The Babtain Program for Arabic Literature and Language, housed in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, has created a cultural platform which enables and encourages members of the University and the surrounding community to interact intensively with a wide range of partners and colleagues in Kuwait and other countries of the Arab world and the Middle East. UM’s Babtain Program aims to foster awareness of Arab cultural production of all genres and kinds, with special emphasis on contemporary poetry and artistic prose; to bring the Department’s students to the highest level of proficiency in Arabic; to establish and to implement the most effective, up-to-date methods for teaching Arabic at all levels; and to send the best of the Department’s students overseas for extended periods of study in Kuwait or other Arabic-speaking countries.
The concept of cultural platform provides the key to achieving these interrelated goals. Events centered on poetical composition, performance, and translation provide a lively forum for engaging Arabic-speakers from many places, while attracting native English-speakers from the University and the general public. In active collaboration with the University of Michigan Language Resource Center, we stream poetry reading sessions with poets and critics from all over the world, in tandem with our own intensive courses on Arabic poetry, translation, and creative writing. We host workshops, lectures and performances for Arab and Arab-American poets. Most importantly, we have established the Babtain Lecture Series, which brings prominent literary figures and scholars from the Arab world and the United States to Ann Arbor for performances, lectures, and discussions. With support from the Babtain Program, we regularly offer advanced courses on Arabic poetry of all genres and all eras. We have begun new a journal, al-Shi‘r al-jadīd (The New Poetry), which combines the work of accomplished, highly-respected writers together with fresh creative voices from many environments.
As already mentioned, the Babtain Program supports and enhances the Department’s efforts at providing state-of-the-art instruction in Arabic at all levels. In doing this we emphasize proficiency, the ability to communicate in Arabic using all relevant skills, in all contexts and situations. We also aim to have our students achieve the highest level of proficiency in as short a time as possible. Our overseas program, offered in coordination with the University of Michigan Center for Global and International Study, provides opportunities for study in the Arab world for either a single semester or a full academic year.
We look forward to all future collaborations with partners, including and beyond the University of Michigan and the Babtain Foundation, joining us in this comprehensive project. So far our partners in Southeast Michigan include, among others, the Lebanese International Business Center, the Bint Jubail Center, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee; the Arab-American Museum, and ACCESS.