Assistant Professor, History
I will be in Morocco from January to May of 2006 and will be teaching at Al-Akhawayn University in the Middle Atlas Mountains (about an hour from Fez), as well as conducting some research on my study of the use of caliphal imagery during the dynasty of Ahmad al-Mansur al-Sa`di, with the goal of preparing my dissertation into a manuscript for publication as a book.
I am familiar with Al-Akhawayn, having lived in Ifrane during my Fulbright Hays fellowship year of 2000-2001. I expect to contribute to AUI by sharing with students from my knowledge of Middle Eastern and World History. I would be especially excited to offer a successful course that I taught at UCSB on the History of Muslim-Christian Relations. At AUI, I expect to expand my teaching skills and my understanding of Moroccan society by working with Moroccan students.
For the past two years, I served as a post-doctoral instructor and scholar in the UCSB Religious Studies Dept. During the first year of the post-doctorate, I taught Modern Islamic Movements, Islam in Africa , Islamic Traditions, and Islamic Spain. In the second year (2003-04), I taught Muslim-Christian Relations, and Muslim Understandings of Jihad, in addition to re-offering the Modern Islamic Movements and Islamic Traditions classes. I taught Middle East History at UCSB during the summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004, and also taught History of the Modern Middle East twice at Santa Barbara City College . This summer, I have been teaching an online World History survey course for University of Maryland University College. In Fall 2004, I began a tenure-track position teaching classes on the History of the Middle East and the Islamic World, as well as Religious Studies classes on Islam. Many of the courses listed above (including Muslim-Christian Relations, Muslim Understandings of Jihad, and Islam in Africa ) were being offered for the first time at UCSB, and I developed the entire curriculum myself. Islamic Spain had not been offered at UCSB for nine years, and I also developed the curriculum for that course. I have also supervised special reading courses for high achieving undergraduate students.
As an instructor, I seek to help students develop skills that they will continue to draw upon throughout their lives. Among these are written presentation, oral presentation, and critical thinking skills. I create student assignments with the goal of helping them hone their abilities in these and other important areas. In order to stimulate critical thinking, I challenge students to consider issues from more than one perspective and to evaluate each perspective in the light of available evidence. I encourage students to ask questions at any time and treat each query as important. In addition, I try to maximize my availability through office hours, email, and office telephone. In order to set clear standards, I detail my expectations on the first day of class. Finally, I seek to encourage and reward initiative. Since it is the students themselves who ultimately determine how much they learn, I see myself as a coach, who works to model, inspire, and facilitate self-directed learning. My student evaluations at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College have been outstanding, and my scores are routinely well above department and campus averages.
I understand that previously taught courses and even my teaching style will need to be adapted to suit the cultural and pedagogical environment at AUI. In fact, I very much look forward to learning to teach in this new environment, as I expect this experience will significantly broaden my teaching abilities and understanding of Moroccan culture and society. Having presented a couple of guest lectures at AUI in the past, and having known people who taught at AUI, I have some idea of the adaptations I may need to make. Upon my return to the United States, I intend to use the insights gained through teaching Moroccan students to help Americans better understand the Middle East and North Africa. My past experiences in Morocco (Summer Intensive Language Program in Tangier, 1994; Fulbright doctoral scholar, 1999-2000; Fulbright Hays research grant, 2000-2001) give me confidence that my family and I can successfully adapt to life in Morocco . We made many friends in the Ifrane area during our previous stay, and we look forward to re-establishing those friendships, as well as making new friends during the grant period of the Fulbright Scholars program.
For the research portion of my grant, I plan to further develop themes found in my dissertation, with the goal of preparing a manuscript for publication as a book.
In my dissertation, I argue that al-Mansur attempted to establish his political legitimacy by resurrecting a universalistic interpretation of the caliphate, which had not been seriously promoted in Sunni Islam for more than three hundred years prior to his reign. Although al-Mansur desired to build a great state, he found himself confronted by powers in the east and the west that he could not combat militarily. Under these circumstances, the monarch turned to historic caliphal ideology, to familiar symbols and imagery from a glorious past, in order to reconstruct a traditional Islamic dynasty within a new era, and to reclaim the glory lost by the Arab world through defeats to the Spanish and Ottoman empires. In the short term, this strategy appeared to be at least moderately successful, as Ahmad al-Mansur was able to maintain the independence of his state and even to expand it southwards into sub-Saharan Africa . In the long term, this attempt to "turn back the clock" appears to have completely missed the boat. When the sultan's strong presence was removed, his dynasty collapsed, and his focus upon the past was transformed into an inward focus by the succeeding dynasty. As a result, it was only a matter of time before Morocco became yet another victim of European colonial expansion.
My new research will focus upon the extent to which later sultans developed al-Mansur's caliphal imagery, and the way in which his legacy has been portrayed in later Moroccan historical texts. My dissertation postulates that the later Alawi dynasty took up some of this imagery in their own political legitimization, but that they moved away from making universal claims of caliphal authority, settling for a caliphate limited to the borders of Morocco . My initial research in Alawi historical texts such as al-Ifrani, al-Zayyani, and al-Nasiri would seem to support this conclusion. However, I would like to investigate further by looking at historical and panegyric texts from the 18 th -20 th centuries that deal with the theme of the “Commander of the Faithful” (original a caliphal title) and political authority in Morocco . The chance to read some of these texts and to interact with Moroccan scholars knowledgeable about these time periods (such as Mohammad El Mansour and Driss Maghraoui) will be extremely valuable for this project.
Contact George Burke: firstname.lastname@example.org