Research in Middle Eastern and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
The Department of Middle Eastern and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (MEAMS) is home to a dynamic and diverse community of scholar-teachers. The research and teaching of our faculty address key areas of global importance; indeed, much of what we do is unique within the SUNY system, as no other SUNY school offers an Arabic major. We are further set apart by the sheer range of our expertise: from the ancient Mediterranean to the modern Arab and Turkish speaking worlds, from language and literature to archaeology and material culture.
MEAMS faculty members bring their varied expertise to bear not only in developing their own personal research agendas but also in creating curricular synergy, thereby involving students and colleagues in broad and meaningful conversations about why the Mediterranean world (broadly construed) matters so much today.
Research in Arabic Studies and Turkish Studies
- Omid Ghaemmaghami new book is titled Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early and Pre-Modern Twelver Shīʿī Islam (Brill, Islamic History and Civilization, volume 167). The history of Twelver Shīʿī Islam since the late 3rd/9th century is a history of attempts to deal with the abrupt loss of the Imam. According to the group that came to be known as the Twelver Shīʿa, the twelfth and final Imam – most commonly referred to as the Mahdī and the Qāʾim – did not die like the Prophet Muḥammad and the previous Imams but rather concealed himself (commonly referred to as the Imam's ghayba or occultation) and continues to be physically alive on earth while waiting for the appointed time of his (re)appearance. A letter said to have been dictated by this figure in the year 329/941, on the eve of what has come to be known as the Greater Occultation, declared anyone who claims to see him before his return a “lying impostor.” Based on a critical study of this letter and the earliest extant Shīʿī sources concerning the occultation, and in particular the question of seeing and contacting the Hidden Imam, Ghaemmaghami demonstrates that in the early years of the Greater Occultation, Shīʿī authorities maintained that seeing the Imam was no longer possible. This position, however, proved untenable to maintain before historical exigencies and the incessant longing for direct contact with the Imam. Almost a century after the start of the Greater Occultation, prominent scholars began to concede the possibility that some Shīʿa can see the Hidden Imam, thus foreshadowing a radical shift. Accounts of encounters with the Imam from the Greater Occultation soon began to appear, adumbrating their exponential growth in later centuries.
- Gregory Key’s research concentrates on Turkish grammar, specifically the analysis of modern Turkish morphology and syntax as a coherent synchronic system.
- Mary Youssef's research focuses on examining questions of identity, nationalism, belonging, gender, marginalization, and migration in the modern Arabic novel as well as in contemporary Arab-immigrant and Arab-American novels. Youssef's also has a new book, Minorities in the Contemporary Egyptian Novel (2018).
Research in the Classical and Medieval Worlds
- Hilary Becker has written various articles and chapters dealing with Etruscan and Roman economy. She is writing a book on the economy of the Roman pigment industry, entitled, Commerce in Color, which was first inspired by her work on a Roman imperial pigment shop from the excavations of San Omobono in Rome. She has advised undergraduate students writing independent research projects dealing with a.) unbreakable Roman glass (spring ‘17), b.) Etruscan anatomical terracottas (spring ‘18), and c.) the materiality of Egyptian art (fall ’19). (Read about the last project here or here, and check out the virtual museum exhibit here. Two undergraduate students worked with Hilary Becker in spring 2019 as volunteers testing the economic aspects of Roman art. Their joint paper was accepted for the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (cancelled due to the pandemic).
- Jeffrey A. Becker is a Mediterranean archaeologist with research interests that include urbanism and state formation in the Italic and Roman worlds, especially during the first millennium B.C. He is keenly interested in the dynamics of cultural interaction through the lens of hegemonic expansion and the attendant cultural processes, especially those expressed in the form of public architecture and infrastructure. Becker is an associate editor of the Pleiades gazetteer and contributing editor for Etruscan and Roman art at Smarthistory.org.
- Tina Chronopoulos is especially interested in studying 11th- and 12th-century Latin literature, as well as Greek and Latin hagiography (the lives of saints) and the reception of Classical authors in the medieval period. Recently, two undergraduate students who worked with TC and who wrote, respectively, about “The role of the paedagogus in Ancient Rome” and “Seneca’s Medea and the voice of women in Rome”, presented their work at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of New England. Chronopoulos’s work with graduate students tends to focus on Latin texts from the medieval period.
- Zoja Pavlovskis-Petit is working on a monograph tentatively titled Poetry as Spiritual Refuge: Creative Memory in Late Latin Literature, a book on bilingualism as the main source of Nabokov's ironies, and several other projects.
- Andrew Scholtz’s research and teaching encompass a broad range of interests, including Greek and Latin rhetoric, prose, and drama, and critical theory as a lens through which to view same. His first book, Concordia Discors (Center for Hellenic Studies, 2007), explores how classical Athenian literature addresses politics in the idiom of sexual desire. In his current project, he studies the materiality of envy and desire and how those two passions permeate the culture of competition in the Roman East. Past and present student research he has mentored addresses, among other things, the role of coinage in Romanizing ancient Gaul, and the light that French thinker Baudrillard sheds on Roman culture.