History Department Hosts Fulbright Visiting Specialist

  • Abdul Kareem Majed al-Barghouthi, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University in the West Bank  

As Karim Barghouthi walks across Manning Alumni Green with his family, it is difficult to tell who is more excited about the Fulbright Visiting Specialist’s trip to Lancaster—the professor or his 8-year-old daughter, Tala.

“My daughter is so happy to be here,” says Barghouthi, as Tala shows him a picture of a dinosaur from a children’s book while his wife, Ola, laughs. “She studies in an American school in Ramallah, the Friends-Quakers school. It’s been very exciting for her to see America.”

Barghouthi, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University in the West Bank, is Franklin & Marshall’s first Fulbright Visiting Specialist through the Direct Access to the Muslim World Program. His stay in Lancaster runs from Sept. 4 through Sept. 27.

“We are excited that he will be visiting classes across the curriculum—from English to International Studies, Music, Anthropology, Government and History,” says Maria Mitchell, chair of the Department of History and the coordinator of Barghouthi’s visit. “His expertise is especially valuable for our students because we have no permanent historian of the Islamic world. We are so grateful to him for enhancing our understanding of Middle Eastern history, politics and culture.”

The history department was selected to receive a Fulbright Visiting Specialist after applying in spring 2008. Fulbright then sent a slate of candidates to the department, and the department selected Barghouthi. “Maria asked if I’d like to come to this small but beautiful town,” Barghouthi says. “I wanted to come and show people something different from what the media usually covers about the Muslim world. I want to cut through stereotypes.”

Barghouthi received his Ph.D. from Moscow State University and has taught at Bethlehem University and Al-Tireh College. His awards include a British Council Scholarship and a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst fellowship, while his scholarship focuses on globalization, Islamic fundamentalism, and Palestinian culture, history and politics.

“I’m interested in the relationship between the foreign policy of the U.S. and the American people,” says Barghouthi, who speaks Russian and English in addition to his native Arabic. “I see peaceful people who work hard and want to help others as part of the American dream. But how do you link these values to the colonizer Israel? I’d like to discuss this with professors and students.”

One of Barghouthi’s discussion topics with students will be the idea of America as a superpower. “I want to solve the dilemma, ‘who are Americans?’” he says. “How can the country become a superpower while at the same time showing respect to human beings of different races and cultures?”

While his students in the West Bank have a broad range of opinions about the U.S., “they mostly know America through the impact of its foreign policy and its relationship with Israel,” Barghouthi says. “To many of them, there doesn’t seem to be a war on terrorism, but a war on Islam.”

For the next several weeks, Barghouthi will engage American students in a variety of classes and events, and will lecture at Albright College, Elizabethtown College and Millersville University.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to see the U.S. through something other than Hollywood movies, to see and experience friendly American people and their traditions and values.”

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