Inscriptions in the Desert

I’ve written an essay for The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk about the fascinating research of Ahmad Al-Jallad, a scholar of Semitic linguistics and ancient epigraphy. The first few paragraphs of the piece are below, with a link to the rest on the magazine’s webpage. Some readers may also be interested in a piece I wrote about … Continue reading “Inscriptions in the Desert”

On “Letters from Baghdad”

What Gertrude Bell’s Letters Remind Us About the Founding of Iraq Elias Muhanna | NewYorker.com (Culture Desk) I first encountered the work of the British traveller, archeologist, and spy Gertrude Bell many years ago, while hunting in the archives for a Carmelite priest named Père Anastase-Marie de Saint-Élie, an obscure figure in the history of Arabic … Continue reading “On “Letters from Baghdad””

On Reza Aslan’s “Believer”

Last month, I wrote an essay for NewYorker.com about Reza Aslan’s new CNN show, “Believer.” Here’s the first paragraph with a link to the rest of the piece. In other news, I’m on my way to Lebanon this evening to attend the School of Mamluk Studies’ annual conference, which is being held this year at the … Continue reading “On Reza Aslan’s “Believer””

Assad and ISIS

A veteran journalist, Roy Gutman, has written a series of three articles for the Daily Beast with the suggestive titles, “Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS” (part 1); “How Assad Staged Alqaeda Bombings” (part 2); and “How ISIS returned to Syria” (part 3). The gist of the series is that the Assad regime was complicit … Continue reading “Assad and ISIS”

What is Islam? A Review

A significant new book by my late professor, Shahab Ahmed, was recently published by Princeton University Press.  The book is entitled What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic, and I have written a review and a profile of its remarkable author for The Nation. The first few paragraphs are below, followed by a link to the rest of the … Continue reading “What is Islam? A Review”

The Death of Ideology and Beirut’s #YouStink Protests

Beirut #YouStink Protest, August 29, 2015. (Image stolen from stateofmind13.com) Protesters from Lebanon’s #YouStink | طلعت_ريحتكم# movement staged a sit-in at the Ministry of the Environment today and vowed not to leave until Minister Mohammad Machnouk resigned from his post. The day ended with the police storming the building and forcing the protesters out. I’m not … Continue reading “The Death of Ideology and Beirut’s #YouStink Protests”

Dissolving Parliament is the Key to Lebanon’s Trash Crisis (and Everything Else)

In about an hour, downtown Beirut will be filled with angry protesters and jittery security forces. The “You Stink” demonstrations have grown in numbers, defiance, and ambition. In Lebanon, just like anyplace else, nothing succeeds like success. No longer content with a hasty fix to the trash collection crisis or even the proposed resignation of the Minister of the Environment, the … Continue reading “Dissolving Parliament is the Key to Lebanon’s Trash Crisis (and Everything Else)”

Modern Robots that Speak Like Ancient Romans

Here’s a piece I’ve written for The New Yorker’s Culture Desk about a course I taught last semester at Brown and the interesting research project that emerged from it. First paragraphs below, followed by a jump. Come on back here to comment! Hacking the Humanities Last spring, I taught a literature seminar called “Before Wikipedia.” The subject was the history … Continue reading “Modern Robots that Speak Like Ancient Romans”