Divine to Give Annual Engel Lecture March 12
When a young Tunisian man
named Mohamed Bouazizi poured gasoline over himself and struck
a match in late 2010, he lit a fire still burning across
the Middle East.
The outbreak of protests that
followed did not simply channel the frustrations of the poor
and young, it also infused them with the belief that past
successes would propel the ones coming next.
But while boundaries
appeared to collapse as demands for dignity and social justice
extended their reach and tapped into grievances and hopes
that seemed universal, location still mattered. The sites
of these struggles for a new political order not only helped
define the goals but also, and perhaps, more importantly
plot the path for their achievement.
These sites are the subject
of this year’s
55th annual Katharine Asher Engel Lecture, “Upheaval
in the Middle East: A Guide for the Perplexed,” to be delivered
by Donna Robinson Divine, Morningstar Professor of Jewish
Studies and professor of government, on Tuesday, March 12,
at 5 p.m. in Seelye 201.
A reception will follow in Seelye 207.
The Engel Lecture is granted
annually to a Smith faculty member who has made a significant
contribution in his or her field. The lecture was established
in 1958 by the National Council of Jewish Women in honor
of Engel, its onetime president and a 1920 Smith graduate.
the Smith faculty in 1971 after receiving her doctorate at
Columbia University (bachelor’s degree, Brandeis
University, 1963). Divine began to undertake serious work
on the Middle East and on Israel simultaneously as an undergraduate
at Brandeis, concentrating on the history of Islamic
civilizations and on language study. Graduate training at
Columbia University broadened and deepened her knowledge
of the Middle East through courses on classical Muslim history
and on the region’s economics
Scholarly interests have directed
Divine’s attention to both historical developments and contemporary
trends, and although trained as a political scientist, she
explains, ”I tend to brew up my projects in an interdisciplinary
Divine’s study of politics has led her to explore
Muslim and Jewish cultures and the ways in which these cultures
shape societies, order relationships between men and women,
and structure how people of all classes understand their life
Divine believes in the importance
of words and that there is always more to see by reviewing
what seems familiar, sometimes with new questions in mind. “In the courses I offer
on the Middle East, I also try to explain how words can frame
the lives of the people who must live with them even before
they understand fully what they mean or how they will be turned
Since her arrival
at Smith in fall 1971, Divine has developed a variety
of courses on the Middle East and has helped shape the
introduction to the government major, which focuses on and
extends the political theory canon.