NEH Institute




Confirmed Faculty

Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi, Columbia UniversityMuhsin al-Musawi
Muhsin al-Musawi is professor of classical and modern Arabic and comparative studies at Columbia University. Described by the Chronicle for Higher Education as the leading Arab critic, his contributions cover many fields and direct literary study along new paths. He is the author of twenty-eight books (including four novels) and over sixty scholarly articles. He has been editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature since 2000. His books include: Scheherazade in England (1981); The Society of One Thousand and One Nights (2000); Anglo-Orient: Easterners in Textual Camps (2000); The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence (2003); Arabic Poetry: Trajectories of Modernity and Tradition (2006); Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict (2006); The Islamic Context of the Thousand and One Nights (2009); and ‘Choice’ Outstanding Academic Title for 2010: Islam on the Street (2009). He is the editor and contributor to Arabic Literary Thesholds: Sites of Rhetorical Turn in Contemporary Scholarship (2009). He was the recipient of the Owais Award in Literary Criticism (2002). His new book is Politics of the Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters (2015). His next book is Arab Struggle with the Past.

StephenBlum_photoDr. Stephen Blum, Graduate Center, CUNY

Stephen Blum joined the CUNY Graduate Center faculty in 1987, when the concentration in ethnomusicology was initiated. He has published several articles on general topics (composition, improvisation, music analysis, modern music history, cultural exchange) and on specific musical practices of Iran, Kurdistan, Central Asia, Europe, and North America. He has been active in the Society for Ethnomusicology and currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Music Theory.

Dr. Sylviane Diouf, New York Public LibraryFaculty_Sylviane Diouf
Sylviane Diouf is an award-winning historian specializing in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery, and the history of West African Muslims. She is the author of the acclaimed Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. Her second book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: the Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America, received awards from the American Historical Association, the Alabama Historical Association, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She is a Curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.

efb_maryam_ekhtiar_0073_01 Dr. Maryam Ekhtiar, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Maryam Ekhtiar is a scholar and specialist in the field of later Persian art and culture. One of her areas of expertise is calligraphy. She received a PhD from the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at New York University in 1994 and has worked and taught at various museums and universities in the United States, namely the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York University and Swarthmore College. She served as Senior Research Associate for the exhibition, Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925, and was co-editor and contributor to the catalogue. In 2002 she was a Morgan Whitney Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is currently Research Associate in the Islamic Department.

Dr. Rafey Habib, Rutgers UniversityRafey Habib
Rafey Habib was born in India, grew up in England and now lives in America. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford, and is currently Professor of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of seven books, including A History Of Literary Criticism: From Plato To The Present (2005) and An Anthology of Modern Urdu Poetry in English Translation. He edited the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Vol VI (2013). He also produced a volume of poetry, Shades of Islam (2010), which presents this religion in all the shades of its true pathos and beauty.

Faculty_Bruce Lawrence

Dr. Bruce Lawrence, Duke University
Bruce Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Religion at Duke University. He is the author of The Qur’an—A Biography; Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern World; and New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life. He co-edited the anthology On Violence: A Reader. Currently, he is working on a biography of Sheikh Nizamuddin Awliya.

Dr. Theodore Levin, Dartmouth College
Faculty_Ted LevinTheodore Levin is a longtime student of music, expressive culture, and traditional spirituality in Muslim Central Asia. As an advocate for music and musicians from other cultures, he has written books, produced recordings, curated concerts and festivals, and contributed to international arts initiatives. During an extended leave from Dartmouth, he served as the first executive director of the Silk Road Project, founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Currently, he serves as Senior Project Consultant to the Aga Khan Music Initiative. At Dartmouth, he teaches courses on ethnomusicology and world music, sacred music in East and West, and an interdisciplinary course on the Silk Road offered through the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program. His co-edited book, The Music of Central Asia, will be published by Indiana University Press in April 2016.

