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Center for Middle East Studies

Center for Middle East Studies

The mission of the Center for Middle East Studies is to enrich Middle East programming at the University of Oklahoma.

The Center for Middle East Studies brings distinguished speakers to the University each semester, sponsors informal Brown Bag Lunches, and supports Middle East events on campus. In the past years, CMES has brought Reza Aslan, Stephanie Saldana, Adeed Dawisha, Mona Eltahawy, Eugene Rogan, Graham Fuller, Hooman Majd, Juan Cole, among others, to speak at OU.

The Farzaneh family generously endowed a lecture series on Iran and a professorship in Iranian studies. The Department of International and Area Studies welcomed Dr. Afshin Marashi to fill this new position.  Dr. Marashi has established the Iranian Studies Program at OU and currently teaches Iranian Studies courses such as Modern Iran: 1500-Present.

Center for Middle East Studies

The Center for Middle East Studies is a part of vibrant and growing resources in Middle East and North Africa studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Visit our MENA at OU page for more information


Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis, PhD
Director, Center for Middle East Studies
Director, Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies
The Sandra Mackey Chair in Middle East Studies
Full Professor of Modern Middle East
Department of International and Area Studies
Phone: (405) 325-3330

Mohammad Al-Masri

Mohammad Almasri, PhD
ConocoPhilips Associate Professor of Arabic Language, Literature and Culture

Amel Khalfaoui

Amel Khalfaoui, PhD
Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Linguistics

Waleed Mahdi

Waleed Mahdi, PhD
Assistant Professor of US-Arab Cultural Politics

Samer Shehata

Samer Shehata, PhD
Associate Professor of Middle East Studies

Khosrow Bozorgi, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design
Architecture, Gould Hall, rm 270
Phone: (405) 325-4408; Email
Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania; Islamic architecture history/theory; Middle Eastern architecture

Firat Demir, Associate Professor
Economics, Cate Center, Room 436
Phone: (405) 325-5844; Email
Ph.D. from University of Notre Dame; international finance, and economic development

Ori Kritz, Assistant Professor
MLL & L, Kaufman Hall, rm 209
Phone: (405) 325-1542, Email
Ph.D. from Columbia University; Hebrew language and Jewish literature (Jewish humor; Hebrew Bible as literature; modern Hebrew prose; Jewish literature: from Bible to modern American)

Alan LevensonProfessor and Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic History, Department of History
Office: DAHT 305; Email 
Ph.D from The Ohio State University; Jewish Intellectual, Literary, and Religious History

Rhona SeidelmanAssociate Professor and Schusterman Chair in Modern Israel Studies, Department of History
Office: DAHT 409D; Email
Ph.D. from Ben Gurion University of the Negev; history of immigration, the history of medicine and public health and Israel.

Shmuel Shepkaru, Associate Professor
Schusterman Professor of Jewish Intellectual and Religious History
History, DAHT, rm 305F
Phone: (405) 325-5608; Email
Ph.D. from New York University; Late Antiquity and Medieval Jewish History, Hebrew

David R. Vishanoff, Associate Professor
Religious Studies, Robertson Hall 146
Phone: (405) 325-1150; Email
Ph.D. from Emory University; Islamic theology, law, and religion; Muslim-non-Muslim interaction; comparative sacred texts; religious interaction in South Asia; introduction to religious studies; Abrahamic religions; Arabic language.

News, Events and Media

Please check back soon for upcoming events.

Nonzero Discussion with CMES Director Joshua Landis

On November 3, 2023, the newsletter Nonzero shared a video discussion with Center for Middle East Studies Director and CIS Professor Joshua Landis, hosted by Robert Wright. The discussion, titled "Where Is the Israel-Hamas War Heading?" covers topics relating to the war, including what Iran hopes to gain, an explanation of Hezbollah, predictions for the future state of the Arab world, how China might benefir, and more.

CMES Interview with Stacey Philbrick Yadav

In April 2023, the Center for Middle East Studies hosted Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Associate Professor of International Relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, for a talk on Yemen. Here, you can watch her conversation with Waleed Mahdi, Associate Professor in the OU Department of International & Area Studies.

Stacey Philbrick Yadav is author of Yemen in the Shadow of Transition: Pursuing Justice Amid War. The book draws on nearly two decades of her research in Yemen and among Yemeni diaspora communities, including collaborative research conducted through international peacebuilding organizations. Her work focuses on forms of everyday peacebuilding and the diverse justice projects of Yemeni non-combatants as they navigate a protracted and internationalized civil war.

