Students visit the Middle East

Message from the Director

Dear students, colleagues, and members of the UCI and Orange county communities,

It goes without saying that the 2019-2020 academic year has been incredibly challenging for everyone at UCI and universities across the state, the country, and the world. The challenges posed by the CoVid-19 virus have laid bare long-term structural inequalities at the heart of American society that sounds all too familiar to those of us who've spent our lives studying the Global Middle East. In so many ways and now more than ever, America and Americans are experiencing the challenges, dangers, and possibilities of life in the Global South. I am confident our students have unique insights into these dynamics to share with their families, communities and the public as they begin the summer.

The brutal murders of several African Americans in the last two months, which are only the most recent and most well-publicized of countless murders, whether at the hands of the government or fellow citizens, suffered by African-Americans, native Americans, latinx Americans, and other minorities in this country for quite literally four centuries, including those whose heritage stretches to the Muslim-majority world. We who have studied, researched in and taught the history and contemporary dynamics of the Middle East in a global context understand better than most how easily the painful truths of the most marginalized in a society can be repressed, obfuscated, twisted and co-opted are those in power to reinforce rather than ameliorate inequality and subjugation. We also know how easily and how powerfully religious, ethnic and nationalist ideologies can be used by those at all levels of power to place people against each other who otherwise might cooperate in the struggle for greater freedom and equality for all.

As the spring 2020 quarter comes to an end and we begin preparing for a still uncertain fall 2020 quarter I would like to assure everyone that our program is constantly reviewing our courses, pedagogy, research supervision, and public outreach to ensure we are contributing in the most positive way possible to the potentially momentous changes that are underway in our deeply scarred country. 

To that end I would like to end this message with a note of Hope and celebration by congratulating three outstanding graduating majors in Global Middle East Studies. Eliza Anne Partika, Leila Awad and Chloe Sobhani have set a very high bar for our program, having finished their degrees with distinction and completed their courses on research with great originality and dedication. We are very excited to see them move on to the next phase of their lives and hope they will continue to consider themselves members of the GMES and UCI community.

Please join me in congratulating them for such an accomplishment in such a trying moment and wishing them the best in the coming years.

For students, faculty, or community members who would like more information about our program and how you might participate in or join it, please feel free to email me and I will be happy to set up a time to speak at any point during the summer.

Stay healthy and keep looking for the joy in these moments when possible.


Mark LeVine

Director GMES

Dear Global Middle East Studies community,

Welcome back for our second full year of operation! We have an exciting year ahead, beginning with what will surely prove to be one of the most important and fascinating talks all year. A young historian from Mosul, Iraq who remained in his hometown for several years while it was under Islamic State rule, risking his life to chronicle life in the most desperate and dangerous times imaginable, will be giving at talk at UCI on October 25, as part of the campus's celebrated Illuminations series. Space for Omar Mohammed's talk, "Hiding in Plain Sight: An Iraqi Historian's Two Years Cheating Death to Documents ISIS Rule" is sure to fill up fast, so please rsvp to asap to ensure you have a seat. There will be a reception after the talk, which is free and open to the public.

Other talks this quarter include:

September 29, 6-8pm HG 1030: A Reception featuring the leading scholars of Armenian Studies, where the past, present and future of the discipline will be discussed. Students and community members are encouraged to attend! No doubt there will be some amazing Armenian food there, so leave room for some delicious dzhash!

October 23, several talks by the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in preparation for their performance at the Barclay. More information at the Jewish studies website, here.

The GMES major is growing fast. We are also working hard to establish a secure base of funding and students for our language programs, including Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Armenian, which is just beginning to be taught for the first time this fall thanks to the tireless efforts of Prof. Houri Berberian. The minor in Armenian Studies is also being finalized, and UCI is primed to become one of the premier campuses in the nation for Armenian Studies. Profs. Lehmann, Gross and LeVine are also working to revise the Hebrew curriculum to add a focus on Biblical Hebrew integrated with the modern Hebrew usually taught at the beginning level in order to make the class useful for students focusing on biblical studies. If you are interested in studying of these languages, please let us know immediately. We are also working with community members to build support for scholarship for students to attempt EAP programs in the region and hope to have more word on this soon.

Finally, the proposal for a GMES graduate emphasis is being prepared for submission to the campus for approval. We are very excited that next year graduate students from across the campus will be able to work with our GMES faculty to create and fulfill a GMES approved curriculum that will prepare them to specialize in our region as part of their research and teaching, both while a student and in their subsequent careers. This endeavor is part of our ongoing efforts to build a comprehensive program that brings students from through UCI's many distinguished graduate programs into dialog and mutual learning.

All in all, an exciting time for Global Middle East Studies at UCI. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you in the coming year.

Mark LeVine
Dept. of History
Director, GMES Program