News: Arabic Studies Spring 2021

Live from Morocco!

“Live From Morocco”!  An Integrative Approach to Teaching Culture and Language

With the cancellation of many activities imposed by the Covid crisis, professor Driss Cherkaoui, found a way of teaching Moroccan dialect that is interactive and fun.

  1. What is “Live from Morocco” and how did you imagine it would fit into your course?

Teaching Moroccan dialect is also about teaching culture.  I did not want to use Youtube videos and I wanted an interactive class.  I created a program that blends in culture online where the session will be live allowing the students to witness a cultural event.  It was essentially a series of workshops with a  variety of activities such as cooking, Arabic calligraphy, henna design, and a trip to the market.  The Moroccan chef sends the students the recipe with the ingredients and they work together step by step.

  1. What did “Live from Morocco” offer your students?

It offered them experience and really opened another horizon on culture and the people.  Students saw for themselves first hand the interactive angle of Moroccan culture such as family relationships.

  1. What aspects did students enjoy the most?

For some reason, they enjoyed cooking and calligraphy.

  1. What are the challenges for hosting a program like “Live From Morocco”?

Primarily it is the funding and the training.  You need to prepare the hosting end to the experience of meeting American students, give them orientation sessions and to teach them the interactive participation  is required.  Technology can also be challenging since it takes time to set up.  It is essentially like teaching two different courses.

  1. Can this model be applied to other classes?

Yes, but one has to be well prepared for it to succeed.  It requires coordination and flexibility.  A class on the Qur’an would benefit greatly from this model where students can attend live Qur’anic chanting in mosques, classes where the Qur’an is taught and calligraphy.  This interactive model is invaluable in allowing students to see first hand a central aspect of Arab culture.




News News: Arabic Studies Spring 2019

Arabic Links: A New Textbook for Arabic

Arab pic1Prof. John Eisele and Prof. Driss Cherkaoui are putting the finishing touches on the first volume of a textbook series for the Arabic language which will be published by the American University in Cairo Press, entitled “Arabic Links” (in Arabic: كتاب التواصل). The series attempts to handle the issue of Arabic language variation (often termed “diglossia”) in a manner significantly different from the current textbook widely used in the field. Rather than teaching 2 or more varieties simultaneously, this series attempts to introduce the variation more gradually, starting with a focus on the common literary language, FusHa, and introducing other variant forms of the language at first as “linguistic culture”, and then with a stand-alone textbook for 4 of the main varieties: Moroccan, Egyptian, Levantine, and Iraqi. Another aspect of “linguistic culture” will be the treatment of the case system of the literary language, which is linguistically redundant and not essential for communication, but which is seen as a vital part of the Arabic literary and religious tradition, and for some cannot be overlooked. Another aspect of Arabic L2 pedagogy which is addressed by this series is a return to a communicative approach which emphasizes the active acquisition of vocabulary tied to clearly defined topics and contexts of use. The first two volumes of the series cover basic grammar, vocabulary, and general contexts, and each of the units is tied to a cultural context of an Arab country. These “cultural” activities and texts provide information about the history, society, and some cultural practices specific to that country, as well as information about the “linguistic culture” of the region, i.e., the main dialect of the country. The unit is structured around a progressing through the four skills for each topic, starting with a Arab pic2conversational introduction to the basic vocabulary of a context or activity, and culminating in a writing exercise which summarizes the main points of the unit. The third volume of the series concentrates on providing a context for developing skills in discussing, reading, and writing about more specific fields, of an academic nature. The vocabulary is a general review of the words and phrases necessary to deal with topics related to that field, with texts (reading and listening) provided as exemplary texts, but instructors are encouraged to provide their own texts, glosses, questions, and suggestions for tasks and activities as they desire. Regarding the supplemental textbooks dealing with specific dialects, Prof. Cherkaoui has completed a manuscript for teaching Moroccan dialect, or “al-Daarija”, and he hopes to publish that within the coming year. Other dialect textbooks will follow. This project was funded initially by a grant from the Department of Education, and included contributions from other faculty at William and Mary and the Arab-American Language Institute in Morocco (AALIM). 

Fall 2018 News News: Arabic Studies

Great W&M Asia Cook Off!

(This story appeared previously here.)

Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies and director of the Asian and Middle East Studies program, organized the “Great W&M Asia Cook Off.” He brought in celebrity chef Katsuya Fukushima, chef and co-owner of Daikaya-Izakaya, Haikan and Bantam King, and restaurateur Yama Jewayni, co-owner of Daikaya-Izakaya, Haikan, Bantam King and more, to judge the cooking competition between two of his classes, Arab 150: The History of Arab Food and AMES 385: AMES-APIA East Asia Think Tank.

“It was basically a dream team of the award-winning chef and the award-winning restaurateur all coming together,” said Sheehi.