September 17, 2022: "Increased U.S. Intervention and Global Insecurity," with Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies. In the session on "Insecurity in MENA," part of the inaugural Security in Context conference Landscapes of Insecurity, Landis presented his study on U.S. intervention's relationship with global insecurity. The conference was held September 16-17 at the University of Oklahoma in collaboration with the Center for Peace and Development. For more please visit Panel filmed by the University of Oklahoma, edited by Nick Bythrow with graphics by Owen Neuburger.

November 9, 2022: CMES, with the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies and the Institute for US-China Issues, co-sponsored a talk with Ambassador Chas Freeman, Visiting Scholar, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University.

October 25, 2021: "Leaving Afghanistan: Fowzia Karimi on Her Family's Flight and Her Art,"  with Fowzi Karimi, a writer and illustrator, on her novel Above Us the Milky Way. Moderator is CMES/Farzaneh Family Center Director Joshua Landis.

August 30, 2021, "Teach-In and Discussion on Afghanistan," with Fereshta Abbasi (Human Rights Lawyer & former advisor to Afghanistan Attorney General Office), Christian Cabaniss (Retired Colonel, Marine Corps and Military Operations Analyst), Joshua Landis (Director, OU Center for Middle East Studies), Mike Boettcher (OU Gaylord College of Journalism), Mohammad Qadam Shah (Seattle Pacific University).

"Yezidis of Iraq: The Struggle Against a 21st Century Genocide," with Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director, Free Yezidi Foundation

"Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom and Tolerance," with Mustafa Akyol, Cato Institute

To keep up with events sponsored by CMES,  join our public Facebook group.

November 8, 2023: Israel & Palestine: Is It Too Late for a Two State Solution?
A panel discussion with Rhona Seidelman, OU Department of History; Husam Mohamad, Professor of Political Science, University of Central Oklahoma; Hadas Cohen, OU Department of History; Joshua Landis, OU Department of International & Area Studies

October 23, 2023: From God’s Sovereignty to Godlike States: The Nineteenth-Century Worlds of Sayyid Fad, a talk with Wilson Chacko Jacob, Concordia University, Montréal. A Center for Middle East Studies Brown Bag Lecture.

April 3, 2023: #YemenCan'tWait: Civil Actors and Justice Work in Yemen, a talk with with Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Associate Professor of International Relations, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, co-sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies, the Center for Peace and Development and Security in Context

November 9, 2022: United States, China and Great Power Competition in the Middle East, A Zoom talk with Ambassador Chas Freeman, Visiting Scholar, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, co-sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies and the Institute for US-China Issues

October 3, 2022: Jordan-United States Relations: An Enduring Friendship in the Ever-Changing Middle East, a conversation with Ambassador Dina Kawar, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States of America

October 18, 2022: The Biden Administration, Human Rights, and Democracy in the Middle East, a Brownbag Lecture Series talk with with Samer Shehata, Colin Mackey and Patricia Molina de Mackey Associate Professor in Middle East Studies, OU Department of International & Area Studies

September 15, 2022: Syria and the Middle East: What is America's Mission?
CMES Brown Bag Lecture Series with Joshua Landis

November 18, 2021: Sunni-Shi'a Relations in the Middle East (PDF), a talk with IAS Professor Joshua Landis at the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs

September 29, 2021: Global Jihad and Movements of Rage, with Glenn E. Robinson, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School

April 7, 2021: Yezidis of Iraq: The Struggle Against a 21st Century Genocide, a documentary and conversation with Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation

October 25, 2021: Leaving Afghanistan: Fowzia Karimi on Her Family's Flight and Her Art, with author Fowzia Karimi

August 30, 2021: Teach-In and Discussion on Afghanistan, a panel discussion

March 29, 2021: Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance, with Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

February 3, 2020: Iran-US Conflict: What's Next for the Region? with Trita Parsi, Executive Director at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, IAS Associate Professor Samer Shehata, and IAS Professor Joshua Landis

November 8, 2019: Afghanistan, Iraq, and the War on Terror, with John Nash, CEO, Sporting Global Former US diplomat and US Army Special Operations Officer

October 28, 2019: The Fall of the ISIS Caliphate: The Battle for Mosul, with with James Verini, New York Times Magazine

April 2, 2019: The New Turkey and the Middle East, with Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow, CATO Institute

November 7, 2019: Iranian Reconstruction and Development in Syria: Geopolitical Interests, Conflict-Based Drivers, and Transnational Linkages, with Eric Lob, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University

April 25, 2019: Jihadi Salafism and the Decline of Isis: What’s Next? with Cole Bunzel, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Islamic Law and Civilization, Yale Law School

