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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Work

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.

Cover page of Islam: Portability and Exportability

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.

Cover page of Corresponding Lives:  Women Educators of the Alliance Israélite Universelle School for Girls in the City of Tunis, 1882-1914

Corresponding Lives: Women Educators of the Alliance Israélite Universelle School for Girls in the City of Tunis, 1882-1914


The multiple roles of women educators as cross-cultural intermediaries in the realm of language, literacy, dress, employment, and social action are examined in the hybrid Muslim-Jewish culture of Tunisia. Educated in Paris, the women served as catalysts of change at the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) School for Girls in Tunis for the students, parents, and the community. Sources are based on the correspondence of the women educators, supplemented by that of their male colleagues at the School for Boys. The pioneering initiatives of the women in education, apprenticeships, health, and post-graduate voluntary associations, were closely followed by the Director of Public Education for the schools of the French Protectorate and by the French patroness of the first Muslim School for Girls in Tunis. The model of female secular education advocated by the Alliance, with its emphasis on academic skills and productivity, set important precedents for similar ventures by other religious and ethnic communities.

Discussion of female educators and the education of females in the AIU School for Girls is intertwined with the themes of the “civilizing mission,” the educator-mother, and colonialism in an emerging modernity. Parallels are drawn to the education of girls in Muslim Tunisia, France, or other regions, as appropriate. Evidence has revealed that the work of the women educators extended beyond the classroom to the local community. The goal of the teachers was to form a new role for women in the private realm of the household and the public place of employment. The Middle East and North Africa continue to be confronted by these issues today, as first recognized by the women educators of the Alliance more than a century ago.

Cover page of The Crisis of Identity in Rumi's 'Tale of the Reed'

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.

Cover page of Exile and Memory in Khaksar’s 'Last Letter'

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.