The East Asia Think Tank class is a required part of the Freeman East Asia Fellowship program at W&M, which was established through a grant from the Freeman Foundation to the Asian and Middle East Studies Program and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies Program. That grant enabled 20 students to participate in internships in East Asia last summer; all of those Freeman Fellows are in the think tank class this fall. The Freeman Foundation recently provided the university $100,000 to support a second year of the internships.

With 12 groups comprised of three students each, Sheehi tasked each group to include the secret ingredient — eggplant — into their dishes. But that wasn’t where their endeavor ended.

The winners of the competition were (left to right) Mary Mulder '21, Daria Moody '22 and Maeve Naughton-Rockwell '22. (Photo by Jo Rozycki '20)
The winners of the competition were (left to right) Mary Mulder ’21, Daria Moody ’22 and Maeve Naughton-Rockwell ’22. (Photo by Jo Rozycki ’20)

“Part of what I’m also trying to do is experiential,” said Sheehi, referring to the educational aspect of the competition. He taught his students about the history, geographical route and cultural significance of dishes in each respective region of the world.

“I think that’s really how I started off the class, saying that what you sit in front of you, you have a whole historical trajectory behind that dish. You have a whole economic configuration behind that dish,” said Sheehi. “We started off with that precept, why not finish off with that?”

Faculty Awards Faculty Profiles News: Arabic Studies Spring 2018 Spring 2018 More

Stephen Sheehi (Arabic Studies) receives the Arts & Sciences 2018 Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence

sheehi_12092014492Informed by a genuine pleasure in academic dialogue, Professor Sheehi’s teaching engages the nuances of identity and opens the door for his students to develop new and productive ways to think about the complex history of the Middle East. With great energy, intellectual playfulness, fresh ideas, and humor, he consistently leads civil discussions about highly contentious political issues. Students praise his “well-rounded” and confounding approach, with one writing, “The entire focus of this course was to complicate our perceptions … I am walking away from class enlightened and confused.…”

His teaching draws on an active record of research and publication, with three books published since 2014 (two more are forthcoming) on topics including translation theory and colonialism, the history of photography in the Arab world, psychoanalysis, Islamophobia, race, and class. All of which provide a fertile bed of knowledge for his wide-ranging courses about, for example, Arab visual culture, the Arab American experience, the culture of Arab food, and the trajectory from Orientalism to Islamophobia. Together these courses offer students spaces to explore the historical and cultural history of the Arabic world, and, crucially, the relationship of the United States to that world.

It is fitting that he now be recognized with the Arts & Sciences 2018 Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.

Faculty Awards Faculty Profiles News: Arabic Studies Plumeri sidebar Spring 2018 Spring 2018 More

Stephen Sheehi receives 2018 Plumeri Award

Stephsheehi_12092014492en Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies, Professor of Arabic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, has received the 2018 Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, celebrating exemplary achievements of William & Mary faculty in teaching, research, and service.

Prof. Sheehi’s work meets at the intersection of cultural, visual, art, and social history of the modern Arab world, starting with the late Ottoman Empire and the Arab Renaissance (al-nahdah al-‘arabiyah). His scholarly interests include photography theory, psychoanalysis, post-colonial theory, Palestine, and Islamophobia.

Prof. Sheehi’s forthcoming book, Camera Palaestina: The Seven Photography Albums of Wasif Jawhariyyeh (University of California Press, forthcoming) is co-authored with Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar. His contribution to the book, “On the Emergence of a Palestinian Spectator,” reevaluates the relationship between the Palestinian and the photographic archive, between the colonized and the colonizer and between the settler-Zionist and the native Palestinian. This research also serves as the theoretical foundation for a larger and broader, single authored book project, entitled Decolonizing Photography.

Prof. Sheehi is also writing along with Dr. Lara Sheehi, Psychoanalysis under Occupation. The research is an exploration of the intersubjective experience of Palestinians living under violent and violating Israeli occupation as interpreted not only by Palestinian psychoanalysts but cultural “workers,” artists, and film-makers. An early sample of the project can be found in Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. Prof. Sheehi has received a NEH-FPIRI Fellowship to research the topic in Palestine in 2018.

The Arab Imago: A Social History of Indigenous Photography 1860-1910 (Princeton University Press, 2016) is Prof. Sheehi’s most recent book. It is a ground-breaking study on the history of photography in the Arab world. The research is the first to comprehensively research native studios in Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo, Jaffa, and Jerusalem as well as early Hajj photography in al-Hijaz during the late Ottoman period. In doing so, the book investigates and theorizes the relationship between indigenous photography, social transformations and the creation of modern Arab society in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine before World War One.

Prof. Sheehi’s most recent book is Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011). The book examines the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments in the West following the end of the Cold War. Sheehi analyzes the relationship between United States foreign and domestic policies, cultural representations, and political discourses in mainstreaming of Islamophobia. The book has been translated into Arabic as al-Islamufobia: al-Hamlah al-idiulujiyah dud al-Muslimin translation by Fatimah Nasr (Cairo: Dar al-Sutour, 2012).

