Muhammad Aziz Attends MESA Meeting

In the following, you will find a brief description of the panels I attended from Sunday 23rd
November – Tuesday 25th November 2009 held at the annual MESA convention in Boston.

Sunday 2-4
Evaluative Development of Curriculum Innovations in Teaching Arabic as a Second
Language

Jeremy L. Palmer from Cornell University talked about the Success of Study Abroad Programs
in the Arabic Speaking World and focused particularly on acculturation, linguistic proficiency,
and diglossia. Martha Schulte-Nafeh from the University of Texas at Austin talked about the
useful evaluation in integrating dialect into teaching Arabic.  Laila Familiar, also from the
University of Texas at Austin, talked about integrating adapted literature into the Arabic
classroom at lower levels. Finally, Mahmoud Al-Batal, also from the University of Texas at
Austin, talked about evaluating the effect of listeners’ control of speech rate on listening
comprehension in Arabic.  Although all papers were very good, I enjoyed most the paper
presented by Laila Familiar since this was similar to what we do at Yale in terms of introducing
simplified Arabic literature to the language classes.

Sunday 4.30-6.30
Thematic Conversation-Teaching Arabic Variation: Linguistic Reality, Linguistic
Dissonance & Linguistic Choice

The whole panel was organized as an open discussion. Each of the panel organizers spoke a little bit about the above issues but the general discussion was dominant. This can be good sometimes, but more often it can be distracting. The panel consisted of John C. Eisele, who was the chair from College of William and Mary, Mohammad T. Alhawary from University of Oklahoma, Driss Cherkaoui from College of William and Mary, Mustafa Mughazy from Western Michigan University, Munther Younes from Cornell University, Waheed A. Samy from the University of Michigan and Liesbeth Zack from University of Amsterdam.

Monday 10-12
Yale University Press: New Arabic Textbooks

Prof. Mahdi Alosh spoke about his new revised Ahaln Wa Sahlan. Dr. Shukri Abed talked about his forthcoming book and a third person ( I forgot his name) spoke also about his new listening book in Arabic.

Monday 5-7
Abbasid Poetry: Formations and Transformations (Chaired by Muhsin Al-Musawi from Columbia University)

Huda J. Fakhreddine from Indiana University spoke about the meta poetic transformation of the nasib in the Abbasid Qasida. Mishari Almusa, also from Indiana University, talked about Almuanabbi and Ibn Khafajah in terms of imitation and speech act theory. Jaroslav Stetkevych from the University of Chicago spoke about the transformation of the hunt: from Imru’al-Qays to Abu Firas. Ahmad Y. Al-Mallah from Indiana University talked about an image of an image: looking at Bashshar ibn Burd through literary biographies and translations. Suzanne P. Stetkevych from Indiana University spoke about a long night’s journey into day: the nocturnal rahils of al-Ma’arri’s Saqt al-Zand.

Tuesday 10.30-12.30
Science, Culture and Society: Part ll: The Secrets of Eloquence: Linguistic Expression in Medieval Arabic Thought and Practice (organized by Avigail Noy) (Chair: Ahmad Ragab from Harvard University and Discussant: Wolfhart P. Heinrichs from Harvard University)

Alexander Key from Harvard University talked about Al-Raghjb al-Isfaghani’s ideals of linguistic excellence. Avigail Noy from Harvard talked about Theory and Criticism in Early Balagha Works: The Case of Ibn Sinan al-Khafaji’s Sirr al-Fasaha. Suheil Laber from Harvard spoke about imagination in exegesis: Zamakhsharian Takhyil and its Sunni Reception. Prof. Beatrice Gruendler from Yale University talked about poets’ communicative choices on the eve
of Arabic Islamic Book Culture. Finally, Elias Muhanna from Harvard talked about Eighteen words for snow and everything else: eloquence and Encyclopaedism in the Mamluk Period.

Tuesday 1-3
Constructing and Contesting Salafiyya (organized by David Commins) (Chair: Arom Zysow from Harvard Law School and Discussant: Roel Meijer from University of Nymergenl)

Itzchak Weismann from the University of Haifa talked about a Return to the Future: the Formation and Transformation of the Modem Salafi discourse. David Commins from Dickinson College talked about constructing Wahhabism as Salafiyya. Joas Wagemakers from Radboud University Nijmegen talked about the Enduring Legacy of the Second Saudi State: Contesting the Meaning of al-Wala’ wa-l-Bara’ in the Writings of Abut Muhammad al-Maqdsi. Henri Lauziere from Northwestern University talked about How and When did Salafism become a Label for Islamic Modernism? Finally, Bernard Haykel from Princeton University talked about the Salafi Theology and Anti-Shi’I Polemics.

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