The UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) promotes collaborative multidisciplinary research on critical issues related to the Middle East and the Islamic world. The research and teaching interests of its faculty and affiliates give broad definition to the geographical area served by the Center, from Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Gulf states to the nations of Central Asia, and including the Balkans and the Caucasus as well as cultural extensions in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
G E von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies
Recent Work (5)
Exile and Memory in Khaksar’s 'Last Letter'
In Nasim Khaksar’s one-act play "Akharin Namih" (The Last Letter), written in 1988, the trials and tribulations of exile are perceived from the perspective of a middle-aged political refugee who left Iran shortly after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Since then, he has been residing in a provincial town somewhere in Europe. The protagonist fled Iran because his political activities as an intellectual and a leftist sympathizer had placed him on the new regime’s wanted list. He had belonged to a political group that was identified; some of its members, including his female partner, served prison terms. The plot unfolds through the dramatic tension between this character and an apparition of his female partner who accompanies him in exile. The protagonist’s biography is similar to the playwright’s background: Khaksar too was involved with the left and had served two prison terms during the Pahlavi regime and another term after the Islamic Republic came to power. He escaped Iran illegally in 1983, and after a short stay in Turkey he traveled to the Netherlands on a false passport. He has been living in a small town in the Netherlands since then.
Man, the play’s protagonist, is not an immigrant; he is a political exile. His exilic existence is the very proof of his exclusion from the dominant political discourse in his homeland. At the same time, he is recognized as an outcast in his unwanted new home. He suffers double exile or double marginality: accepted neither at home nor in exile, he is a man without a country. The present study revisits the question of exile through an evaluation of exilic memory in "Akharin Namih," and demonstrates that memory in the life of the play’s exile is not so much a nostalgic preoccupation with the homeland as amnesia of a past that induces anxiety and articulates loss in his life.
Islam: Portability and Exportability
This paper is the outcome of a collaborative effort between the UCLA Centers for Near Eastern Studies and European and Eurasian Studies to combine an annual seminar with a public lecture series. The program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and supported by the UCLA International Institute and other research units and organizations in Southern California. The objective was to explore some of the issues facing Muslim communities in Europe and North America and to examine the ways in which such issues contribute to the (re)construction of (new) diasporic Muslim identities. There was a felt need to pursue inquiries and areas of research with descriptive and comparative nature. A second type of inquiry was concerned with broader international developments and their impact on diasporic identities. A third category of inquiries dealt with future paradigms as the technological and post-Enlightenment age continues to unfold in the coming decades. In this paper, 17 scholars present summaries of their lectures. The paper includes a Preface, Conclusions, and a Selected Bibliography.
The Crisis of Identity in Rumi's 'Tale of the Reed'
The exceptional achievements of Rumi (d.1273) in poetry and mysticism, along with his intriguing relationship with Shams al-Din of Tabriz (d.1247), have kept him in the foreground of literary and mystical discussions all over the world. Rumi's intimate relationship with Shams—a mysterious dervish whom he met in Konya in 1244—had a formative influence on his life and his poetry. He considered Shams to be the perfect image of the beloved, the supreme companion he had been seeking in his spiritual life, a spiritual mirror for his own complex mystical experiences.
This essay evaluates an instance of such complexities in a reading of the "Tale of the Reed" (Nay Namih), the well-known opening thirty-five lines of the great Persian mystic magnum opus, the Masnavi. The "Tale of the Reed" is the account of the separation of the lover, personified as the reed, from the Fatherland, the reed-bed, where it had belonged in the presence of God, the beloved. It has been argued that the "Tale of the Reed" captures the major themes that appear in the ensuing several thousand rhyming couplets of the Masnavi. This essay evaluates this prelude against the background of the relationship between Rumi and Shams, within the context of separation and union between the lover and the beloved, and demonstrates how the exchanges between the lover and the beloved correspond to Rumi's transcendence in his relationship with Shams.