February 19, 2019: The Contagion of Religious Nationalism in the Middle East, with Mark Farha, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies

April 11, 2018: Mass Atrocity in Myanmar: How the Rohingya Crisis Unfolded and the World’s Failure to Respond, with Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International

February 28, 2018: Linda Sarsour: Unapologetically Muslim, a talk with activist Linda Sarsour as part of the Muslim Student Association’s Islam Awareness Week

April 9, 2018: Strategic Orientalism: Fantasies of Literary Origins in Modern Arabic and Hebrew Literatures, with Shir Alon, Mellon Faculty Fellow, Washington and Lee University

October 3-27, 2017: A is for Arab: Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture, a traveling exhibit based on New York University's Jack G. Shaheen Archive

October 23, 2017: Ottoman Tolerance and Its Legacy Today, with Yaron Ayalon, Ball State University

October 17, 2017: Muslims in the Iraq War: A Cinematic Perspective, with Dr. Kristian Petersen, University of Nebraska

October 24, 2016
The Foreign Policies of Clinton and Trump
Roundtable Discussion with Firat Demir, Joshua Landis, Peter Gries, Robert Lifset and Alan McPherson

October 3, 2016
Christians, Muslims and the End of the Ancient World
with Dr. Jack Tannous, Princeton University

September 8, 2016
Iran and the World
Panel Discussion with Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Professor Samer Shehata 

April 11, 2016
Armies and Revolutions: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective
by Dr. Zoltan Barany, The University of Texas at Austin

March 24, 2016
Islam in America, What in the World Is Going on? 
Student Panel Discussion: What is it like to be a Muslim in Oklahoma?  
Dr. Charles Kimball, Dr. Manata Hashemi

February 29, 2016
Do Drones Have A "Blowback" Effect? Some Evidence From Pakistan's Tribal Areas
with Dr. Aqil Shah, University of Oklahoma

February 8, 2016
Israel and the Palestinian Territories in 2015 a Retrospective
by Dr. D. Gershon Lewental

October 27, 2016
Discovering Baghdad
with Lauren Camp, Poet and Performer

October 17, 2016
War and Peace in Yemen
Panel disucssion with Joshua Landis and Waleed F. Mahdi

October 14, 2016
The War Against ISIS
with Dr. Nadim Shehadi, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Tuft University

September 30, 2016
Music from Syria and Behond

A concert with Kenan Adnawi and Tareq Rantisi

April 20, 2016
Syrian Refugee Crisis
The LEAF Project 

March 30, 2016
Syrian Refugee Crisis Seminar
Learn more about the crisis and how you can help; Engage with members of the OU community about providing humanitarian relief, Get Involved

March 8, 2016
Palestine, What Will Its Future Be?
with Dr. Husam Mohamad, University of Central Oklahoma

February 11, 2016
Middle East Social Hour 
Break away from your busy dan and join us for chai & chat with students and faculty who are interested in the Middle East.

April 15, 2015
ISIS, Is it Jihad or Terrorism? Islamic Law and International Law as They Relate to the Islamic State
by Mohammad Wattad, University of California, Irvine

April 3, 2015
Syria: The Worst Humanitarian Crisis of the Century
by Dr. Hamed Albeik, University of Aleoop

March 10, 2015
Israeli Elections Primer: Understanding and Interpreting the March 17, 2015 Elections
by D. Gersshon Lewental, Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies

April 8, 2015
Security Society in Gaza: Police Encounters Under Egyptian Rule
by Dr. Ilana Feldman, George Washington University

March 30, 2015
Measuring Freedom, An Exploration of Freedom House's Research and Analysis
with Vanessa Tucker, Vice President of Analysis at Freedom House

February 19, 2015
How Islam Saved the Jews
by David Wasserstein, Vanderbilt University

November 14, 2014
Changing Views of the Middle East (PDF)
with Professor Yasser Derwiche Djazaerly, Fitchburg State University

October 13, 2014
Beyond Sunni and Shites: Understanding the Violent Recalibration of Arab State, Sect, Tribe and Citizen (PDF)
A Brown Bag Lunch with Rami Khouri, The T.A. Hamra Practitioner-in-Residence and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policty and International Affairs at the American Unviersity of Beirut

September 08, 2014
"Syria, the Rise of the Islamic State, and US Policy" (PDF)
A Brown Bag Lunch with Joshua Landis, Director of Center for Middle East Studies

April 21, 2014
Twelve Years in Afghanistan:What Has the U.S. Military Learned? (PDF)
Discussion with Linda Robinson, senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation

