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October 18, 2007

   

Khalidi's Flexner Lectures to Explore
The Cold War and its Aftereffects in the Mideast

Rashid Khalidi

Proponents of the United States' "war on terror" have sometimes compared it to the Cold War, the decades-long struggle with communism that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Historians tend to be skeptical of such analogies, but they do see connections between the two conflicts: many have argued that the contest between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Middle East played a major role in creating the historical conditions that fostered the growth of militant, fundamentalist Islamism.

Beginning next Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m., in Thomas Great Hall, one of the foremost historians of the Middle East will open a thorough examination of the United States' relationship to the Middle East in the context of the Cold War with the first of three public lectures. Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, will deliver the 2007 Mary Flexner Lecture Series, "The United States, the Middle East and the Cold War." Harvard University Press will eventually publish a book based on the lectures.

Next Wednesday's lecture is titled "Rethinking the Cold War in the Middle East." The second lecture, to take place a week later on Oct. 31, will be "Oil, Strategy and the Cold War in the Middle East," and the final lecture, to be delivered on Nov. 7, will be "The Middle East in the Cold War and Afterwards."

Khalidi's extensive bibliography of publications on the Middle East includes both scholarly works and those intended for general audiences, and he has often appeared on national news broadcasts as a Middle East expert. A sharp critic of the Bush Administration, he has also published opinion pieces taking the administration to task for failing to heed the advice of experts in its Middle East policy-making.

Khalidi's research and teaching encompass the history of the modern Middle East, and in particular the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the emergence of national identity and the involvement of external powers in the region. He is particularly interested in the role of the press in the formation of new publics and new senses of community, in the place of education in the construction of identity, and in the way narratives of self and other have interacted over the past two centuries in this conflicted region.

Born in the United States to a Lebanese mother and a Palestinian father, Khalidi grew up in New York and earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University. He went on to Oxford University for his doctorate in history, writing a dissertation about British policy toward Syria and Arab nationalism in the years preceding World War I. He taught at the American University in Beirut and at the University of Chicago before his appointment to the Said Chair at Columbia in 2003.

The Flexner lectures have brought some of the world's best-known scholars of the humanities to Bryn Mawr's campus and have resulted in some of the most influential books of the 20th century. The pioneering Egyptologist James H. Breasted gave the first series of Flexner Lectures in 1928-29, to be followed in later years by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Alfred North Whitehead, I.A. Richards, Alfred H. Barr Jr., Arnold Toynbee, Erwin Panofsky, Isaiah Berlin, Paul Henry Lang, Douglas Cooper, Frank Kermode, Natalie Zemon Davis, Harold Bloom and K. Anthony Appiah, among others.

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