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Public Statements

The statements below are part of our educational mission and reflect the views of the faculty in the department and not official University policy.

ME/SA stands in support of our students, faculty and staff who have been affected by the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Palestine, Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Supporting our Afghan and Palestinian Communities

Faculty Statement of Solidarity with the People of Afghanistan, October 2021

Recent events in Afghanistan have once again captured the attention of the media. Many of the headlines do not describe the terrible humanitarian toll on Afghanistan’s people during the past 20 years of US/NATO occupation and the Karzai-Ghani administrations. The Middle East/South Asia Studies Program (ME/SA) expresses its solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and encourages all stakeholders to come together to alleviate the Afghan people’s suffering and ensure their well-being and prosperity in the future.

Since its establishment, ME/SA has fostered research and teaching about Afghanistan’s rich history and culture. We invite students to take our classes and consult recent scholarship on this important region of the world. We believe only an informed and educated public can take action conducive to enduring peace.

Undergraduate courses on Afghanistan, Islam, the Middle East, Persian:
HIS 6: Introduction to the Middle East
and HIS 80: US in the Middle East (both offered annually) include at least one lecture on the history of modern Afghanistan.

RST 60: Introduction to Islam (offered yearly). Taught by Professor Syed, the course offers a brief overview and history of Islam, which is essential to understanding modern Afghanistan. PER 1, 2, 3 Elementary Persian, Navid Saberi-Najafi

PER 21, 22, 23 Intermediate Persian, Navid Saberi-Najafi
COM 53C Literature of the Islamic World, Jocelyn Sharlet. Focuses on pre-modern Arabic and Persian literature as well as selections from Ottoman Turkish and Urdu.

AHI 1E: Islamic Art Offered yearly. Taught by Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh, the course covers aspects of the medieval and early modern art and architecture of present-day Afghanistan. This course introduces the art, architecture and urbanism of societies where Muslims ruled or where they formed significant minorities from the 7th through the 20th centuries CE, in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. It examines the form and function of architectural settings and works of art; as well as the social and cultural contexts, functions, and meanings of art. Themes include the creation of a distinctive Islamic visual culture; the development of urban institutions; key architectural types such as mosque or caravanserai; the arts of the illustrated book; luxury art objects; cultural interconnections around the Mediterranean; arts related to trade, travel, and pilgrimage.

RST163: The Social Life of Islam (next offered in the Fall of 2022). Taught by Professor Miller, the course features readings on Afghanistan such as Sonia Ahsan-Tirmizi’s recent book Pious Peripheries: Runaway Women in Post-Taliban Afghanistan (2021) and David Edwards’ Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad (2002).

COM 175/MSA 121A Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. Taught by Professor Sharlet, the course explores the stories in the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi as well as Persian and other literature based on them. Probably offered in 2022-23.

COM 155 Classical Islamic Literature, Jocelyn Sharlet. Focuses on major works of Arabic and Persian literature 700-1500 as well as selections from Ottoman Turkish and Urdu.

PER 101 Topics in Modern Persian Culture 1900-Present. Taught by Professor Motlagh. Integrated work on reading, listening, discussion and writing about modern Persian cultural production using fiction and poetry as well as cinema and theory. Focus is on readings in Persian; students without the requisite level of Persian can request permission to enroll. Offered Spring 2022

AHI 155: The Islamic City Offered every other year. Taught by Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh, the course covers aspects of the medieval and early modern architecture and urbanism of present-day Afghanistan. The Islamic city is a fundamental concept in the study of the visual culture of the Muslim world. This course explores the development of Islamic visual culture through the prism of architecture and urbanism. The goal of the course is to provide the student with a comparative historical understanding of the development of cities in this region, and to gain a sense of the debates and directions of the current historiography. The course emphasizes selected themes: urban design and aesthetics, architectural form of civic institutions, representations of power in art, architectural responses to the social construction of difference, including gender, ethnicity, race and religion, and visual objects related to spaces of sociability. Additional issues include mapping, and the representations of cities. The course will cover the period of the formation of Islamic society (7th c) to the modern era, with particular emphasis on the Middle East.

