Monthly Archives: October 2013

Our Institutional Members: University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is home to the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies (, bringing together faculty and students from many different disciplines to explore the history, culture and politics of the Middle East. Through its endowment, the Center is able to fund faculty research, undergraduate and graduate training, as well as lectures, colloquia, symposiums, and translation projects.

In part through support of the Center, the University of Arkansas maintains active research and educational programs in the archaeology of Iraq and greater Mesopotamia. Dr. Jesse Casana (Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology) is currently the co-director of an archaeological field project in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Upper Sirwan/Diyala Regional Project. In October 2012, he and colleagues Claudia Glatz (University of Glasgow) and Tevfik Emre Şerifoğlu (Bitlis Eren University) undertook a short reconnaissance of the region and signed a five-year agreement with antiquities officials to conduct archaeological survey and other investigations in a study area extending from Kalar to Darbandikhan. A second season in planned for May 2013, and several University of Arkansas students will participate.

The University of Arkansas’ Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (, a global leader in geospatial research with a longstanding commitment to application of these technologies in archaeology, has also recently agreed to collaborate with the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) to provide training to Iraqi cultural heritage officials and students. Recent Arkansas graduate, Dr. Tuna Kalayci, will offer a two-week course on archaeological GIS at the IICAH in May 2013, and future course offerings are currently being planned.

In addition to its work in archaeology and cultural heritage, several University of Arkansas Ph.D. students in history are investigating topics pertaining to modern Iraq.

Conference: Baghdad: Cradle of Culture and Civilization, 1013-2013

Baghdad: Cradle of Culture and Civilization, 1013-2013

Conference Co-Organized by the

Iraqi Cultural Center (ICC)


The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII)

Washington, D.C.

November 15-16, 2013 

The conference recognizes the designation of Baghdad as the Arab Capital of Culture for 2013. It includes Baghdad in 1013, for historical perspective. The first day of the conference will explore the politics and society of medieval and modern Baghdad. The second day will be devoted to the intellectual and cultural life in the city in the two time periods.


For more information, please contact Beth Kangas, Executive Director, TAARII, at 773-844-9658 or

An Update from John Nielsen (2005 US TAARII Fellow)

With the generous support of a TAARII Fellowship, I spent the autumn of 2005 copying and collating early Neo-Babylonian legal and administrative tablets in British collections. The vast majority of the tablets were housed in the British Museum, but I also spent time looking at tablets in the Ashmolean’s collection in Oxford and traveled to Edinburgh and Truro, Cornwall, to study additional tablets. The tablets dated from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. and provided invaluable information about the social and economic history of Babylonia at a time when the Neo-Assyrian Empire was the dominant power in the Near East.

My primary interest was in tracing the activities of the urban elites in Babylonian society who controlled temple and civic offices as well as land. Many members of this class had begun using ancestral or occupational names as family names at this time and a corresponding interest of mine was the emergence of these family names. This research was critical to the completion of my dissertation, “Sons and Descendants: A Social History of Kin Groups and Family Names in the Early Neo-Babylonian Period, 747–626 B.C.,” which I then modified for publication in the Brill series Culture and History of the Ancient Near East.

My work reading and copying tablets was also essential for two of my articles (“Adbi’ilu: An Arab at Babylon [BM 78912]” in Antiguo Oriente 7 [2009]: 199–205, and “Three Early-Neo-Babylonian Tablets belonging to Bel-etir of the Misiraya Kin Group” in JCS 62 [2010]: 97–106) and will be featured in an article I’m currently working on that will feature the seven-tablet archive of a man named Nadinu and his son Labashi at Dilbat.

Our Institutional Members: Hofstra University

Iraq and the MECA Program at Hofstra University

In 2002, Hofstra created the Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies (MECA) program ( to complement other area studies program on campus. This program currently offers undergraduate students a minor that includes a Middle Eastern Language, an introductory course to the region, and a variety of courses in anthropology, art history, economics, history, political science, and religion on the Middle East. The MECA program also sponsors invited speakers to campus. The founder and director is Daniel Martin Varisco (Anthropology). Participating faculty include Massoud Fazeli (Economics), Anna Feuerbach (Anthropology), David Kaufman (Religion), Mustapha Masrour (Comparative Languages and Literatures), Fatemeh Moghadam (Economics), Stephanie E. Nanes (Political Science), Aleksandr Naymark (Art History), Hussein Rashid (Religion), Mario Ruiz (History), and Irene Siegel (Comparative Languages and Literatures).

MECA has sponsored several speakers about Iraq to campus. In 2009, with joint sponsorship from TAARII, a panel on “Iraq: How the Past Shapes the Future” was held. The participants included Orit Bashkin (Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago and author of The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq), Magnus Bernhardsson (Professor of History at Williams College and author of Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq), Eric Davis (Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and author of Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq), Bassam Yousif (Professor of Economics at Indiana State University and author of Development and Political Violence in Iraq), and Nida al-Ahmad, Department of Political Science, the New School. For more information on this panel, please see “The Making of Modern Iraq,” in TAARII’s Fall Newsletter, Issue 04-02, available as a PDF on TAARII’s website (

Hofstra University was founded in 1935 and is located in Hempstead, Long Island, 25 miles east of NYC. It is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational institution with Schools of Business, Communication, Education, Engineering and Applied Science, Health Sciences and Human Services, Law, Liberal Arts and a Medical School. Hofstra has 517 full-time (75% tenured) and 618 part-time faculty. The total fall 2012 enrollment was 11,090 (6,899 Undergraduate, 3,078 Graduate, 1,008 Law, 105 Medicine). About 3,800 students live on campus in 37 residence halls. The Hofstra libraries contain over 1 million volumes and provide 24/7 online access to more than 55,000 full-text journals and 70,000 electronic books.

Daniel Martin Varisco, MECA Director (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)

Daniel Martin Varisco, MECA Director (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)

Bassam Yousif, right, and Eric Davis, left, at Hofstra’s Iraq Study Day, 2009 (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)

Bassam Yousif, right, and Eric Davis, left, at Hofstra’s Iraq Study Day, 2009 (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)


An Update from Arbella Bet-Shlimon (2009 US TAARII Fellow)

As you know, I was a 2009 TAARII fellow with my project “Kirkuk, 1918–1968: Oil and the Politics of Identity in an Iraqi City.” I had started working on this project in 2007. The TAARII grant assisted me with a year’s worth of research in various libraries and archives in the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2010. I have since completed the Ph.D. dissertation for which I undertook this research, and I graduated from Harvard in 2012. In the meantime, I have published two articles based on this research. The first, “Group Identities, Oil, and the Local Political Domain in Kirkuk: A Historical Perspective” came out in the Journal of Urban History 38, no. 5 in 2012. The second, “The Politics and Ideology of Urban Development in Iraq’s Oil City: Kirkuk, 1946–58,” was just published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 33, no. 1, in Spring 2013.

Throughout this process of research and writing, I have developed and presented a more robust understanding of Kirkuk’s history than that which I proposed in my initial application for TAARII funding (as reported in the Spring 2009 TAARII Newsletter). Specifically, my research in the UK helped me locate the linkages between the Kirkuki oil industry and local identity politics — which, at the time, I said I would look into — in the relationship between oil, political institutions, and urban development. I have also come to understand that it is best to frame Kirkuk’s identity politics as a process of ethnicization of community interests that took place over the course of the twentieth century. I am now in the process of converting the dissertation into a book for publication, which I hope will bring my work to a wider audience.