Foundations of Modern Arab Identity (University of Florida, 2004) is Prof. Sheehi’s first book, offering a new paradigm for thinking about the 19th century Arab Renaissance or al-nahdah al-`arabiyah. The book discusses how reformers such as Butrus  al-Bustani, Salim al-Bustani, Farah Antun, and Jurji Zaydan offered a powerful cultural self-criticism alongside their advocacy of Arab “progress and civilization” in the face of European imperialism. In doing so, these Arab intellectuals established the epistemological foundation for Arab modernity that would always gauge their “failure” and “success” against ideals of colonializing Europe.

Prof. Sheehi has published in a variety of venues on Middle Eastern photography, art, literature, and intellectual history in venues such as Third Text, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Critical Inquiry, The British Journal of Middle East Studies, Discourse, The Journal of Arabic Literature, Alif: Journal of Compartive Poetics, Critique, Jouvert, The Journal of Comparative South Asian, African, Middle Eastern Studies and Encyclopedia of Islam along within a number of other books. He has published commentaries in Psychoanalytic Activist, Common Dreams, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya, and al-Adab.

Fall 2017 Issue Featured News: Arabic Studies

Arabic Studies: Threads of Identity

Threads of Identity

Emma Russell (Government and Global Studies, ’19)

I spent the summer 2017 studying Arabic at the Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan and volunteered 20 hours a week as a research assistant at “Tiraz Widad Kawar; Home for Arab Dress”. Widad Kawar, the owner of the museum collection, began preserving dresses when she was young. Growing up in Bethlehem she noticed the decreasing presence of traditional dresses and stitch patterns. What began as a hobby to collect beautiful dresses soon quickly became an active attempt to collect and preserve rare dresses before their stories were forgotten. The storage rooms of “Tiraz Widad Kawar; Home for Arab Dress” house the largest collection of both Palestinian and Jordanian dress, and also the largest collection of Syrian dress outside of the country. Through the material and stitch patterns of these dresses, researchers can trace the political, social, and cultural history of specific villages through time. Tiraz worked not only to educate the public about traditional dresses and artifacts, but also held workshops to teach groups the traditional stitch patterns and dyeing techniques that have become nearly obsolete in the face of mass manufacturing. In this way Tiraz not only preserves the past, but also actively works to ensure a future for traditional techniques.

IMG_8552My physical tasks at Tiraz were to help to remove Tiraz’s “Ya Hafeth Ya Ameen” temporary exhibit that exhibited protective silver adornments and talismans, followed by curating the new exhibit featuring a massive art installation entitled “Thirst for Solidarity” by the Naqsh Collective. I also was also delegated the creation of a Google Arts and Culture page and the maintenance of Facebook posts for advertisement purposes. At the end of my eight weeks, we hosted a large opening night event where hundreds of people came to see the new exhibit. The culmination of our effort was rewarded by all the people who were able to reconnect to their ancestral traditional culture and also learn about other cultures.

While at Tiraz I was also conducting my Monroe Research which focused on the traditional dresses of North Galilee.  My researched investigated the systemic fear that forced Palestinian women, the transmitters of their own culture, to sell their identities as embodied by traditional dresses. My research told the story not only of the dresses that have been successfully preserved by Tiraz, but also the story of the dresses that were lost.  I analyzed Galilee’s social and political climate that redefined the value of dresses which were essential to an identity of being no more than objects of trade, forcing the Galilee people to put a price on their culture for survival.IMG_8589

These dresses I researched were often labors of love that took months of intricate embroidery to create. Palestinian dresses can show familial lineage to particular villages, wealth, marriage status, and even religion based only upon the patterns of stitch and material. Each dress represents the Palestinian culture and individual story of the owner. Through my research, I wanted to reveal the historical context and the extreme pressure that would have led women to selling dresses that were so essential to their personal identity. Through my work at Tiraz and my research, I hoped to bring awareness to the continued need to preserve historical and modern Palestinian culture before it is all exchanged for the safety of assimilation.

Widad was a huge source of support throughout my research. She would frequently invite me to her home for lunch to discuss my progress and assign me new books to read. She read my complete research, gave me edits, and fact checked all my information. Leaving Tiraz I felt empowered, motivated, and enriched from my experience. I had learned so much, contributed to Tiraz’s beautiful mission, and found a family amongst the other interns.


News News: Arabic Studies Spring 2015

Sheehi’s students launch Arab American Tribe blog at W&M

[Full story by Cortney Langley]

Being Muslim and Arab American themselves, both Duenya Hassan ’16 and Saif Fiaz ’17 thought they were in for an easy spring semester when they enrolled in “Arabs in America/America in Arabs.”

“I was like, ‘I got this. It’s going to be an easy class,’” said Fiaz, a biology major whose parents are Pakistani. “But I’ve learned a lot. I was surprised.”

Hassan, a government and gender, sexuality and women’s studies major whose parents are Palestinian, echoed Fiaz. “I didn’t think I’d learn as much as I have,” she said.

