Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies

The Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies is an interdisciplinary and multi-perspectival endeavor by faculty members of the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. The series is devoted to explorations of culture, history and politics in the Arab world, its diasporas, and their transnational itineraries. We use “Arabic” studies rather than “Arab” studies to gesture towards a field based on a common language context rather than on an ethnicity.

It is dedicated to the memory of our late colleague, Michael E. Marmura, F.R.S.C. Professor of Medieval Islamic Philosophy, who was born 1929 in Jerusalem, Palestine, and died 2009 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The lecture series seeks to promote public education, scholarly collaboration, and intellectual engagement among students and scholars in the Greater Toronto Area.

For further information, please contact Jeannie Miller or Nada Moumtaz



A Laudatio of Professor Michael E. Marmura, F.R.S.C


Michael Marmura photo
By Jens Hanssen


On the occasion of the Launching of the Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies 
at the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations


University of Toronto, January 14th, 2021


Read the full Laudatio




2021–2022 Lectures

Fridays 3 - 5 PM

(For now, we are planning on holding the series on zoom and will re-assess in early October. 
In order to respect the CAUT censure, the lecture series will only feature faculty from the University of Toronto.
And given the Palestine speech exception in the Azarova affair, this year’s series will have a strong focus on Palestine.


Israeli military physician examining a Sinai Bedouin man in 1972 (Israel National Photo Collection)

Elise Burton

Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST)


“Genetic Research and Territorial Occupation: Palestine, Sinai, and the Aden Emergency”

Elise Burton is a historian of the life sciences in the modern Middle East, focusing on developments in genetics, evolutionary biology, physical anthropology, and medicine during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her research examines the relationship of these sciences to the formation of racial, ethnic, and national identities, and how these identities, in turn, shape the dynamics of transnational scientific collaborations. She is the author of Genetic Crossroads: The Middle East and the Science of Human Heredity (Stanford UP, 2021).
Yasser Arafat Mausoleum, Ramallah (author: 2016)Yasser Arafat Mausoleum, Ramallah (author: 2016)

Anwar Jaber

AMTD Global Talent Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Architecture, University of Waterloo


Architectural of Statehood: Investigating Palestinian State Structures 

Anwar Jaber is an architect and urban scholar interested in the cultural and socio-political aspects of architecture and urbanism. Her interdisciplinary research explores the meaning and change of the urban environment in cities facing extreme conditions, such as violent conflicts and wars. A Jerusalem-born and raised Palestinian, Anwar holds an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies and a PhD in Architecture from the University of Cambridge in England. Her research interests include: the interplay between politics and architecture, cities and conflicts, urban memory and war, Islamic architecture and urbanism in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Palestine/Israel.
Image @ Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ruba Kana'an

Visual Studies, UTM; Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, UTSG


Reading the Friday Mosque: Architecture and Nostalgia in Medieval Damascus and Cairo

Ruba Kana’an (DPhil, Oxford) is an architect and Islamic art and architecture historian. Her research and publications focus on the intersections between art and law in Muslim contexts in two research areas: mosque architecture and silver inlaid metalwork. She is currently working on her forthcoming book The Friday Mosque: Law, Architecture, and Authority in Pre-Modern Muslim Societies (Edinburgh University Press). Her experience spans the worlds of academia, museums, architectural practice, and community-based art education.

Oscar Lӧsgren and Renata Traini. Arabic Manuscripts in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. Italy: Neri Pozza, 1975. Vol. 1, Plate XIV

Michael Payne

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München


The Nature of a Gentleman’s Dominion:

al-Jāḥiẓ on Slavery and Human Difference






Michael Payne is a postdoctoral researcher at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and is a part of the ERC Project on Animals in Philosophy of the Islamic World. Michael received his PhD in 2020 from Brown University’s Department of Religious Studies. He is a scholar of early Islam and late antique Christianity in Iraq. He specializes in the history of kalām, animals, and race.

Image @Ismail Shammout

Chandni Desai

University of Toronto


Against Acts of Elimination:
Making Palestinian Resistance Culture from the Frontiers








Chandni Desai is Assistant Professor in the Critical Studies of Equity and Solidarity (New College) and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the Palestinian revolution's cultural resistance, comparative settler colonialism, third world internationalism and global histories of liberation.



2020-2021 Lectures

Fridays 3 - 5 PM

(Videos only available to the University of Toronto community)


Mariam Sheibani

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough


“Judicial Crisis in Damascus on the Eve of Baybars’ Reform: The Case of the Orphan Girl and Her Cunning Guardian (654–55/1256–57)”


Watch the lecture video


Sara Pursley

Assistant Professor, New York University


“Familiar Futures: Time, Selfhood, and Sovereignty in Iraq”


Watch the lecture video


Sumayya Kassamali

Assistant Professor, University of Toronto


“What is Kafala? An Account of Migrant Labour in Lebanon”


Watch the lecture video


Introduction by Jens Hansen, "A Laudatio of Professor Michael E. Marmura"


Aslıhan Gürbüzel

Assistant Professor, McGill Institute of Islamic Studies


“Arabic Philology in Ottoman Istanbul: Practices of Textual Edition in a Manuscript Culture”


Watch the lecture video


Hoda El Shakry

Assistant Professor, University of Chicago


“The Literary Qurʾan”


Watch the lecture video