AHI 156: The Arts of the Islamic Book Offered every other year. Taught by Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh, the course covers aspects of the medieval and early modern book arts (calligraphy, painting, binding) of present-day Afghanistan, particularly Herat as a center of painting and design. Critical study of the development of the arts of the luxury book in the Islamic world. Includes themes such as the question of representation in Islam, the relationship of word and image, the discipline of calligraphy, ideas about beauty, representational strategies in Persianate painting, the development of art histories and of connoisseurship in Islamic societies. The course also considers the reception of Islamic books in the modern world – how they were collected, studied and displayed in museums and private collections in the last two hundred years.

MSA 180: History of Afghanistan (taught once by Professor Anooshahr). This is a history of Afghanistan from antiquity to the present. The goals of the course are to detail the rich history of the area especially in connection to its neighboring regions of Central Asia, Iranian plateau, and the Indian subcontinent. This course is intended to show the area was the seat of great world- economic activity and cultural innovation. It also historicizes and explains the modern political situation.

MSA 180: Desire and Power in Persian Literature, Jocelyn Sharlet (taught once). The intersection of desire and power in selected works of Persian literature from Central Asia, Iran, and India.

Publications on Afghanistan and Persian by UC Davis faculty and alumni:

ASA 150F: South Asian America and ASA 100: Asian American Communities, both taught by Professor Sunaina Maira, include research and literature on/by Afghan Americans.

Fatima Mojaddedi participated in a recent two-part series by NPR:

Fatima Mojaddedi, “Terrestrial Things: War, Language, and Value in Afghanistan” (Ph.D. dissertation in Anthropology, Columbia University, 2016).

Flagg Miller’s The Audacious Ascetic: What the bin Laden Tapes Reval about Al-Qa`ida (Oxford University Press: 2016). Basing his research on a collection of audiotapes discovered in Osama bin Laden’s guest house in Kandahar, Afghanistan just after 9/11, Miller explores the ways in which the idea of “Al-Qaeda” -- a base or rule, in Arabic -- was understood in political speeches, sermons, training-camp lectures and everyday conversations preserved in the archive. He also shows just how much stories about al-Qaeda were formed, curated and given new life by American and Western post-Cold War security officials and media outlets, largely to bin Laden’s benefit in the years leading up to the 2001 attacks.

Sunaina Maira, The 9/11 Generation: Youth, Rights, and Solidarity in the War on Terror
One of the first ethnographic studies of the Afghan American community in Fremont/Hayward; it also includes discussion of imperial interventions in Afghanistan, the "Af-Pak war," and
surveillance of Afghan Americans after 9/11.

Talinn Grigor, The Persian Revival: The Imperialism of the Copy in Iranian and Parsi Architecture. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2021.

Jocelyn Sharlet, Patronage and Poetry in the Islamic World: Social Mobility and Status in the Medieval Middle East and Central Asia (IB Tauris, 2011, Honorable Mention, British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize, 2012). This book explores the uncertainty and flexibility of relationships between panegyric poets and their political patrons depicted in poetry by the Arabic poets of the Abbasids Abu Tammam and al-Buhturi and the Persian poets of the Ghaznavids 'Unsuri and Farrukhi. In addition, it analyzes the portrayal of patronage interactions in medieval Arabic and Persian literary criticism, political advice, biographies of poets, and encyclopedias.

Ali Anooshahr, The Ghazi Sultans and the Frontiers of Islam (Routledge, 2009). This book studies the phenomenon of “ghazis” or “holy warriors” in the medieval and early modern periods. It shows that individuals in both Anatolia and Afghanistan were aware that they were part of a frontier culture between Muslims and non-Muslims, and they evoked the memories of famous ghazis in order to fulfill near-archetypal expectations of what a ghazi should be.

Hakeem Naim, “Collateral Modernity: State Formation and Islam in Afghanistan and the Ottoman Empire 1839-1919,” Ph.D. dissertation in History (UC Davis, 2019).

Navid Saberi-Najafi, “From Ibn Sīnā to Farīd al-Dīn ‘Aṭṭār of Kadkan: The Sīmurgh and His Devotees in Persian Beast Literature” Ph.D. dissertation in Comparative Literature (UC Davis, 2017).