They attribute some of that learning to the style of the class taught by Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at William & Mary. In addition to traditional class readings, essays and discussions, students must design and post multimedia blog entries integrating current events and issues with the class materials. The class materials are prescribed, but students can take off in any direction they choose as long as they relate it back to the material.

“They are encouraged to think in terms of multimedia, using written sources, videos, music, to explore what activists – not only intellectuals – are doing,” Sheehi said. “They explore the political conditions affecting the Arab-American experience and how Arab Americans answer those conditions, how they forge their own identities.”

The blog, “Arab American Tribe,” had Hassan and her classmates responding within days to the shooting deaths of a Jordanian couple – both graduate students – and the sister of the wife in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in Feburary. Their post examined the reluctance of the police and media to label the murders as a hate crime, in contrast to Muslims around the world.

“In class we were talking about racial hierarchies within the U.S. and how Arab Americans have had this process, according to Matthew Jacobson, of becoming white,” Hassan said. “The first Christian Arabs were able to assimilate, to integrate, and to receive many of the privileges the majority received. After 9/11, you see this flip. You have discrimination against Arabs, and, at this point, it doesn’t matter if they are Muslim or Christian, because it’s based primarily on physical appearance.

“In looking at this incident, we were trying to understand where Arab Americans fit into this racial hierarchy now, and because the media portrayed this as some lone incident, whether there are sentiments the public has about this issue.”

You can read the full story here.

Fall 2014 News News: Arabic Studies

Iron Chef Katsuya Fukushima Cooks for the Arabic House

Chef Katsuya Fukushima, owner of Washington, DC ramen restaurant Daikaya and two-time winner of Iron Chef America came to William and Mary in the Fall to teach a class on Arabic cooking. Chef Fukushima cooked for students of Prof. Stephen Sheehi in the Arabic House, taught them about Arabic cooking and then answered some questions about his career and experiences as a cook. Watch the interview and some highlights from the cooking demonstration below:

News News: Arabic Studies Spring 2012

Student Profile: Kelly Houck ’12 (Video Feature)

Kelly Houck ’12 sat down with me a couple of days before graduation to talk about her experiences in the Arabic program at the College, her study abroad in Morocco, and what her plans are after graduation.

Fall 2011 More News News: Arabic Studies

The Virtual Library of Freedom

A new project at William & Mary is the Virtual Library of Freedom, a group started by William & Mary alumna Hannah Thornton ’10.

Melissa Woods, a student at William & Mary, writes:
The Virtual Library of Freedom (VLF) is a student organization founded in 2010 that aims to promote cross-cultural discussion online between American and Middle Eastern students. The organization has built a web-site ( that features a database of documents, a student blog, and discussion forum, and is working on translating the entire site into Arabic, French, and Spanish. The documents included in the database discuss the topics of civil liberties, good governance, human rights, Islam and democracy, international relations, and non-violent protest. Blogs and discussions focus on current events, such as the death of Gaddafi in Libya. The web site is still an ongoing project, but each semester we are making more and more progress! VLF also seeks to promote discussion at William and Mary through on-campus events such as the “VLF Global Activism Week.” In the future, the organization hopes to partner with student organizations at Middle Eastern universities to foster dialogue and present more diverse opinions on the site.

Fall 2011 News News: Arabic Studies

The Arab Spring at William & Mary

The Arab world has witnessed a series of political upheavals this past year which would have been difficult to imagine in past years. The events have affected the faculty and students of the Arabic section in many different ways. Several students found themselves in Egypt or Syria as the revolutions were getting underway, and had to end their programs early, sometimes even before they started. Several faculty members also found themselves in the middle of rapidly unfolding events in Tunisia and Egypt. Prof. Chadia Mansour was visiting family in Tunisia over winter break just as the demonstrators took over the streets in Tunis and other cities, and she found herself on herself on a plane headed back to the US just as Ben Ali was headed out on a plane himself. Our Arabic language house tutor, Hagar Eltarabishy, was one of the multitudes who took to Tahrir Square in Cairo last spring, participating in demonstrations which led to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s rule. Shukran ya Hagar!

The revolutionary events have had an effect also on the way that some of our Arabic classes have been taught. Prof. Eisele’s Arabic 308 class in Spring 2011 included a review and discussion of the latest news of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, which happened to dovetail with many of the readings from both the classical period and the modern period, which dealt with the notions of tyranny and injustice quite often. This semester his Arabic 303 Media Arabic class devoted much time and class discussion to the revolutions and their aftermath, and included many news reports and documentaries on the events themselves.

Prof. Chadia Mansour has been especially active in this regard. She is an active tweeter and blogger on the subject of the Tunisian revolution, and is currently teaching a special topics course on the subject of the Arab spring. Her summer was taken up with research and preparations for the course, which included attending conferences about “Tunisia’s post January 14th Revolution” in al “Jahedh center” and Center of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in Tunis, where she also conducted interviews with young people on their perspectives on the Tunisian Revolution. She in turn conducted interviews with secular and Islamist activists from diverse backgrounds such as lawyers, professors, engineers , (including the well-known activist Mahdi Barhoumi who had a history of activism during and after Ben Ali regime), as well as interviews with members of internal ministry and military on the events of January 12 to the 14th and Ben Ali’s escape. As part of the course she has coordinated with activists from across the political spectrum and scheduled them as virtual guest speakers via skype in the Arab Spring class.

