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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

NME in 2004-5

From the School's Annual Report


The Ancient Near Eastern section saw the retirement, after forty-one years, of Professor David Hawkins FBA, and his well-deserved elevation to emeritus status. His departure was offset by the generous offer from the Mellon Foundation to help the School fund a new lectureship in Ancient Near Eastern studies from September 2005. The section also said farewell to Dr Frances Reynolds, who was warmly praised by students for excellent teaching during her four-year stint as teacher of Akkadian and Sumerian, first while Professor Andrew George was serving as Head of Department, and then while he spent this year on research leave as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

The Department welcomed Dr Tamar Drukker as its new lector in Modern Hebrew. Thanks to her enthusiasm and energy two new courses are already added to the section's offerings. Professor Tudor Parfitt continued working on an AHRB/C-funded project on constructions of Jews in South Asia. Dr Colin Shindler at last became a full-time member of the School.

Numbers of students of Arabic rose again, and the department had its first second-year cohort for the Arabic Cultural Studies degree. Dr Wen-Chin Ouyang was promoted to Senior Lecturer.

Dr Shirin Akiner, the department's Central Asianist, was awarded a special plaque in July to mark her 25th lecture on the Senior Staff Programme at the NATO Defence College (Rome).

The Persian section has continued to enjoy a gradual but steady rise in its single-subject and joint-degree students. As in the past few years the cultural and social activities organised by the section have attracted the attention of staff and students beyond the boundaries of our own department. The SOAS-Cambridge Persian workshops, sponsored by the Iran Heritage Foundation, had its second successful year of uniting undergraduates from Cambridge and SOAS in two days of joint-learning. In late November, around twelve mainly second and final-year students of Persian, accompanied by Narguess Farzad and Sorour Dundon, spent the morning at Cambridge's Faculty of Oriental Studies attending lectures on the Shahname and the hagiographical genre, with examples from the lives of Attar and Rumi, followed by discussions and enjoying an illustrated lecture on the Persian art of book binding and manuscript illumination. The day ended with dinner at Pembroke College.

In March the Persian section at SOAS hosted Cambridge students and staff in return; they spent the day participating in classes on the Russell Square campus and took part in such specially organised activities as a poetry translation workshop, reviewing a selection of Iranian newspapers of the day, as well as students' presentations on Persian studies in their respective institutions. The guest speaker at the event was Dr Jila Peacock, the Scottish-Iranian artist and calligrapher, who talked about the role of poetry in calligraphy with reference to Hafez of Shiraz, modernist approaches to the art of calligraphy and particularly the creation of her own 'shape poems'. The students were then able to see many examples of Dr Peacock's work exhibited in the Brunei café. Before leaving London the students watched Abbas Kiarostami's '10'.

Our Norouz, Persian New Year, celebration on 18 March yet again drew capacity crowds to SOAS. The evening's programme consisted of musical and dance performances by SOAS and MTO college students, as well recitation of poetry and brief short talks by many invited academic guests. Everyone enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and left the School late at night, reluctantly but in high spirits. As in previous years, the main sponsor of the evening was the MTO College.

The first fruits of Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams' AHRB/C-funded Manichaean Dictionary project reached maturity in the shape of the publication of the Dictionary of Manichaean Texts, Vol. 3: Texts from Central Asia and China, Part 1: Dictionary of Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian, by Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst (Brepols, Belgium).

The year's other publications include:

New Perspectives on Arabian Nights: Ideological Variations and Narrative Horizons, edited by Wen-Chin Ouyang and Geert Jan van Gelder. London: Routledge

Nineveh: Papers of the 49e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, edited by Andrew George and Dominique Collon. 2 vols. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq

La epopeya de Gilgamesh (Versión de Andrew George), Presentación de José Luis Sampedro. Barcelona: Random House Mondadori

The Jews of Ethiopia: The Birth of an Elite, edited by Tudor Parfitt and Emanuela Trevisan-Semi. London: Routledge

Teach Yourself Modern Persian, by Narguess Farzad. Hodder & Stoughton

Introduction to the Study of the Languages of the Caucasus, by George Hewitt. Munich: Lincom Europa

Abkhazian Folktales (with grammatical introduction, translation, notes and vocabulary), by George Hewitt. Munich: Lincom Europa

Georgian: a Learner's Grammar, by George Hewitt. 2nd revised edition, London: Routledge