upon? To do this I engage with two great thinkers – Thomas Moore and Talal Asad. The result is a realization that the women of Daesh express a utopian politics that is more than a question of belief or of material socio-economic grievances; rather radicalization is the alignment of extreme belief, extreme belonging, and extreme behavior. Overall, two larger points emerge. First, the western women of Daesh help us understand the gendered power of ‘religious extremism’. Second, from this understanding we can begin to unpick its appeal beyond the ‘shock and awe’ counter-narrative approach.  Sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center and Religions & Public Life - The Kenan Institute.

Concert: ATWA

Wednesday, October 24

Known as ATWA, Ahmad Moustafa Kamel was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. He started rapping in 2006, and since has established himself as one of the foremost rappers in the Arab world. He won first place in the Tele Performance Egypt Talent Show 2 years in a row, appeared repeatedly on Egyptian National TV, and collaborated with the best-known rappers in the Middle East. His songs on Soundcloud were played more than 1 million time worldwide. Featured in numerous newspapers, magazines, television, and radio shows, ATWA's lyrics have inspired a new generation of Egyptian musicians.  Sponsored by the Duke Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department, Duke University Middle East Studies Center, and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Seminar: “Know and Defend Your Rights” with Azadeh Shahshahani and Manzoor Cheema of Project South

Monday, October 29

Learn about your rights when approached by law enforcement agencies (police, FBI, ICE, etc.), and your rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The presentation will also focus on the interconnection between anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant/anti-refugee bigotry, and other forms of oppression. The presenters will make a comparison between structural racism and institutional Islamophobia. They will also discuss strategies for building a stronger grassroots movement against racism and Islamophobia. The presentation will include practical examples of grassroots organizing in the U.S South that allowed for changing the balance of power and gaining local victories. Sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center and the Center for Muslim Life at Duke University.

Lecture: “The Beginnings of Islamic Law” with Professor Lena Salaymeh (Tel Aviv University and Princeton University)

Tuesday, October 30  

Professor Lena Salaymeh, Tel Aviv University and Princeton University, will discuss her award-winning book, "The Beginnings of Islamic Law: Late Antique Islamicate Legal Traditions" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2016). Showing how Muslim jurists crafted their legal opinions by combining ancient norms, scripture, religious and scholarly precedents, local traditions, and social needs in unexpected ways, Prof. Salaymeh challenges modern preconceptions of Islamic law and illustrates the dynamic nature of Islamic jurisprudence in a contemporary setting. The program is a joint presentation of Duke Law's Center for International and Comparative Law, Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, and Duke University's Department of Religious Studies.

Symposium: “Arabic Medicine Conquers Latin Europe, 1050-1300: Methods and Motives” 

Thursday-Friday, November 1-2

The Kenan Institute and the Duke Library will hold a two-day symposium on entitled "Arabic Medicine Conquers Latin Europe, 1050-1300: Methods and Motives," showing how the accomplished Arabic medical writings of the medieval Middle East and Spain were discovered, translated, and assimilated by a previously wholly unsophisticated European world. The symposium will mark the opening of the exhibition of Arabic medical manuscripts at Perkins Library.  A keynote lecture by Prof. Cristina Alvarez Millán of the UNED (Madrid), "Arabic Medicine in the World of Classical Islam: Growth and Achievement" will open the symposium and exhibition on the evening of November 1 at 5:30PM.  On Friday, November 2, two panels will track the astonished Europeans as they encounter and assimilated that medicine.
Sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke Libraries, Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke Middle East Studies Center, Duke Center for Jewish Studies.

Film Screening: Docunight #51 [Durham]: Mother of the Earth

Wednesday, November 7

Mother of the Earth
Director: Mahnaz Afzali
Artistic Consultant: Rakhshan Banietemad
Producer: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
2017 / 52 mins
Persian with English Subtitles
This documentary takes a brief look at Hayedeh Shirzadi and her husband’s shared life, love and work and their attempt to put an end to the dumping and burial of urban garbage. Due to their hard work and ingenuity, 100% of the city of Kermanshah’s garbage is now recycled and the biowaste is made into organic fertilizers.  The Karestan Documentary Series features stories about Iranian entrepreneurs of both genders who have taken personal risks, and through their creativity and innovative approach, became an instrument of change in their own as well as the lives of others. Their impact, even if confined to a small scale or limited to a geographical area, has inspired big change and progress.  Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association of Iranians at Duke and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

Film Screening: Tickling Giants: Using Comedy to Stop Abuses of Power

Thursday, November 8

Join Sara Taksler, documentarian and former producer of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to view and discuss her 2016 film about comedian Dr. Bassem Youssef, who after the Arab Spring left his career as a heart surgeon in Cairo, Egypt, to take up political satire. The documentary underscores the power of humor under despotic regimes, and challenges viewers to consider how it works in democratic ones.  This event is sponsored by the Office of Global Affairs, Duke University International and Global Studies, the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke Middle East Studies Center.