Prof. Mansour has also been active in setting up public forums for the William & Mary community to hear about and discuss these events, including a forum on the Tunisian Revolution, in Spring 2011, which included a guest speaker from Tunisia, Soubeika Bahri, as well as lecture and discussion by Prof. Mansour. More recently, Prof. Mansour was instrumental in bringing about the recent forum on the Libyan revolution, which included a visit by the Libyan ambassador to the United States. As she describes it: “One of my students – Malik Tatanaki- requested an independent study, and I advised him to work on the Libyan revolution since he is originally from Libya. This independent study led to the idea of holding an event on campus on Libya’s transition to democracy. Co-sponsored by the College & the charity, Libya al Hurra (“Free Libya”), Malik and I organized the event to host the First Libyan delegation at the college of William & Mary with Ambassador Al Aujali as the first Libyan official on campus on November 20th, 2011.” Following that, Chadia had a chance to try to change the perspective of Frank Shatz, a columnist for the local newspaper when she sat down with him for an interview on the topic of the Arab spring which was published in the paper on Nov. 18th.

The revolutions are far from complete, and we are following the events in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Tunisia closely and wish our Arab brothers and sisters in the streets throughout the Arab world success and peace in their struggle for democracy, social justice, and political delousing.

Featured News News: Arabic Studies

The Arab world revolutions and uprising: from the personal to the political

Roundtable discussion

The Arab world revolutions and uprising: from the personal to the politicalrevolutions in arab world rountable discussion

The revolutions, uprisings, and rebellions which have convulsed the Arab world have transfixed the world. Please join us for a discussion of these events from the perspective of citizens from countries which have witnessed or are witnessing these epochal changes.

Egypt:       Hany SalahEldeen
(Phd candidate, Dept. of Computer Science, Old Dominion University)

Tunisia:        Imen Laabidi
(Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant, Arabic House, William & Mary)

Libya:        Selwa Sheibani
(Depts. of Arabic & French, Virginia Commonwealth University)

Sudan:        Nadia Makkawi
(Dept of Modern Languages, William and Mary)

Thursday    April 21
Tyler 102
5:00 to 7:00 pm

Presented by William &Mary Programs in Arabic and Middle East Studies with support from the James H. Critchfield Fund

News: Arabic Studies

Prof. Roger Allen on “Literary History and Generic Change”

Lecture in Arabic:

Prof. Roger Allen
University of Pennsylvania

“Literary History and Generic Change”

Monday, March 14, 3:30 pm Washington 201

The Arabic section will be hosting a major figure in the field of modern Arabic literature on Monday, March 14 in the person of Prof. Roger Allen of the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and since 2005 he has been Chair of the Department. He also has served as the president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) during the year 2009-2010.

(For more information see: )

Prof. Allen has made contributions in many different areas, and his visit to William and Mary will highlight two of them. First, in light of his expertise and contribution to the field of Arabic language pedagogy, he will be reviewing and evaluating the Arabic textbook project at its current stage of completion, including both the Modern Standard Arabic volume as well as the Moroccan colloquial volume. Second,  as perhaps the most well known and most highly regarded specialist on Modern Arabic fiction in the United States and Europe, he will deliver a lecture entitled “Literary History and Generic Change.” He will discuss a genre unique to the Arabic tradition, termed the “maqaama,” which employs rhymed prose to present a series of picaresque vignettes involving the same rogue character and narrator. Prof. Allen will discuss the importance of this genre to the Classical tradition, as well as its manifestations and reflexes in the modern period.

It is best to stick to it to raise the chances of the visit the URL publication of the paper.
News News: Arabic Studies

Tunisian Revolution Forum

February 11, 2011 6:00pm

Open Forum and Discussion on Tunisian Revolution
led by
Chadia Mansour
Blow Hall 334

Featured News News: Arabic Studies News: Hispanic Studies

W&M student shares experiences in Egypt

by Erin Zagursky | February 10, 2011
William & Mary junior John Pence signed up to study abroad in Egypt this semester because he was “ready for the next challenge.”

“This was a challenge. I definitely learned a lot about myself, but it wasn’t the challenge I was expecting,” he said.

Pence was one of hundreds of Americans who were evacuated after widespread protests both for and against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak erupted across the country in January.

John Pence '12 (courtesy photo)John Pence ’12 (courtesy photo)

Pence began that month ready to spend a semester at American University in Cairo, studying Arabic and Middle Eastern politics. He was in the country for about two weeks, staying in a dorm in the Nile island area of Zamalek, before the protests began. The third-party study abroad program at AUC is not sponsored by William & Mary, but Pence was in touch with staff at the College’s Reves Center for International Studies throughout his time in Egypt.

