Kylan Jones-Huffman Lecture Series, 2012-2013
Dr. Joshua Landis- University of Oklahoma.
On September 6, Dr. Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma visited the USNA and familiarized midshipmen with the day-to-day changes in Syria, the roots of the current civil war, and the potential outcomes of that bloody conflict. Speaking to a full audience in Mahan Auditorium, the speaker demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of not only contemporary events, but also the historical and religious roots of the Alawite and Sunni divide that promises to offer no short term solution to the violence. Dr. Landis throughout the day visited classrooms, attended noon-time formation and lunch in King Hall as well as met with CMEIS affiliated faculty members.
Joshua Landis teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes Syria Comment, a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe, and Syria.
Reflections on Iranian American Art
On October 9, the Center hosted Iranian-American visual artists as part of the Kylan Jones Huffman Memorial lecture series. Attended by approximately fifty midshipmen and faculty members, the lecture provided a thoughtful synthesis of critical theory, art technique, and insight into middle eastern identity. Beginning the lecture with the seminal work by Edward Said, Orientalism, our guest lecturer used the main theme of the book to show the prevalence within western academia in the 18th and 19th centuries as depicting middle eastern populations as naive and only capable of decorative art, a pejorative among classically trained artists.
Our presenters' work depicted throughout the lecture then attempts to play upon tensions within the east-west divide to create art that challenges commonly held biases in both cultures. Midshipmen commented afterwards that they very much enjoyed a lecture with visual appeal, yet still held intellectual weight.
Dr. Babak Rahimi
Babak Rahimi is Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Religion at the Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego. He received a Ph.D from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, in October 2004. Rahimi has also studied at the University of Nottingham, where he obtained a M.A. in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, and the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, 2000-2001. Rahimi has written numerous articles on culture, religion and politics and regularly writes on contemporary Iraqi and Iranian politics. His book, Theater-State and Formation of the Early Modern Public Sphere in Iran: Studies on Safavid Muharram Rituals, 1590-16t41 C.E., studies the relationship between ritual, social space and state power in early modern Iranian history. He has been a visiting scholar at the Internet Institute, University of Oxford and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been also the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Jean Monnet Fellowship at the European University Institute, and was a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC, 2005-2006. Rahimi’s current research project is on the relationship between digital culture, politics and religion.
On November 27 Iranian-American Philosopher and Science Fiction author Reza Negarestani delivered the final Kylan Jones Huffman lecture of the fall semester. Drawing upon a long tradition of Iranian narrative style, literary and social criticism and philosophy, Mr. Negarestani delivered a nuanced lecture on his novel Cyclonopedia. The author argues that the Science Fiction novel persists as the best medium in which to portray to an audience the abstract quality of his philosophical system. In Cyclonopedia he portrays Oil as a sentient being that ties together the disparate strands of historical memory that resides in the Middle East. From this abstract literary device he is able to show how not only westerners misunderstand the Middle East, but also populations residing in that region often fail to achieve an understanding as well. Furthermore, Negarestani attempts through his writing to show that axiomatic terms- such as the Middle East- often used casually by observers of social phenomena are in fact problematic and do not reflect reality. The lecture opened up new vistas for enquiry for midshipmen and faculty as well as demonstrated that Iran offers a wide range of cultural offerings not often depicted in the west.
Dr. Fred Donner, University of Chicago
Dr. Fred M. Donner visited the United States Naval Academy as part of the spring semester's inaugural Kylan Jones Huffman Memorial Lecture series. Considered one of the world's foremost experts on Islam, Dr. Donner recently published Muhammed and the Believers, a book that has helped redefine our understanding of the early Muslim community during the time of the Prophet Mohammed.
Enjoying a long career in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations he has been on the faculty of the University of Chicago since 1982. An early interest in the relationship between pastoral nomads and the Islamic state resulted in his first book, The Early Islamic Conquests (1981). Work on the early Islamic period for his first book raised questions about the sources for that history, led him to investigate more deeply into the early development of Islamic historical writing, and resulted in his second book, Narratives of Islamic Origins (1997). This in turn caused him to ask how early Islam actually coalesced as a religion, a topic explored in his most recent book, Muhammad and the Believers: at the origins of Islam (2010). He has translated a volume of the medieval Arabic chronicle of al–Tabari (1993), written over forty scholarly articles, numerous encyclopedia entries, scores of reviews, and has received research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Professor Donner will lecture at the Freer-Sackler Gallery on January 26 as part of the Roads of Arabia exhibit.
Her Excellency, The Kingdom of Bahrain's Ambassador to the United States
Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo was appointed Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States by His Majesty the King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in July 2008. H.E. is also Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to Canada (non-resident).
H.E. holds the distinction as the first person of Jewish origin and the third woman to be appointed Ambassador to Bahrain. Prior to her appointment she was president of Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society as well as held a position within the Kingdom’s Shura council appointed by His Majesty the King, Shaikh Hamad Bin Salman Al Khalifa in 2006.
Ambassador Nonoo is one of the founding members of Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) established in November, 2004, elected General Secretary in September, 2005. On October 10th 2008 Ambassador Nonoo was officially welcomed as an honorary member of the Board of Directors of the U.S.-Bahrain Business Council. H.E. has worked to improve working conditions in factories, raise awareness of the rights of women and children, campaigned for family and domestic law, and raised awareness of the plight of domestic workers. She is married and has two teenage sons.
Dr. Said Sayrafiezadeh
Said Sayrafiezadeh is an award-winning fiction writer, memoirist, and playwright. He is the recipient of a 2012-2013 fiction fellowship from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and the author of the critically acclaimed memoir When Skate Boards Will Be Free for which he received a Whiting Writer’s Award. It was selected as one of the ten best books of the year by Dwight Garner of The New York Times.
His short stories and personal essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New York Times Magazine and The Best American Non-required Reading, among other publications his fiction debut, Brief Encounters with the Enemy, will be published by The Dial Press in August 2013. Said lives on New York’s Lower East Side with his wife, the artist and designer Karen Mainenti, and teaches creative writing at New York University. Said Sayrafiezadeh was born in Brooklyn in 1968 to an Iranian father and a Jewish American mother. He grew up in Pittsburgh.