Emelie Mahdavian (Performance Studies) produced, wrote, and edited MIDNIGHT TRAVELER, which won numerous international prizes and was nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Documentary. When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee the country with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing the family’s uncertain journey firsthand, Fazili documents their harrowing trek across numerous borders revealing the danger and uncertainty facing refugees seeking asylum juxtaposed with the unbreakable love shared amongst the family on the run.

Jamil Jan Kochai, M.A. ’17, taps into his memories of visiting Afghanistan as a child for his novel, 99 Nights in Logar (Viking, 2019).

Fatima Mojaddedi, “The Closing: Heart, Mouth, Word.” Public Culture (2019) 31 (3): 497–520.

Fatima Mojaddedi, “Reading the Global Disorder with Maḥmūd-i Tarzī Maqālāt-i-Maḥmūd-i Tarzī, by Maḥmūd Tarzī, compiled by Rawān Farhādī.” Muʾassasa-i Intišārāt-i Baihaqī, 1977. 898 pages, (selections). [CIS 13.1–2 (2017) 179–188] Comparative Islamic Studies (print) ISSN 1740-7125 Comparative Islamic Studies (online) ISSN 1743- 1638

Ali Anooshahr, “The Ghaznavid Empire in India”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 58, no. 4 (forthcoming). Argues that the Ghaznavids did not merely raid India, but on the contrary built an imperial structure there based on the king-of-kings model, with the emperor in GHazna and tributary rajas in north India.

Ali Anooshahr, “Military slavery in medieval north India”, in David Eltis, Craig Perry, David Richardson eds., The Cambridge World History of Slavery, volume 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, September 2021), 362-382. The paper begins to tracing the institution of military slavery in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Ali Anooshahr, “Utbi and the Ghaznavids at the foot of the mountain,” Iranian Studies, 38, no. 2, (2005): 271-291. A study of Al-Yamini, and Arabic history of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna.

Sunaina Maira. 2014. “Surveillance Effects: South Asian, Arab, and Afghan American Youth in the War on Terror.” In At the Limits of Justice: Women of Color on Terror, edited by Suvendrini Perera and Sherene H. Razack (pp. 86-106). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Jocelyn Sharlet, “A Garden of Possibilities in Manuchehri’s Spring Garden Panegyrics” Journal of Persianate Studies Vol. 3 (2010), 1-25. This article focuses on the use of the garden to articulate ideas about patronage in a poem by the Persian poet Manuchehri (d. 1040) who worked at the Ghaznavid court.

Saberi-Najafi, Navid. “The Sīmurgh in Chāch: Bird Symbolism in the Rawḍat al-
The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2021): The Sīmurgh in Chach: bird symbolism in the Rawdat al-fariqayn: British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies: Vol 0, No 0 (

Sanā’ī of Ghazna. “On the Merciful God and on the Birds’ Glorifications.” Edited, transcribed, introduced, and translated by Navid Saberi-Najafi. The Stanford Global Medieval Sourcebook. September 2020.

Keith David Watenpaugh. The Article 26 BackpackTM (the universal human rights tool for academic mobility). Translated into Persian by Navid Saberi-Najafi. January 2020. (a translation of over 94,000 words)

Saberi-Najafi, Navid. “The Journey of the Soul in Attar and Langland.” The International Journal of Literary Humanities, 11.3 (2014): pp. 27-35.