“I loved it,” he said. “I met a lot of great people from all over the world, Egyptian students as well, and up until the protests began on the 25th of January, it was very peaceful.”

The night before the protests, Pence received text messages from some of his Egyptian classmates, telling him that he may want to stay in the next day because of planned protests. Monday, Jan. 25, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets, demanding that Mubarak step down. Over the next few days, Egyptian police clashed with the protesters and Egyptian troops and tanks were brought in to act as peacekeepers.

Throughout this time, Pence stayed in the Zamalek area, abiding by the curfew and staying informed about the events unfolding around him through satellite television and through his Egyptian classmates who lived in or around Cairo.

“I tried to stay away from everything because of my safety and because I’m not Egyptian. It wasn’t my fight,” he said. “I did feel for the people, and I still do.”

On Thursday, Pence went out to eat and was surprised to see that protests had reached the streets of Zamalek. The next morning, he knew the situation was really deteriorating.

“When I woke up and the phones were out and the internet was out, that’s when I was like, okay this is really serious,” he said. “This is the government really trying to show their iron fist.”

On Saturday, Pence watched as F-15s and military helicopters flew low over the city, and he heard that more tanks were being brought in.

“That’s when I knew this semester is not going to happen. Now it’s really about getting out.”

On Sunday evening, American University told students that the State Department was offering charter planes for American citizens who want to leave the country. Pence got on a bus with other students the next day to be transported to a hangar near the international airport in Cairo.

That bus ride was the first time that Pence had left Zamalek since the protests began – and the first time he saw the tanks on the streets and the burned buildings. At the airport, Pence joined hundreds of others in a long line for one of the charter flights.

“It was the line to freedom, basically,” he said. “Everybody was anxious to get out.”

After waiting in line for seven hours and leaving a pile of his belongings behind due to a one-bag restriction, Pence boarded a plane that was bound for Turkey. As he left Egypt, his thoughts were with the Egyptian people.

“Leaving, I felt bad for all the people that are out of a job now that we don’t have school anymore there,” he said. “You could see it on the faces of the Egyptian people as you were going to the airport. They would all say, ‘Oh, you’re going to be back, right? We’ll see you soon,’ and it was just sad.”

After a brief stay in Istanbul, which Pence used to see sites like the Blue Mosque, the William & Mary student finally left for the United States on Feb. 2.

“It was a long flight – a couple of flights – but I was glad to get home,” Pence said.

Now back in his home state of Indiana, Pence, a Spanish major, is working with the Reves Center to continue his semester in Argentina via the La Plata program.

Although Pence didn’t get to study in Egypt the way he thought he would this semester, he still learned quite a bit from his experience there, including “how fortunate we are in this country to have a somewhat stable democracy and also how dangerous the world is.”

Pence said it was really interesting to see the events unfold from both an insider and an outsider perspective. For instance, although the violent protests made the news, Egyptians were also trying to come up with peaceful and proactive solutions to some of the country’s problems.

“I know a lot of students who went out when the protests started and were encouraging people to clean the streets up and being proactive,” said Pence. “If (people are complaining) about how dirty the streets are in Cairo, let’s do something about it. But that message gets swallowed up by people who decide to cause chaos and havoc and fear.”

Via Facebook and other means, Pence has kept in touch with many of the students he met in Egypt.

“We only had a week and a half or two weeks with each other, but you go through something like that, you get to know people pretty well,” he said.

And as he prepares to leave for yet another country, Pence continues to monitor the situation in Egypt.

“I hope that there’s a peaceful resolution in sight soon,” he said.

Jahrgang des studiengangs kultur- und medienbildung an der pdagogischen ghostwriter gesucht hochschule ludwigsburg schloss maren scharpf ihr studium 2010 ab.
Featured News News: Arabic Studies

Arabic Textbook Project

Ahlan ya gamaa`! (Hello gang!)
We are making progress on our Arabic textbook series.
We have completed and tested 4 chapters of volume one, and are working and testing the next 4 chapters this semester. It has been bumpy at times, but we are confident that in the end the project will be a significant advancement in Arabic language pedagogy.

In addition to the textbook for Modern Standard Arabic, we will be editing and testing the Moroccan textbook this summer in Meknes. This is a significant step, because it represents a serious attempt to deal with the issue of variation in Arabic language studies which until now has not been dealt with in a comprehensive fashion.

There are other projects underway at the present time that are trying to deal with this issue, but we feel that ours deals comprehensively with the three main issues that underlie the challenges that face learners and teachers of Arabic, namely: linguistic reality, linguistic dissonance, and linguistic choice.

1. Linguistic reality in Arabic must recognize the issue of variation–both the difference between the written and spoken varieties, as well as the geographic variation between the spoken dialects. We handle this by providing information on dialect variation in the Modern Standard Arabic textbook as part of the “linguistic culture” section of the text, as well as by providing related but freestanding textbooks on four of the main Arabic dialects: Moroccan, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Syrian.

