Monday, 23 August 2010

News: Century-Old Novel on US-Arab Harmony Still Resonates

(Courtesy: Project Khalid)

Voice of America reports:
The first English-language novel ever published by an Arab-American author is about to mark its 100th anniversary....

(Click on the picture above to go to the full article from Voice of America at

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Obituary for Tahar Wattar, from Associated Press

Tahar Wattar, a Writer in Arabic of Algerian Novels, Dies at 74


ALGIERS (AP) — Tahar Wattar, one of Algeria’s leading Arab-language writers, who used his novels to explore his nation’s struggle for independence from France and its postcolonial history, died Thursday. He was 74.

The death was reported by the official news agency APS. A noted writer and friend, Wassini Laaredj, told The Associated Press that Mr. Wattar had died after a “long illness.” He had been hospitalized for cancer treatment on various occasions in Paris.

Mr. Wattar was known for his adversarial position toward Algeria’s French-language authors, whom he once denounced as “vestiges of colonialism.” The Arabic language, along with the Islamic faith, was a crucial component in Algeria’s forging an identity as an independent nation after a bloody war ended more than 130 years of French rule in 1962. Mr. Wattar revisited Algeria’s postcolonial history, sometimes using symbolism and allegory, in novels like “Al Laz” (1974), “A Mule’s Wedding” (1978) and “The Fisherman and the Palace” (1980).

While he appeared to support the nationalist movement and had the blessing of Algeria’s one-party government, Mr. Wattar subtly evoked the downside, contrasting the idealism of the movement with the disappointments that reality delivered.

Mr. Wattar also wrote plays as well as short stories like “The Martyrs Are Coming Back This Week” and “Smoke From My Heart.” In 1996 he founded a magazine dedicated to short stories.

Mr. Wattar was born in Sedratta, in the eastern region of Batna. His first story was published in 1956, in neighboring Tunisia, but he turned to journalism before becoming a novelist. He founded weekly newspapers in the eastern city of Constantine and in Algiers in 1963.

He presided over the Al Djahizia cultural association, which awards annual prizes to young writers and poets in the Arab world.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Empire and Names: The Case of Nagorno Karabakh, Benjamin Foster


The Nagorno Karabakh region in Western Azerbaijan has been
the site of a bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia since
1992. Both nations claim historic ties to the area as independent
kingdoms or as autonomous vassal nations under larger empires. This
paper will survey toponymic patterns in the 20th century of Nagorno
Karabakh, under Soviet and post-Soviet rule. How did toponyms change
in the 20th century? Has toponymic reality followed demographic
reality? How did the Soviet toponymic system differ from previous
imperial or national systems? Lastly, what does Karabakh's toponymic
history in the 20th century have to contribute to the discussion on
the Soviets' treatment of nationalism, and to the discussion on the
ongoing tension over Karabakh? This paper will attempt to answer these
questions by examining past and present maps, policy documents, and
other textual sources to provide a toponymic history of Nagorno
Karabakh. This history will help explain how the current toponymic
landscape of Karabakh came to be, and whether or not toponymic actions
and policies may have contributed to the conflict. By bringing this
aspect of Karabakh's history to light, I hope to show how the toponym,
an important cultural symbol, plays a role in interethnic relations.

Citation: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences
Publisher: York University
Date: 2009
(Click on the map above for the full text PDF from York University, Ontario)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

NY Times article on students choosing the Middle East

(Picture courtesy of NY Times)

Check out this interesting article from the NY Times:

AT first glance, they seem like typical American college students on their junior year abroad, swapping stories of language mishaps and cultural clashes, sharing sightseeing tips and travel deals. But these students are not studying at Oxford, the Sorbonne or an art institute in Florence.

Instead, they are attending the American University in Cairo, studying Arabic, not French, and dealing with cultural, social and religious matters far more complex than those in Spain or Italy. And while their European counterparts might head to Heidelberg, Germany, for a weekend of beer drinking, these students visit places most Americans know only through news reports — the West Bank, Ethiopia and even northern Iraq. No “Sex and the City” jaunts to Abu Dhabi for this group.

In what educators are calling the fastest growing study-abroad program, American college students are increasingly choosing to spend their traditional junior year abroad in places like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, wanting to experience the Arab world beyond America’s borders and viewpoints.

(Click on the picture above to go to the original article on