 This document is also available as a pdf

Faculty Statement of Solidarity with Palestinians Monday May 16, 2021

We, the signatories below, express our concerns for the suffering inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip and condemn the state-sanctioned violence by settlers and lynch mobs against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel. The current asymmetrical assaults by the Israeli state have left over 180 Palestinians dead, of which at least 40% are women and children, and over 1200 Palestinians injured, as of May 16. Palestinian families spent the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a state of terror and anguish. Israel’s state violence is also an assault on the education of Palestinian youth. More than 24 Palestinian schools in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli air strikes and Palestinian students have been prevented from protesting the war at Israeli universities. This brutal violence follows the forcible evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers, whose settlements are deemed illegal under international law. Marauding Jewish extremists have been filmed lynching and beating Palestinians in the streets. As US-based scholars, we are outraged that the US administration has refused to condemn this Israeli state violence, yet again. The Biden administration has opposed the UN Security Council meeting about the rapidly escalating crisis and blocked their statements, including calls for a ceasefire (at the time of writing this). The US government has historically provided more funding to Israel than any other country in the world to the tune of $3.8 billion a year. Imagine how this money could be spent on public education, healthcare, and building safer communities! This latest eruption of anti-Palestinian violence and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism is occurring in the context of an ongoing history of forcible displacement, dispossession, and systemic racism by Israel. Recently, Human Rights Watch criticized Israel as an apartheid state, given the legal nature of entrenched racial discrimination by the Israeli state against Palestinians under its rule. The Black Lives Matter movement in the US has helped spotlight the distressing similarities between, and the collaborations binding, US and Israeli policing. Indigenous rights movements have highlighted struggles against settler colonialism linking North America and Palestine. Mass incarceration, refugee displacement, border militarization, and restrictions on freedom of movement are all issues that have energized transnational solidarity between social justice movements in the US and Palestine. Feminists have recently endorsed the statement that Palestine is a Feminist Issue opposing gendered and sexual violence in Palestine as intrinsic to the “siege of Palestinian land and life.” We stand in solidarity with Palestinian scholars working under conditions of edu-cide and struggling with the censorship of their narratives and scholarship. We also support the right of students and faculty to speak openly about these issues of human rights and global justice without fear of reprisals, blacklisting, or unwarranted allegations of anti-Semitism that trivialize actually existing anti-Semitism in a context of emboldened white supremacy and fascist violence. As scholars committed to racial justice and opposed to war and colonialism, we believe that justice is indivisible and has no borders.

Dept and Program Signatories
Department of Asian American Studies
Mellon Research Initiative on Racial Capitalism
Department of American Studies
Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Department of African American and African Studies
Mellon Research Initiative on Feminist Arts and Sciences
Department of French and Italian
Middle East/South Asia Studies Program

individual Signatures

Donald Palmer, Graduate School of Management
Kathleen Frederickson, Associate Professor of English
Justin Leroy, Assistant Professor of History
Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Professor of Chicana/o Studies
Susy Zepeda, Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies
Michael Singh, Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies
Victor Montejo, Retired Professor of Native American Studies
Ofelia Cuevas, Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies
Alan Klima, Professor of Anthropology
Viola Ardeni, Lecturer in Italian
Jaimey Fisher, Professor of German and Cinema & Digital Media
Joshua Clover, Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Jesse Drew, Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English
Seeta Chaganti, Professor of English
Inés Hernández-Ávila, Professor, Native American Studies
Justin Spence, Associate Professor of Native American Studies
Zinzi Clemmons, Assistant Professor of English
Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Zoila Mendoza, Professor of Native American Studies
Lucy Corin, Professor of English
Erin Gray, Professor of English
Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology
Elizabeth Miller, Professor of English
Simon Sadler, Professor of Design
Omnia El Shakry, Professor of History
Stacy D Fahrenthold, Assistant Professor of History
Michael Ziser, Associate Professor of English
Joseph Dumit, Professor of Science & Technology Studies
Stephanie Boluk, Cinema and Digital Media
Parama Roy, Department of English
Margaret Ronda, Associate Professor of English
Suad Joseph, Distinguished Research Professor, Anthropology, University of California, Davis
Ali Anooshahr, History Department
Wendy DeSouza, Middle East/South Asia Studies Program
Julie Wyman, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
Baki Tezcan, Professor of History
Timothy Choy, Associate Professor of Science & Technology Studies
Cristiana Giordano, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Liza Grandia, Associate Professor of Native American Studies
Tim Lenoir, Professor of Science & Technology Studies and Cinema & Digital Media
Kris Fallon, Associate Professor of Cinema & Digital Media
Fiamma Montezemolo, Professor, Cinema & Digital Media

A Statement of Solidarity with the AAPI Community From ME/SA Students and Faculty

March 30, 2021

The Middle East/ South Asia Studies Program strongly condemns the hate-crime against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16th, 2021, when a white shooter killed eight people, including six Asian women. We recognize that this horrific incident is deeply-rooted in the perpetuation of racial discrimination towards the AAPI community and is testament to the sexualization and fetishization of Asian women. In the context of growing anti-Asian hate during the ongoing pandemic, this latest attack, along with nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since March 2020, highlights the fear, pain, and loss endured by the AAPI community.