2.Linguistic dissonance must be taken into account in designing materials which try to handle this reality: introducing too much variation at certain times and in certain contexts may be detrimental to the acquisition of any one of the varieties, and care must be taken in designing materials to take this into account.This is one reason why independent but related textbooks are provided for the four main dialects–separating the “codes” will allow attention to be paid to “accuracy” in each of them, which will facilitate the later development of native-like strategies for integrating the various codes.

3. Linguistic choice has to do with which varieties are chosen to be taught. Rather than replacing one linguistic ideology with another (Egyptian Arabic as the spoken “koine” instead of Modern Standard or another dialect), we believe that this choice should be left to the particular circumstances of each program and context of learning. For example, learning in country should demand that the local dialect be taught alongside the Modern Standard form. Outside of in country learning (i.e. outside of the Arab world), we should encourage introduction of dialectal varieties into the curriculum by providing good textbooks which will allow programs to offer dialect classes depending on the native dialects of their instructors.

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News News: Arabic Studies

Beyond the Standard: Department of Education funds texts stressing dialects in Arabic

By Jim Ducibella | May 10, 2010

In a Washington Hall office the size of an average walk-in closet, the future of the Arabic language is being designed. Not the language itself, but the manner in which the language will be taught for years to come.

Close friends John Eisele and Driss Cherkaoui, both associate professors of modern languages and literatures at William & Mary, plan to devote much of their foreseeable future to producing seven textbooks. Three of them will focus on Modern Standard Arabic, the written form that is used across the Arab world. They also will write one volume each on the four major dialects of the language: Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi. All will be supplemented with videos, CDs and other multi-media accompaniments.

The United States Department of Education is so enthusiastic about this monumental project that it has awarded Eisele and Cherkaoui a three-year International Research and Studies grant totaling $728,000. The grant will support the development, testing, revision and production of a little more than half of the project. That would include two levels of Modern Standard Arabic, and the Moroccan and Iraqi dialect modules.

During the spring semester, the professors were writing part one of the Modern Standard Arabic textbook, as well as working on the textbook on the Moroccan dialect.

Pearson Education is publishing the series. Although Pearson publishes in many different languages, the professors say this will be Pearson’s inaugural effort at publishing a textbook in Arabic.

A portion of their work has already been pilot-tested at the University of Arizona, under former student/now Arabic instructor Scott Brown. Brown reported that his students “really liked it, really thought it was excellent.” The professors are sounding out contacts at other universities about using their textbooks, particularly for summer programs. Cherkaoui, who founded the Arab-American Language Institute in Morocco in 2008, said he will start pilot-testing their work there this summer.

A different way to teach Arabic

“This is really different from anything Arabic has ever had,” Eisele said. “And it is really unusual for a major publisher to publish in a foreign language for which the audience is so small. So this is a big step for them.”

The audience seeking to learn Arabic may be small by comparison, but seems to be growing like a teenage boy.

Eisele joined the College in 1994; Cherkaoui arrived two years later. In those days, they may have taught Arabic to between 60 and 80 students. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that number grew steadily. Now the two professors work with between 250 and 300 students. Relative to the size of the College, the William & Mary program is one of the most robust in the country.

“The market changed tremendously after 9/11,” Cherkaoui explained. “The number of students grew to four and five times more than before. The same thing happened with hiring. Before 9/11, all across America there were maybe two or three university teaching positions open per year. Now, there are universities that have so many openings they can’t fill them all, since hundreds of universities have started Arabic programs. The need is there for a more complete manner of teaching the language.”

The U.S. government agrees, and feels a more inclusive style of teaching Arabic can only help in the war against terrorism.

“The government actually has been trying to force the field to teach more dialects,” Eisele said. “It’s had a salutatory effect on our project. It’s a shame it has to come through this channel, but it forces the field to deal with linguistic reality. The American government and military felt a tremendous demand for fluency in Arabic.”

For the past 15 years or so, there has been one dominant Arabic textbook used in the United States:
Al-Kitaab. That’s it. Produced by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Al-Kitaab is three volumes long, supplemented by a host of videos.

“It’s well done, but it doesn’t really teach Arabic in a communicative fashion,” Eisele explained. “It doesn’t really get into the different dialects. It does have some excellent supplementary materials, but it can be improved upon.”

They also found that Al-Kitaab didn’t sustain or challenge third- and fourth-year students to their satisfaction. The two men were spending hours revising outside materials, getting videos for their class, making up question sets to accompany reading assignments.

“Finally, you have a pile of materials and you ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do with all of this?’,” Cherkaoui said. “And all you can think of is ‘Do something with it.'”

Several years ago, the men began meeting once a weekly at a coffeehouse. They not only discussed the ancillary material they were creating, but they also explored the intellectual aspects of the Arab world, especially poetry and literature, themes that they could wrap into the textbook.

