Arabic Curses and their Uses


Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies presents

Devin StewartDevin Stewart
Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies; Chair, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University

Classical Arabic and Arabic dialects boast large and varied repertoires of blessings and curses, and they have provoked the interest of scholars in various fields, such as the anthropologist Edward Westermarck. Curses serve a variety of functions besides the expression of anger, including scolding, reprimand, and rejection, in addition to protest and the enactment of vengeance. This lecture will explain the various sub-genres of Arabic curses, including cognate curse-retorts and analogical curses, and show how they are used for particular effects in religious literature, Arabic literary anecdotes, and popular speech.

Dr. Stewart received a B.A. magna cum laude in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University in 1984, completed the CASA program in Arabic at the American University in Cairo in 1985, and earned a Ph.D. with distinction in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He has been at Emory since 1990 and has conducted research in Egypt and Morocco in 1992, 1996, 1998, and 2000. He has taught widely in the areas of Arabic, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies, including courses on the Qur'an, Islam, History of the Middle East, Great books of the Islamic world, and advanced seminars on Egyptian Arabic dialect and medieval Arabic texts. His research has focused on Islamic law and legal education, the text of the Qur'an, Shiite Islam, Islamic sectarian relations, and Arabic dialectology. His published works include Islamic Legal Orthodoxy: Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System (University of Utah Press, 1998) and a number of articles on leading Shiites scholars of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. His work on the Qur'an includes "Sajfi in the Qur'an: Prosody and Structure" [Journal of Arabic Literature 21 (1990): 101-39] and "Rhymed Prose" (Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an, forthcoming). His studies on Arabic dialects include "Clitic Reduction in the Formation of Modal Prefixes in the Post-Classical Arabic Dialects and Classical Arabic Sa-/ Sawfa" Arabica 45 (1998): 104-28, "Impoliteness Formulae: The Cognate Curse in Egyptian Arabic" Journal of Semitic Studies 42 (1997): 327-60 and other studies. At present, Dr. Stewart is working on a major investigation of manuals of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) authored between 800 and 1000 C.E., a study of rhyme and rhythm in the text of the Qur'an, and several other projects.

Contact: Liz Flanagan