However, we also must situate this incident in the history of Anti-Asian racism in the U.S. from the internment camps during World War II, to the more anti-immigrant, and xenophobic overtones in our current political climate that are a result of fallacies like the ‘model minority myth’. We stand in solidarity with the families and communities of those directly impacted in Georgia, as well as the AAPI community here at UC Davis. Knowing that no one is free until we are, we will continue to stand with every community in their fight against structural violence, discrimination, and oppression.

Below are resources curated by the Sociology, Anthropology and ME/SA Studies Advising Office:

Below is a list of more campus and community resources that may be helpful. There’s also this LinkTree with additional resources curated by the organization Stop AAPI Hate.

Organizations to donate to:

 Mental Health Support:

  • The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (AANHPA) has a resource page that includes mental health service providers and both general and COVID-19 related resources.

Safety and Advocacy:

Anti-Racist Allyship & Continued Learning:


Community message regarding the murder of George Floyd - November 9, 2020

Dear Community, We witness, yet again, the senseless and brutal murder of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in the city of Minneapolis. The Middle East/South Asia Studies Program unequivocally and categorically condemns this racist and violent act. We stand with the family and friends of George Floyd and with all those who feel the pain and anguish of this outrageous and tragic incident. We stand in support of the human rights and human dignity of our Black brothers and sisters, and of all people of color. We live in a society in which far too many people continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in the most dehumanizing ways by the color of their skin. Many members of our academic community, undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty, have suffered from racism and police violence, directly or indirectly. Many who are taking part in the current peaceful protests and demonstrations are confronting renewed forms of police repression and violence, which are likely to cause further trauma and distress. We extend our empathy and solidarity to them, and to their friends and family, especially in this time of a global pandemic, which has already resulted in widespread economic and social dislocation, affecting in unfair and unequal measure the lives of poor people and people of color. We recognize the difficult and dire circumstances ​our students face at this moment. We pledge to do all that is in our power to support their continued education and solemnly resolve to stand with them. We reaffirm our commitment to justice, equality, and diversity. We condemn all forms of racism, and racial and religious hatred. UC Davis Middle East/South Asia Studies Program Students looking for support or other information about campus resources established to work with students experiencing stress can start at the Office of Student Support or Student Health Care Services. Resources for racial trauma, the dedicated moment of silence led by Vice Chancellor Tull, and Chancellor May’s statement can be found here:

ME/SA Stands with Pittsburgh

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life/Or L'Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh. The mass murder happened during a bris, a ceremony to welcome an infant into the Jewish community. It was the deadliest antisemitic attack in the history of the United States.

The program in Middle East/South Asia studies at UC Davis stands in grief with the Jewish communities in Pittsburgh and across the country. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, many of whom were elders, and those who were injured, including the first responders trying to stop the shooter. We also recognize and stand in empathy with those in our community whose safety and dignity is under threat.

At a time when the forces of antisemitism have been emboldened and hate crimes against marginalized groups are on the rise, we as scholars of the Middle East and South Asia note the deep and deadly links between white supremacy and nativism, and the resurgence of intolerance and vitriol towards Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and members of many other ethnic and religious minorities. 

The symbol of the “Tree of Life,” in Jewish culture, has long represented the pursuit of knowledge. The ME/SA program at UC Davis is dedicated to pursuing and disseminating knowledge of the diverse cultures of the Middle East and South Asia in order to dispel ignorance and prejudice and clear the path toward understanding and truth. In our grief and in our condemnation of xenophobia and white supremacist violence, we recommit ourselves to this work.