Faculty_Jawid MojaddediDr. Jawid Mojaddedi, Rutgers University
Jawid Mojaddedi is Professor of Religion and Director of Graduate Studies at Rutgers University. His area of research is early and medieval Sufism. Since the publication of his verse translation, The Masnavi: Book One, which was awarded the 2004 Lois Roth Prize, he has been working towards completing the six books of Jalal al-Din Rumi’s magnum opus. He has already published in the same Oxford World’s Classics Series a translation of the second and third books, in 2007 and 2013, respectively. He recently completed his manuscript of Book Four as a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellow. In addition to his translations of Rumi’s poetry, he has also published the monograph Beyond Dogma: Rumi’s Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories (Oxford University Press, 2012). Previous books include The Biographical Tradition in Sufism: the Tabaqat Genre from al-Sulami to Jami (RoutledgeCurzon, 2001), and, as co-editor and co-translator with Norman Calder and Andrew Rippin, Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature (Routledge, 2003; expanded second edition, 2012).

Dr. Frances Pritchett, Columbia Universitypritchett
Since her retirement, Frances Pritchett has been writing about modern South Asian literature, especially Urdu poetry. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in South Asian Languages and Civilizations in 1981 and taught at Columbia from 1982 to 2013. Her books include Nets  of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and Its Critics (University of California Press, 1994) and The Romance Tradition in Urdu: Adventures from the Dastan of Amir Hamzah (Columbia University Press, 1991). She maintains a very large website that offers maps, texts, and images for the use of teachers and students of South Asia; the index page can be found by doing a Google search for her name. She considers the heart of her website to be two ongoing commentaries: “A Desertful of Roses,” on the Urdu ghazals of Ghalib, and “A Garden of Kashmir,” on those of Mir.

Zohra SaedZohra Saed, City University of New York
Zohra Saed is the co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press) and editor of Langston Hughes: Poems, Photos and Notebook from Turkestan (Lost & Found, The CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative). Her poetry chapbook Mispelled Cities/Falsch Geschrieben (with Sahar Muradi) was published for dOCUMENTA 13 Notebook Series in English/German. Her essays on the Central Asian diaspora and their food history has appeared in Eating Asian America (NYU Press) and Interviews/Essays in “Projects by Afghan American Writers and Artists” co-edited with Leila Christine Nadir in “Mixed Race in a Box” The Asian American Literary Review.

Dr. Kemal Silay, Indiana UniversityFaculty_Kemal Silay
Kemal Silay was born in Ankara, Turkey. He received his Ph.D. in Turkic Studies from Indiana University, Bloomington. In the fall of 1993, he was appointed as Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1997, he returned to Indiana University to become the holder of the Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Endowed Chair. He is the author of numerous books and articles in Turkish and English on Turkish culture, literature, and politics including An Anthology of Turkish Literature.

Confirmed Guest Artists

Haifa Bint-KadiHaifa Bint-Kadi, Artist
Haifa Bint-Kadi holds an M.F.A. from Istituto d’Arte per il mosaico in Ravenna, Italy, and has been designing and fabricating public art mosaics since 1993. She was commissioned by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to create an installation for their current exhibit, From America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. In 2012 Haifa completed The Eel’s Journey, a large-scale public art mosaic for Groundwork Hudson Valley and the City of Yonkers. In 2010, she received an award to complete a sculpture park for the State of New York at SUNY-Oneonta, symbolizing the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Also in 2012, Haifa successfully completed a social engagement way-finding project awarded by Create Change, which culminated in an mosaic pathway from South Yonkers to the Hudson River waterfront. In addition to her public art, Bint-Kadi works as a teaching artist and professional development instructor in New York and New Jersey school districts.

Mitra Dejkameh, ArtistMitra
Mitra Dejkameh Reyhani, MFA, MA, ATR-BC, is an Iranian American abstract artist, children’s books illustrator, and art therapist who has exhibited work at public libraries in Brooklyn and Nassau counties, at group shows in Long Island and NYC, and at several international galleries before moving to the U.S in 1999. Her illustrations appear in several internationally published children’s books. Her artwork is influenced by Persian poetry and calligraphy, and by the influence of languages on the creation and interpretation of artworks. Mitra speaks Farsi (Persian), French, and Turkish. She has a BA and MFA in Visual Arts from Mimar Sinan University of Istanbul, an M.A. in Creative Arts Therapy from Hofstra University, and is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in Art Therapy. She is a certified ABA Instructor and a NYS certified Visual Arts Teacher. She currently manages the ArtAccess Programs and Autism Initiatives of the Queens Museum.

