Writing/Curating the Middle East

The cultural production of the Arab World and Iran is often viewed through the limiting lens of European and American modes of art theory. “Writing/Curating the Middle East”—a two-day symposium (March 30–31) sponsored by the History of Art Department, Yale University Art Gallery, and Council on Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center—sought to challenge this historiographical limitation. Examining issues of national identity and diversity through historical entanglement and synchronicity, curators and art historians proposed a new discourse on art from the Middle East.

Consisting of an artist talk and three thematic panels, the symposium illustrated the region’s ties to global modern art movements. Speakers included Wael Shawky, University of Pennsylvania; Linda Komaroff, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Sultan Al Qassemi, Barjeel Art Foundation; Alex Seggerman, Smith College; Clare Davies, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Dina Ramadan, Bard College; Saleem Al-Bahloly, Johns Hopkins University; and miriam cooke, Duke University. Kishwar Rizvi, Co-organizer and Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture,Yale University, introduced the symposium, with a roundtable discussion led by Pamela Franks, Co-organizer and Senior Deputy Director, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Yale University Art Gallery. Individual panels were moderated by Frauke V. Josenhans, Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Yale University Art Gallery; Mandy Merzaban, Curator, Barjeel Art Foundation; and Najwa Mayer, Wurtele Gallery Teacher, Yale University Art Gallery.


To Resolve the Syrian Crisis, Partition Is Necessary

During ceasefire talks in early May, Russia proposed creation of de-escalation zones, with itself, Iran and Turkey as guarantors. Partition is necessary, argue Carol E. B. Choksy and Jamsheed K. Choksy of Indiana University. “But having three nations that greatly abet the strife serve as enforcers will not produce peace. An impartial plan must be formulated and implemented.” The writers review Syria’s recent history and point out no acceptable coalition stands ready to govern Syria. Despite six years of war, influence from major powers including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, the United States and Russia have failed to stop the violence. Territorial assignments must be negotiated along with a ceasefire, and the international community could support relocation and prevent attacks during the transition. Partition would entail sacrifice, but would also separate hardened foes, allowing governance and control on a more manageable scale. Partition may offer the only chance for peace for Syria and the Middle East. – YaleGlobal

Predicting Taliban attacks: Q&A with Yale political scientist Jason Lyall

Winning the “hearts and minds” of Afghan civilians is a key component of American strategy in Afghanistan, where war rages more than 16 years after NATO-backed forces knocked the Taliban from power.

A recent study co-authored by Yale political scientist Jason Lyall provides evidence that “hearts-and-minds” aid programs have an unintended consequence: Taliban insurgents target villages where aid projects have gained traction.

Lyall, associate professor of political science, and his coauthors, Kentaro Hirose, assistant professor at Waseda University, and Kosuke Imai, professor of politics at Princeton University, published their findings in the Journal of Peace Research.


Modern art from the Middle East on view in gallery exhibition

The Yale University Art Gallery will mark the 175th anniversary of the field of Arabic studies at Yale with the exhibition “Modern Art from the Middle East,” a selection of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by Middle Eastern artists rarely exhibited in the United States.

The exhibition is part of a campus-wide, yearlong celebration. The field of Arabic studies was inaugurated on campus in 1841 when Edward Elbridge Salisbury, B.A. 1832, became the first professor of Arabic and Sanskrit in the United States.

The 19 artworks on display in the exhibition are on loan from the Barjeel Art Foundation, a collection of modern and contemporary art located in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates. Established by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, the foundation promotes the art of the Middle East through international collaborations.


Studying Environmental History in the Ottoman Empire

Camille Cole (History) published an article this fall in the Journal of Social History titled “Precarious Empires: A Social and Environmental History of Steam Navigation on the Tigris.” (http://jsh.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/04/19/jsh.shw011.abstract (link is external))

Throughout most of the nineteenth century, steamships were the main tool of British informal imperialism in what is now southern Iraq,” she says. “Despite that centrality, steam shipping on the Tigris was primarily characterized by environmental and political precariousness.”


Russia Emerges as New Power Broker in Middle East

Russia – striving to prove that it is a superpower that resolves global challenges and not a weak regional power that preys on neighboring states – concluded peace talks with Syria and 14 rebel groups in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The United States sent an observer, and author Dilip Hiro notes, “The conference in Astana saw Turkey, a key member of NATO, abandoning the US and bonding with Russia to end the Syrian conflict – a development with the potential of upgrading Syria’s civil war as a landmark in global history.” Russia took steps to reduce US influence in the Middle East by intervening on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria since September 2015 and then extending support to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after an attempted coup in July 2016. Turkey is a NATO member, but the president opposes Kurdish fighters who have been among the most effective fighters against the Islamic State terrorists. Russia, Turkey and Iran are forming a commission to monitor the ceasefire with details to be announced at a February 8 UN conference on Syria. Russia has also outlined proposals for a new constitution for Syria and elections.