Episode 67: How Jews Translate the Bible and Why

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University

Saadia Gaon (882-942) is considered the father of Judeo-Arabic literature; his translation of the Bible into Arabic enabled the large portion of Judaism living in Arabic speaking lands to engage with the sacred texts.

Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.

In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.

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Episode 61: The Fatimids

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Shainool Jiwa, Head of Constituency Studies, Institute for Ismaili Studies, London

Manuscript depicting Fatimid soldiers. 11th century.

Around the first millennium of the Christian era, a small group of Ismaili Shi’i Muslims established a dynasty that rapidly conquered North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. At the height of their power they conquered Egypt, where they founded the city of Cairo, and their Imam-Caliphs had their names read out in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, rivaling the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. And yet, despite three centuries of rule by a powerful Shi’i empire, North Africa remained—and remains—Sunni with nary a trace of its Shi’ite past.

In this episode, guest Shainool Jiwa from the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London illuminates an often overlooked chapter in the history of Islamic sectarianism, one in which religious differences were used to unify diverse populations under the rule of a minority government, rather than to divide and alienate them.

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Episode 53: Cats and Dogs in History

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Francesca Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings, Blanton Museum of Art

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), Published by Fusui Gabo Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant, 1931 Woodblock print, 20 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Gift of Stephanie Hamilton in memory of Leslie A. Hamilton

Our first episode of season 3 features the curator of the exhibition In the Company of Cats and Dogs. We consider some of the inherent personalities and temperaments of these animals as well as those imposed or projected by humans onto them. Throughout history, these animals have been viewed and represented as family members, hunters of prey, strays, and as figures and symbols in mythological, religious, political, and moral images.

Guest Francesca Consagra helps us make connections across centuries and genres and underscores our complex relationships to these animals, revealing the many ways in which they say as much about us as we do about them.

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Episode 51: Islam’s Enigmatic Origins

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Fred M. Donner, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago

cleansing meccaThe story of Islam’s beginnings have been told and retold countless times. The traditional narrative says that the Prophet Muhammad, an illiterate orphan from the town of Mecca,  became a prophet of God and founded a community that conquered much of the known world in little more than a century after his death. But what do we really know about Muhammad and the time in which he lived, based on historical evidence? How has this led some to reinterpret the origins of Islam?

Our guest, Fred M. Donner from the University of Chicago, has spent much of his career studying the earliest history of Islam. He offers his hypothesis on what the early Islamic community may have looked like, and describes an exciting new find that may shed new light on an old puzzle.

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Episode 35: The Egyptian Revolution

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Sahar F. Aziz, Associate Professor, Texas A&M School of Law, Fort Worth, TX

walklikeanegyptianThe Egyptian Revolution of 2011 captivated the imagination of pro-democracy activists worldwide and turned the name of Cairo’s Tahrir Square into a buzzword for freedom and popular resistance. However, since the February 11, 2011 deposition of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s road to democracy has been marred by two miitary coups, a decrease in government transparency, and the erratic reign of a democratically elected president-turned-authoritarian who wasn’t even his own party’s first choice nominee for office.

Guest Sahar F. Aziz helps us understand the political earthquakes in Egypt’s bumpy transition from authoritarian rule to what comes next, and sheds light on what it might take for the country to arrive at the democracy its people demanded in the streets.

Editor’s note: this episode is a bit longer than the usual fifteen minutes. Because this episode discusses an event that is current and ongoing, we decided to leave it as a single, longer episode rather than divide it into a two part sequence.

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Episode 24: European Imperialism in the Middle East (part 2)

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

British troops depart from the port of Haifa in June 1948.

World War I had a profound impact on the Middle East and North Africa. With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, European powers carved the region into mandates, protectorates, colonies, and spheres of influence. Just a few decades later, however, World War II, however, left the colonial powers bankrupt and looking to get out of the empire business as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences.

In the second half of a two part podcast, guest and co-host Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies discusses the lingering effects of 20th century European imperialism in the region and the transition to independence.

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Episode 23: European Imperialism in the Middle East (part 1)

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Artistic rendition of the newly formed U.S. Navy putting down piracy during the Barbary Wars (artist and date unknown)

The relationship between European, North African, and Southwest Asian nations that border the Mediterranean stretches back to antiquity and reflects a long tradition of trade, colonialism, and acculturation. Yet, by the end of World War II, Europe had come to dominate the region politically and militarily. When did this long-symbiotic relationship transform into one of imperialism and colonization?

In this first of a two part podcast, guest and co-host Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies walks us through the beginnings of European imperialism in the Middle East.

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Episode 15: The “Era Between The Empires” of Ancient India

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Patrick Olivelle, Professor, Department of Asian Studies

The 6th century late Gupta period Dashavatara temple Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh at sunset.

Ancient, or Classical, India (300s BC-400s AD) was a seminal period in history. Nearly everything that is associated with classical India, the epics such as the the R?m?ya?a and the Mah?bh?rata, and great temple architecture, came out of this period. Great kings like A?oka left their mark on the classical world. Moreover, this was the period when oral traditions were written down, and the classical Vedic religion began to take on a form that we understand as Hindusim.

Guest Patrick Olivelle from UT’s Department of Asian Studies describes the Maurya and Gupta Empires and the flourishing period of South Asian history “between the empires.”

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Episode 7: Russia’s October 1917 Revolution

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past

"The Bolshevik," Boris Kustodiev (1920)

In the second episode discussing the tumultuous year 1917 in Russia, we examine the reasons for the failure of the February Revolution (discussed in Episode 1). How did the Bolsheviks, a small party on the far left of the political spectrum that barely merited any notice in February, come to dominate the popular revolution during 1917? And how did the Bolsheviks manage to channel their popularity into the power to seize control of the government of the world’s largest country?

Guest Joan Neuberger offers fascinating insights into the events that led to Russia’s October 1917 Revolution.

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Episode 2: Islamic Extremism in the Modern World

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Secular_Religious_Extremism_ChartIn this episode, we tackle “that pesky standard” in the Texas World History course that requires students to understand the development of “radical Islamic fundamentalism and the subsequent use of terrorism by some of its adherents.” This is especially tricky for educators: how to talk about such an emotional subject without resorting to stereotypes and demonizing? What drives some to turn to violent actions in the first place?

Guest Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies offers a few suggestions and some background information on how to keep the phenomenon in perspective.

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