April 18, 2014
The Iran-Iraq War of Words: Enlisting Nationalism and Religion in Combat (PDF)
with D. Gershon Lewental, PhD, Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israeli Studies

April 08, 2014
Everything You Need to Know about... The Indian/Pakistan Conflict (PDF)
A discussion with Emily Rook-Koepsel and Mariam Mufti

March 26, 2014
"The Arab Spring and Identity in a Changing Middle East" (PDF)
with Professor Franck Salameh, Assistant Professor of Near East Studies at Boston College 

February 28, 2014
The Tumultuous Seventh Century: The Arab-Islamic Conquests and the Reshaping of the World (PDF)
Lecutre by D. Gershon Lewental, Shusterman visiting professor of Israel Studies

February 27, 2014
Political Crisis in Turkey: What's Next? Future of Turkish Democracy (JPG)
with Fevzi Bilgin, Executive Director of Rethink Insitute

November 10, 2014
Slave Women of ISIS, An eyewitness account & slideshow of the Islamic State's attempt to wipe out the Yazidis of Iraq and enslave over 7,000 women and girls (PDF)
A Brown Bag Lunch with Matthew Barber, Ph.D. candidate in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at University of Chicago

October 17, 2014
Remaking the Arab World (PDF)
A roundtable and lunch with Barak Barfi, Rami Khouri, and Joshua Landis

September 11, 2014
Confronting Militarism: Global Solidarity Against War and Oppression (PDF)
Lecture, Discussion, and Dinner with Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Blobal Exchange

April 18, 2014
Arab Culture Night (PDF)
Presented by The Arab Student Associaiton. Join us for Food, Music and Dancing.

April 11, 2014
"Palestinian Folk Poetry As Extemporized-Sung Rhymes" (PDF)
with Dr. Dirgham Sbait
This presentation includes an introduction of the oral poetic tradition of the Arabs; commonly performed Palestinian and Lebanese sung poetry-zajal-in modern times; and the various genres of the Palestinian improvised sung folk poetry.

April 02, 2014
Saudi Night by The Saudi Student Association (JPG)
A cultural flight to Saudi Arabia

March 04, 2014
Turkey and the War in Syria: Will It Bring Down Erdogan? (PDF)

with Baris Doster, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey

February 26, 2014
Israel and the Challenges in the Middle East (PDF)
with Israel Ambassador Meir Shlomo, Counsul-General of Israel to the Southwest

February 20, 2014
Lawrence of Arabia Architecture of War: The Impact of Landscape on Politics (PDF)
Center for Middle Eastern Architecture & Culture hosts this screening with introductions by Joshua Landis

April 25, 2013
"Hitler's Little Helpers: Axis Agents in Palestine 1939-1945" (PDF)
A Presidential Dream Course Lecture by Dr. Bernard Wasserstein 

November 13, 2012
The Light In Her Eyes (PDF)
A film about women and Islamic education. A Woman is a school. Teach her and you teach a generation.

September 27, 2012
"Inside the Afghan Taliban: Politics, Poetry and the Future of Afghanistan" (PDF)
A lunch and lecture with Alex Strick van Linschoten

October 19, 2012
"State of Syria and the Role of American Leadership" (PDF)
Panel discussion with Joshua Landis, Afshin Marashi & featuring Ambassador Kurt Volker, McCain Institute for International Leadership

April 20, 2011
"Palestinian-Israeli Impasse: A New Approach is Needed" (PDF)
Lecture and dinner with Maen Rashid Areikat, PLO Representative to the United States

March 03, 2011
"The Peace Process: Is the Age of Bilateral Talks Over?" (PDF)

with Ophir Pines-Paz, Former Israeli Minister of Interior and Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport, and former Member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) from the Labor Party.

April 07, 2011
Riots, Unrest and Democracy in the Mediterranean (PDF)
Lectures by Robert Cox, Norman Stillman, Yaron Ayalon, Firat Demir, and Mohamed Daadaoui

February 28, 2011
"American Foreign Policy: Adjusting to a Shifting Middle East Landscape" (PDF)
with Professor Kenneth Stein, William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History and Israeli Studies at Emory University, and the director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, also at Emory.