MaryAnnMary Ann DiNapoli, Genealogist and Local Historian
Mary Ann DiNapoli is a local historian with a special interest in the Arab American community of New York. She has lectured on this topic at New York Public Library and the Library of Congress and has written an article about it for A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City. Mary Ann is also a genealogist whose clients have included producers and biographers.

Dave JohnsonDave Johnson, Teachers & Writers
Dave Johnson is a poet and playwright. His publications include: Baptized To The Bone, Dead Heat, Marble Shoot and Sister, Cousin, Aunt/Sorella, Cugina, Zia. He is the co-translator of Roberto Saviano’s play, Gomorrah, which is based on the International bestselling book. His recent theatrical translations, Fallaci and Santos, have appeared at the New York-Italian Theatre Festival. Dave’s original plays have been staged throughout North America and most recently in Rome and Umbria. He is a visiting faculty member of the MFA Program at The New School University and a Lecturer at Yale University and at The Cooper Union School of Art. And recently appointed by the Mayor’s Office, Dave is currently serving as Poet in Residence for the Department of Probation of New York City.

Kewulay Kamara (Poet/Oral Historian)Faculty_Guest artist_Kewulay Kamara
Originally from Sierra Leone, Kewulay Kamara is from a long line of Mandeng Finah orators, historians, and poets. He is founder and Executive Director of Badenya Inc., a non-profit cultural/educational organization that established Dankawalie Secondary School in Sierra Leone. He serves on UNESCO’s Steering Committee on Foresight and Strategic Planning and has been featured at Cooper Union, The Kitchen, Alice Tully Hall, City Center, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of African Arts as a poet, storyteller, and master of ceremonies. He is the director of the epic poetry documentary In Search of Finah Misa Kule.


Imam Konate, Masjid al-Aqsa Mosque
Imam Souleimane Konaté has been head of the Masjid al-Aqsa mosque in Harlem for over a decade. He is General Secretary of the Council of African Imams Inc. and Vice-President of Harlem Islamic Leadership, Inc. Deeply involved in building bridges across cultures, Konate leads the effort to promote interfaith dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. He practiced journalism in Saudi Arabia for several years and understands how communication can build bridges of cooperation. Imam Konaté has been profiled by many news organizations including The New York TimesNPR, and Daily News.

Zeyba photo

Zeyba Rahman, Doris Duke Building Bridges Program
Zeyba Rahman joined the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art an operating foundation of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, in 2013 as senior program officer for the Building Bridges ProgramRahman manages the program’s national grant making to support projects that advance relationships, increase understanding and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Before joining the foundation, Rahman led internationally and nationally recognized projects as a creative director/producer to promote understanding between diverse communities. Her roles include: Director of the Asia and North America section of Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, in Morocco; Artistic Director of Arts Midwest’s Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet; Curator of BAM’s Mic Check Hip Hop; Creative Consultant of Public Programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia Galleries; Chief Curator of Alliance Francaise’s World Nomads Morocco Festival; Project Director of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation/ National Endowment for the Arts’ Global Cultural Connections; and Senior Advisor, Muslim Voices Festival. She is an advisor to Artworks for Freedom and serves on the nominating committee of the Civitella Foundation in Italy. Rahman is the subject of two television profiles as a global arts leader.

Bushra Rehman, Teachers & WritersBushra Rehman
Bushra Rehman’s first novel Corona, a dark comedy about being South Asian American, was noted by Poets & Writers among 2013’s Best Debut Fiction a LAMBDA finalist and featured in the LA Review of Books as a work of radical South-Asian American Literature. She co-edited the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism, one of Ms. Magazine’s “100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time.” Rehman’s first Young Adult novel will be released by Tor/Macmillan in 2017. She is a teaching artist with Teachers & Writers Collaborative and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. She was one of the founding faculty members of Bard High School Early College in Queens. (Photo by: Jaishri Abichandani)

Faculty_Guest artist_Amir VahabAmir Vahab (musician)
Amir Alan Vahab is one of New York’s most celebrated and distinguished composer-vocalists of Sufi and folk music. He sings in many different languages with a unique musical style and has recorded seven albums. As an instrumentalist, he plays and teaches the tambour, saz, oud, ney, daf, and zarb.



