The new Center for Middle East Studies (CMES), part of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies (JKSIS), is set to launch today. According to Professor Nader Hashemi, director of the CMES, the center is meant to promote a deeper understanding of the politics and societies of the Middle East for people within the Rocky Mountain region.
Hashemi said the idea of establishing a center for the study of the Middle East has been circulating for some time, and has generated interest from Korbel’s former Dean Tom Farer and various alumni.
“It wasn’t really until John DeBlasio, president of the Global Peace and Development Charitable Trust, was introduced to us that this project became a reality,” said Hashemi.
According to Danny Postel, associate director of the CMES, the center is being supported by DeBlasio’s foundation.
“The seminal leadership role that Dean Christopher Hill [of Korbel]played in the creation of our Center for Middle East Studies was also crucial,” said Hashemi. “It could not have happened without him.”
Postel also praised Hashemi, who has spoken all over the world and is frequently interviewed by CNN, NPR and the BBC, and said that Hashemi is a rising international star in the field of Middle East Studies.
“Professor Hashemi is the main Middle East scholar at the Korbel School, so it was a natural fit,” said Postel of Hashemi’s directorial position.
Hashemi’s role as director of the CMES is to handle the day-to-day operations of the center, which included integrating the center in the broader university.
As Associate Director of the center, Postel said that he will work closely with Hashemi on programming and publications.
“We decide together what kinds of events we want to hold, from one-off lectures to all-day conferences, and then I coordinate the nuts and bolts of making the events happen, along with Doug Garrison, the Center’s research assistant and communications coordinator,” said Postel.
Events hosted by the CMES this year include a conference that was held on Jan. 11 on the crisis in Syria, a photography exhibit entitled “Yemen Unveiled,” and earlier this month the center co-sponsored a performance of Iranian music with The Lamont School of Music’s Expanding Horizons Initiative.
According to Postel, these events have been a series of collaborations with several university departments and programs, including but not limited to the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law (Sturm College of Law) and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Additionally, according to Postel, the CMES plans to hold a major conference every academic year on a topic of “burning relevance” to the contemporary Middle East.
“We seek to accomplish the goals of the center via the production of new scholarship, an annual conference, a robust lecture series and by creating a forum for debate and discussion about the Middle East at the University of Denver,” said Hashemi.
In addition, Postel said that while no classes are offered by the center, Hashemi regularly teaches classes on the Middle East, as do other faculty at Korbel and in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
“Jonathan Sciarcon in History and Andrea Stanton in Religious Studies both teach the Middle East and are outstanding scholars,” said Postel.
According to Hashemi, the Center will also release publications, which will be a collaborative effort between himself and Postel, as well as others as the program grows.
For example, Hashemi said they are currently working on an edited volume on Syria, which was the theme of the Center’s recent annual conference.
Postel also said the CMES will publish a series of occasional papers—some of them based on lectures hosted by the center—and a series of books, based on CMES conferences and research projects.
“I am currently working on a project on labor movements in the Middle East today and their role in democratic transitions,” said Postel. “I’m planning to edit a book on this, looking comparatively at several countries in the region.”
According to Hashemi, the center’s first collaborative occasional paper on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will be released this week.
“At the moment, [however]we are busy try to raise the profile of center to let people know that we exist,” said Hashemi. “This has been a challenge given that our official website is not up yet but our Facebook page has been helping us with this demanding, time-consuming, and incredibly intellectually stimulating task.”