News & Updates

TAARII Awards Best Dissertation on Medieval/Modern Iraq

TAARII is pleased to announce the recipient of its bi-annual awards for the best U.S. doctoral dissertations on Iraq.

TAARII’s prize for the best dissertation on modern or medieval Iraq was awarded to Dr. Hilary Falb Kalisman, of the University of California, Berkeley, for her dissertation entitled: “Schooling the State: Educators in Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan, c. 1890–c. 1960.”

In her dissertation, Kalisman sheds light on the life trajectories of educators, in particular their relationship to the state and society, and their roles in the social, intellectual, and political life of 1890–1960. In recent years, more studies have emerged that are truly comparative and interested in connections and encounters. Kalisman’s thesis is a great example of this as she investigates education in three British mandate countries and how these educators navigated the British colonial network as they developed into a mobile and self-conscious class. This dissertation shifts our understanding of education and nationalism by exploring how these educators were shaped by regional connections. Additionally, Kalisman examines the continuities of the Ottoman and British education and school policies. She dismantles the binaries of the British vs. Ottoman and modernity vs. tradition by focusing on the persistence of the Ottoman legacy into the Mandate period. Finally, Kalisman’s study is an important contribution to the history of education in these countries, providing a rich historical narrative of the development of education in the region, the relationship between education and political culture, and the position of educators within the state and society during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, as well as the impact of mass education and standardization in the 1940s and 1950s.

TAARII will hold its next dissertation award competition in 2017 for dissertations defended during the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 academic years. Submissions are invited from any discipline for the study of any time period. The competitions are open to U.S. citizens at any university worldwide and any student at a U.S. university. The amount of each award is $1,500.

TAARII Joins CAORC Directors in Istanbul, Turkey

TAARII’s Executive Director, Beth Kangas, and Overseas Director, Lucine Taminian, joined directors of 21 other American overseas research centers and staff of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) for a three-day workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, April 5–8, 2014. The workshop provided the opportunity for directors to share ideas and experiences and to learn tips for fundraising and evaluating programs.

The CAORC workshop overlapped with the Fulbright Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) Directors meeting. TAARII enjoyed the chance to meet with Fulbright staff members of the US embassy in Baghdad to see how we might work together to promote interactions between American and Iraqi scholars.

For more information about CAORC, go to:

Directors from 22 of CAORC’s American overseas research centers met in Istanbul, Turkey, for a three-day workshop (Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Porter, ACOR)

American overseas research center directors benefitted from sharing experiences and ideas at the Istanbul meeting. Shown here: Eric de Sena (left) of the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS); Andrew McCarthy, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI); Beth Kangas (TAARII); Lucine Taminian (TAARII); and Penny Mitchell (right), Palestinian American Research Center (PARC) (Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Porter, ACOR)

TAARII’s Executive Director, Beth Kangas (right), and Overseas Director, Lucine Taminian (center), thank Monica Clark (left), CAORC program manager, for her assistance to TAARII over the years. Monica left CAORC on April 14 to begin a new position (Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Porter, ACOR)

Lunches provided an opportunity for AORC directors to interact informally with each other and Fulbright Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) directors. Shown here: Beth Kangas (left) (TAARII); Karen Park (right), Global Projects Manager and ACLS Public Fellow with CAORC; Heidi Massaro (second on left), Deputy Director of CAORC; Lucine Taminian (third on left) (TAARII); and Fulbright directors (Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Porter, ACOR)

TAARII’s Overseas Director, Lucine Taminian, preparing to begin a cruise on the Bosporus on the final evening of the three-day workshop with directors of CAORC’s American overseas research centers (Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Porter, ACOR)

The Svoboda Diaries Project at the University of Washington

The Svoboda Diaries Project ( is working to bring an important collection of primary source documents from 19th century Iraq into the 21st century. The Project is an arm of the Newbook Digital Texts project ( at the University of Washington, one of TAARII’s institutional members.

The Project team is currently working to transcribe the diaries of Joseph Mathia Svoboda. Joseph was a clerk aboard a Lynch Brothers Steamship, and kept an extensive diary from 1860 until his death in 1908. The Project’s undergraduate interns are at work transcribing 46 volumes of Joseph’s diaries for prompt and inexpensive publication. In conjunction with the transcription and eventual publication of the diaries, Project staff are also working to assemble a wiki-style biographical encyclopedia of the Svoboda family and the many people with whom they interacted, which they have titled the “Svobodapedia.” Recent graduate student research utilizing these diaries has focused on Ottoman public health institutions as well as kinship networks and political power on the Ottoman-Qajar frontier. The Project staff welcomes the support and contributions of other scholars and anyone else interested in Iraq or in life in 19th-century Baghdad, and are open to any comments, corrections, or additional information.

The Svoboda Diaries Project is also pleased to announce that their first print publication is now available. The book is entitled From Bagdad to Paris: 1897  Journal of a Journey to Europe by Land Road via Damascus and Beirut. It is a first-person account of a journey undertaken in 1897 by a 19-year-old resident of Baghdad named Alexander Richard Svoboda, Joseph Mathia Svoboda’s son. The son of a wealthy and influential family of European merchants and artists, Alexander describes the day-to-day details of his lengthy voyage in the local Christian Arabic dialect. The text of the book is bilingual, with a transcription of the original Arabic text and an English translation by Nowf Allawi. Walter G. Andrews of the University of Washington edited the text and contributed the introduction.

Middle East Studies Center’s Lecture Series Podcast

TAARII’s Institutional Member, Portland State University, announces the availability of the following Iraqi studies-related episodes of the Middle East Studies Center’s Lecture Series Podcast, which features audio recordings from the series; additional information and links to downloads are available on the Center’s website (

  • The Iraqi Refugee Experience (Thursday, February 9, 2012), a talk by Baher Bhutti that focused on displacement and the psychological and socioeconomic conditions that influence the transition of Iraqi refugees in Portland, OR
  • The Withdrawal of U.S. Military Forces from Iraq (Thursday, February 23, 2012), a talk by Steve Niva, member of the faculty, the Evergreen State College
  • Modern Art in Iraq: From the Pioneers of the 1930s to the Looting of 2003(Monday, February 27, 2012), a talk by Salam Atta Sabri, Iraqi artist and the founder and Director of the Iraqi Pioneers Committee in Baghdad; co-sponsored with TAARII. For a review of this talk, please see TAARII’s Spring 2012 Newsletter, Issue 07-01 (available as a PDF at