2014 Summer Scholars

IBBTeachingBio2016 copy 2Isaac B. Brooks, Horace Mann School
Isaac B. Brooks is a Bellet Excellence in Teaching Award finalist at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx. He teaches both history and English in the middle division. He was honored to be accepted into the 2014 NEH Reverence for Words Summer Institute and he created an iBook on the roots and expression of Islamic ideas in sacred architecture, poetry, and music. That iBook has become a supporting text in the yearlong course taught at Horace Mann School for the 8th grade Legacy of the Ancient World. He has a B.A. in British and American Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master degree in elementary education with additional certification to teach English at the secondary school level through the 9th grade from Columbia University Teachers College.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.36.03 AM
Fred Daly is about to begin his 22nd year of teaching at the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, NJ, where he is the English Department chair, as well as head coach of track and cross-country. He has taught every grade level from 6th to 12th, and is currently developing an elective on Korean literature. He has a BA from Swarthmore and an MA from Columbia.



Clare Hagan, Dewitt Clinton High SchoolHagan_Clare
Clare Hagan is a high school Humanities teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, with a background in museums and aesthetic education. She has written for Art Museum Teaching and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additionally, she consults, leads workshops and is a Cooperating Teacher for Teachers College, Columbia University. She is driven by curiosity about the relationship between ancient forms and our contemporary world. Currently she is exploring applications of virtual reality in the Humanities classroom. You can follow her on Twitter @HaganClare.

SarahHeard_PhotoSarah Heard, Collegiate School
Sarah teaches history and religion in New York City at Collegiate School. She has also taught in Tanzania and the Netherlands. She loved every minute of A Reverence For Words in 2014 and enjoys using the experience in her world religion survey course.

City Lore Staff

Staff_Amanda Dargan (1)Dr. Amanda Dargan, Education Director/Project Co-director
Amanda Dargan has a Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1992, she has served as Education Director for City Lore, where she manages the national outreach and New York City education programs and the professional development programs in art and history education for teachers and artists. She co-edits CARTS Magazine. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of American Folklore, The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Encyclopedia of New York City, Educational Leadership, and the recent book Through the Schoolhouse Door.

Sahar Muradi, Poetry Programs Coordinator/Project Co-director
Staff_Sahar Muradi
Sahar Muradi coordinates the poetry programs at City Lore and assists with the education programs. She is co-editor, with Zohra Saed, of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature and co-founder of the Afghan American Artists & Writers Association. She is the recipient of an Asian American Writers’ Workshop Open City Fellowship, the Himan Brown Award in Poetry, and a Kundiman Poetry Fellowship. Sahar has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MPA in international development from New York University, and a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College.

Azar Kafaei picture

Azar Kafaei, Project Intern
Azar Kafaei moved to the United States from Iran in 2011. She recently completed her undergraduate degree in History at Yale University. She has worked and lived in Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey. While in Beirut, she worked on the American University of Beirut’s oral history project, collecting testimonies from Palestinian refugees, and also made her first documentary film. She is currently an intern at City Lore and a teaching fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Laila Rajani, InternLaila
Laila Rajani is a graduate student of folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington, with a focus on identity politics of displaced communities. Her background in social research and journalism along with undergraduate training in anthropology equips her for fieldwork and outreach to immigrant communities in New York.


Steve ZeitlinDr. Steve Zeitlin, Founding Executive Director
Steve Zeitlin received his PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in literature from Bucknell University. Prior to arriving in New York, Steve Zeitlin served for eight years as a folklorist at the Smithsonian Institution and has taught at George Washington University, American University, and NYU. He is coauthor of a number of award-winning books on America’s folk culture.

Partnering Organizations

Poets House
Poets House is a literary center and poetry archive—a collection and meeting place that invites poets and the public to join the living tradition of poetry. Poets House will be hosting one of the institute events. 

Teachers & Writers Collaborative
A nonprofit organization founded by a group of writers and educators who believed that writers could make a contribution to the teaching of writing. Teacher & Writers staff will lead institute participants in poetry translation workshops. 


Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU
Created in 1966 to foster the interdisciplinary study of the modern and contemporary Middle East and to enhance public understanding of the region. The Kevorkian Center has generously donated space for the institute during the first week. 

Leave a Reply

Upcoming Events

View calendar