Episode 82: What Writing Can Tell Us About the Arabs before Islam

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ahmad al-Jallad, University of Leiden

TaymaniticIn most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?

Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.

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Roundtable: Antiquities in Danger

Moderator: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Featured Guests: Stephennie Mulder, Department of Art & Art History / Middle Eastern Studies
David Stuart, Department of Art & Art History / Mesoamerican Center
Debora Trein, Department of Anthropology

Placeres-Looting2-335x500Straight from the headlines: ISIS destroys the temple of Bal at Palmyra. Looters steal friezes from Greco-Roman sites in Ukraine under the cover of conflict. A highway is built through an ancient Mayan city in the Guatemalan highlands, the legacy of decades of near-genocidal internal conflict. Why is the loss of human patrimony important, especially in the context of the loss of lives? How can we begin to explain why both are worthy of our consideration? And what can high school or college educators and their students do about it?

Our first roundtable features three experts from the University of Texas who’ve taken the destruction of sites where they’ve worked and lived seriously, and are working to raise awareness of the importance of antiquities in danger around the world, and share simple steps to raise awareness about the problem and how to get involved.

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Episode 62: Sunni and Shi’a in Medieval Syria

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Stephennie Mulder, Assistant Professor of Art History and Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin

After the decline of the Fatimids, the medieval Middle East entered a period called the Sunni Revival, in which Shi’ism was officially discouraged and Shi’i institutions were closed and replaced with Sunni institutions. Or, at least, that’s what the official chroniclers tell us. The buildings themselves tell us a different story–one that tries to bring decades of conflict to an end by accommodating different beliefs.

Art Historian Stephennie Mulder has spent the past decade working in Syria and shares a new look at history of Sunni and Shi’a in Syria during the medieval period; and how both histories are threatened by ISIS and the Syrian Civil War.

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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 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 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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