November 18, 2010
The Arab Experience of Democracy: Between Absolutism and Imperialism (PDF)
by Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Centre at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

March 29, 2010
 Obama's AfPak Policies: Surge or Quagmire? (PDF) 
Brown Bag Lunch with Juan Cole
Noon Hester Hall, Room 170

"Can the US Avoid War with Iran?"
Public Lecture with Juan Cole

4:30 pm, Robert S. Kerr Auditorium
Sam Noble Museum of Natural History

September 27, 2010
"Modern Iran: The People, Their Lives, and What Makes Them Tick"
Public lecture and book signing with Hooman Majd
4:30 pm
Sam Noble Museum of Natural History
Robert S. Kerr Auditorium

April 5, 2010
Personal Identities in Global Conflict Zones:  A Jewish Israeli Reporting from the Muslim World (PDF) 
Brown Bag Lecture with Orly Halpern
Noon Ellison Hall, room 132

March 10, 2010
Contemporary Trends in North American Muslim Women's Activism (PDF)
by Leila Ahmed, Harvard Divinity School

March 1, 2010
Jesus and Mary in Islam (PDF)
with Stephanie Saldaña, author of The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith

Fall 2009 
Center for Middle East Studies Brown Bag Lunch Series (PDF)
September 15, 2009: "Natural Disasters and Confessional Boundaries in Ottoman Syria" by Yaron Ayalon
September 29, 2009: "Iran and US Foreign Plicy" by Trita Parsi
November 17, 2009: "The Muslim Songs of David" by David Vishanoff

October 8, 2009
Crunch Time in the Middle East: The Obama Administration, Iran and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process (PDF)
with Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, S. Daniel Abraham Chair in Middle East Policy Studies Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

February 25, 2009
How to Win a Cosmic War:  God, Globalization, and the War on Terror (JPG) 
with Reza Aslan, Fellow at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy and Middle East Analyst for CBS News.
Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a fellow at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy and Middle East Analyst for CBS News.  He is also a featured blogger for Anderson Cooper 360.  Aslan's first book is the New York Times Bestselling, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

November 11, 2009
"The US and Iran in the aftermath of the Iranian election crisis"
with Trita Parsi
Sam Noble Museum, 4:30 pm

October 12, 2009
"How Generation Facebook and Women are Changing Religion and Politics in the Middle East"
with Mona Eltahawi
Sam Noble Museum, 7:00 pm

October 7, 2009
The Political Future of Iraq (PDF) 
with Adeed Dawish, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Miami University

February 26, 2009
Intelligence and Torture (PDF) 
with Staff Sergeant Eric Maddox, author of “Mission: Blacklist #1”
Panelists: Dr. David Edger & Dr. Christopher Howard
Moderator: Dr. John Fishel

October 14, 2008
The Islamic Other: Fundamentalism and Sufism in the Muslim World and Beyond (PDF)
with Itzchak Weismann, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern History at the University of Haifa

About Dr. Sandra Mackey

Sandra Mackey was an Oklahoma pioneer. She lived a life of the mind and adventure. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma, Sandra earned an advanced degree in International Studies from the University of Virginia. With her husband, Dan, an OU graduate, she moved to Saudi Arabia, where Dan served as a Doctor. Sandra began a secret life as a journalist, writing under a pseudonym to evade Saudi censors. She was a regular in The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. Sandra went on to become a best-selling author, writing six superb books on the Middle East, some of which went through many editions.  She interviewed heads of state from Arafat to King Hussein and traveled from China to Lebanon and everywhere in between. Sandra was also a fine photojournalist, who built up a portfolio of slides that is full of beauty and searing portraits.

Her knowledge of the Middle East and its complexities was rivaled by only the most seasoned Middle East hands. Many of her insights were prescient, none more so than that in the closing words of her book on Iraq, The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein, which she completed in 2002 on the eve of the US invasion.  She cautioned policy makers who were pressing for regime-change in Iraq that they should not “ignore the threat to American security that could come with Hussein’s demise.” Her prediction was as wise as it was unheeded.

Sandra Mackey’s quick wit, charm, and expertise made her a fixture on NPR and BBC, as well as the major TV networks. She was a commentator for CNN during the first Gulf War and a consultant to the US military during the early years of the occupation of Iraq.

Most of all, however, Sandra was an educator. Her first job was as a teacher in Oklahoma City. Not content to profess only to a small class in Oklahoma and itching to explore the world, Sandra propelled herself onto an international stage, where see became an educator to a much larger audience. She was the best kind of public intellectual, always keenly aware that to reach people she had to entertain as well as instruct. Sandra returned to academe periodically throughout her life, teaching political science at Georgia State and developing a course on Middle East studies for one of Atlanta’s finer magnet schools. Sandra continued to lecture across the country at universities, to foreign affairs groups, and in Washington right up to her untimely death.

Sandra is a paragon of the Oklahoma Pioneer woman. Her life and spirit serve as an example to students, teachers, and Oklahomans of every stripe.

Click thumbnails below to browse photos from the Sandra Mackey Collection.