“We could not start this from scratch if we had not known each other for so long,” Cherkaoui said. “We have been talking about something like this for a long time.”

Eisele produced a book proposal that Pearson heartily endorsed. The prospectus for publication became the foundation for the grant application, which carries with it the possibility for renewal.

Convincing college educators that there is value in something other than the traditional approach taken by Al-Kitaab will be an obstacle for the professors. But it may be one of the less imposing. There will be many hurdles to be scaled before all is said and done.

Arabs view their language differently from the way other cultures view their languages. To them, classic Arabic is a “sacred” language, since it is the language of the Koran, and it is valued above all other forms of the language. The modern version of this classical language, Modern Standard Arabic, is the language that is taught in schools throughout the Arabic world. It is used in most newscasts, as well as being the primary form of the written language used in literature and journalism.

The traditionalist view

Many involved in teaching Arabic, both native and non-native speakers, believe that Modern Standard Arabic should be the primary focus of Arabic language teaching in the first two to three years, leaving the learning of the everyday colloquial speech to a later point in time-if at all.

“This attitude is something we have to deal with,” Eisele said. “Hopefully, we can change some of those attitudes, but things have already begun to change. A generational shift is going on right now in the States with regard to teaching the dialects, but in the Arabic world the traditional view still holds sway. This is despite the fact that Arabs themselves rarely use the formal standard language for communicative tasks outside of a small circumscribed group. This is especially true in Egypt and Lebanon, where the dialect has been gradually taking over some of the tasks (such as news reading) usually assigned to the standard language. But even in these countries, many traditional language educators view the teaching of dialects as beneath them.”

Eisele continued: “We believe there’s room for us to establish a base of support, and to say ‘You know, we’re not against the literary language. We want to teach it and teach it well. But we also want to teach some of the common, everyday language, and that means we have to take in some of these dialects as well.’ ”

Eisele and Cherkaoui argue that any language that dates back almost 2,000 years carries a lot of culture with it. Previous texts have not done a good job of incorporating information on that cultural background, which they consider a serious drawback, and one which they are taking great pains to avoid.

“American students need to understand what this culture is all about,” Cherkaoui said. “Is language separate from culture? I don’t think so. Without understanding the culture, you may know some language, but that’s all you know. Someone who comes to America and knows English, but not our culture, feels really strange. That adds some weight to our shoulders. We really have to think clearly how to implement Arab culture into the textbooks.”

The plan is to film videos in several Arab countries, authentic scenes featuring authentic people employing everyday dialect. That work has been contracted out by Pearson, but there is a commitment to shoot in such a way as to “put” students into real situations.

“We hope,” Cherkaoui says, “to give an adequate accounting of both the colloquial dialects as spoken languages and of Modern Standard Arabic as a written language, and how they function together in Arab society and culture. We are not partisans of one side or the other (colloquial versus Modern Standard), but believe that students should be exposed to the variation in the Arabic language situation as early as possible. This will serve to deepen their understanding of Arab societies, cultures and identities.”

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News News: Arabic Studies

Ed Dept. Grant Awarded

John Eisele and Driss Cherkaoui have been awarded an International Reseach and Studies (IRS) instructional materials grant from the Dept. of Education. The grant, totaling $728,000 over three years, will be used to develop a textbook series for Arabic language, both the literary language as well as four main dialects of Arabic. The project, entitled “Teaching Arabic Variation: Developing language resources for integrating Modern Standard Arabic and Arabic dialects,”  addresses the need for greater numbers of individuals who are knowledgeable about and fluent in the Arabic language. Since an important aspect of proficiency in Arabic is the attainment of productive fluency (in speaking) in at least one of its dialects, and some passive fluency in one or more other dialects (in listening), the curriculum and language learning resources to be developed under this grant will include workbooks on four main Arabic dialects (Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi) in addition to a series of three textbooks which focus on Modern Standard Arabic.

In the first volume of the latter series, each unit has as its cultural focus a different urban cultural center in the Arab world, and as part of that feature distinctive phrases in the local dialect are provided to give students their first taste of Arabic linguistic reality in all its variety. In the dialect modules information is likewise provided on important local dialects within the national spheres treated: for example, the Egyptian Arabic module would include information on distinctive features of Sa`iidi, Alexandrian, and Bedouin dialects, among others, which are an important part of the linguistic competence of native speakers of this dialect. The currect grant will support the development, testing, revision, and production of a little more than half of the project: two levels of MSA, and two modules of the dialects (Moroccan and Iraqi). The project in its entirety will eventually provide materials for at least three to five years of study of Modern Standard Arabic and at least one of the Arabic dialects covered by the materials, depending on the number of class hours per week and the amount of time devoted to the study of a dialect. They will be learner centered, technology-rich, and tasked based, with each unit developing the four skills in a coordinated and focused manner. The materials will be pilot-tested at The College of William and Mary as well as at several institutions in the United States and abroad, and will be published in both printed form as well as in an online format.

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