islamic civilization and societies
ARTH2214 The Art of the Silk Road
The seminar is intended to introduce students to the transcontinental ideas that occurred between China and the Mediterranean from pre-historic to modern times. The course encompasses a vast subject, both chronologically and geographically, treating the arts produced over some four millenia and one-quarter of the globe.
ARTH2280 Masterpieces of Islamic Art
A detailed examination of a dozen masterpieces of Islamic art ranging from architecture to ceramics, the seventh century to the present, and Spain to India. Emphasis on placing the works in their historical, social, craft, and visual contexts.
HIST2870 Mobile Muslims in Indian Ocean Empires
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, societies around the Indian Ocean were transformed as European empires claimed larger swathes of territorial control in Asia and Africa and new technologies of travel and trade reshaped the region. This course examines how the populations that ringed the Indian Ocean adapted to that rapidly changing environment and shaped the history of their regions in ways that often resisted and frustrated colonial attempts at control. These migrants, merchants, pilgrims, and sultans pursued ambitious agendas that transcended their areas of "traditional" or "native" authority. How were their efforts aided by a common identification as Muslims and an emerging notion of a more unified "Islamic world"? How did the colonial era influence the creation of more cosmopolitan societies and how were those societies impacted by post-colonial nationalism?
HIST4122 Odysseys in the Western and Islamic Traditions
Fulfills Non-Western Requirement for History Majors
Bridging the traditional divide between "East" and "West," "Christendom" and "Islamdom" and viewing cultural production as rooted in the human experience, this course focuses upon similar literary and intellectual trajectories across Europe and the Middle East from antiquity to the late eighteenth century. We will examine a series of parallel texts that span the genres of epic, poetry, biography, autobiography and travel narrative. Students will be asked to read these texts in two ways: as an individual perspective (male or female) and as an odyssey - a literary repository of socio-cultural transformation and exchange.
HIST4131 Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire - Spring: 3
Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement
The Ottoman Turks founded an empire spanning the three continents of the eastern hemisphere and enduring for nearly three-quarters of a millennium. Despite nomadic origins they established a stable political structure, which grafted the high traditions of Islamic culture onto an ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse society. This course explores the evolution of this remarkable enterprise from its origins on the frontiers of Byzantium and Islam through its heyday under Suleyman the Magnificent to its military decline and first steps toward reform.
HIST4133 Middle East Nationalisms Compared: Pan-Turkism, Pan-Arabism and Zionism
Nationalisms in the Middle East developed in a distinctive way. In contrast to Europe, religion was more important than language. In contrast to Africa, they emerged prior to the rise of anti-colonialism. Although nationalisms in the Middle East have spawned conflicts within themselves and with each other, they have displayed remarkable similarities to each other. One consistent similarity is their fraught attempts to distinguish the so-called nation from the religious traditions out of which it emerged. This course will address these questions through comparing Arab, Jewish and Turkish nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries.
HIST4135 History and Historiography of the Arab-Israeli Conflict - Spring: 3
This course introduces students to the history of the Arab-Israeli conduct from the inception of the Zionist movement in the 19th century until the end of the 20th century. Given that history itself is a site of contention in this conflict, the course will focus equally on the various and conflicting historical narratives and will explore fundamental issues in the relationship between history writing and ideology, especially the use of history as a tool for the shaping of collective identities and for legitimizing and justifying nationalist claims.
HIST4140 Middle East in the Twentieth Century
Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement
Through the last eighty years the Middle East has been the site of many wars and conflicts. More recently it has become the most important source of the world's energy. This combination of strife and economic power has made it a vital and sensitive areas for the entire globe.
HIST4150 Modern Iran - Fall:3
Cross Listed with PO420
Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement
The objective of this course is to analyze the trends and transformations in the political, social, and cultural history of Iran from the late nineteenth century to the present. Particular emphasis will be placed on the following topics: Iran's encounter with the West in the 19th century and its impact on the country's economy and society; social and religious movements in the 19th century; causes and consequences of the Constitutional revolution of 1905-1909; Iran's modernization and political development under the Pahlavis (1925-1979); the causes and consequences of the Iranian Revolution of 1979; Iran's post-revolutionary experience as an Islamic Republic.
HIST4497 Terror and the American Century - Spring: 3
The aim of this course is to show how terror and violence have affected the United States from the late 19th century up to 9/11 and through the current U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It aims to show that while differing in scope and human loss, the latter events, including the so-called Global War on Terror, have certain antecedents in the U.S. experience. The course will concentrate on the theme of terror, both domestic and foreign, and examine the government response to terror and subversive groups aiming to overthrow the government or inflict harm upon its citizens.
Charles Gallagher, S.J.
HIST7315 The Islamic Mediterranean
This colloquium is an introduction to pre-modern Islamic history for advanced students with a focus on the areas surrounding the Mediterranean. The first month of the course will be devoted to reading and discussing Marshall Hodgson's classic The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974), which covers the entirety of the Islamic world. The readings for the rest of course will be tailored according to the specific interests of the students with special attention to historiographical, methodological, and theoretical issues.
Islamic Civilization and Societies
ICSP2382 Linguistic Cultures of the Near East - Fall: 2
A typological review of the languages and language families of the Near or Middle East, both ancient and modern. Their scripts and alphabets, their sound systems and grammatical features, the sense of literary expression and the role of language in ethnic identity in the Near East.
ICSP3328 Islam and the Iberian Peninsula - Fall: 3
This course will examine the relationship between cultures in the Euro-Arab context from both historical and contemporary perspectives. It will begin with an examination of the historical influence of Islam and the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. During that period, Spain presented an example of religious tolerance and the place where the followers of the three Abrahamic religions lived, arguably, in harmony with one another. Against this background, the course will explore the interactions and mutual influences between the Iberian and the Arab/Islamic cultures from the Middle Ages to the present through literature, the arts, and politics of the region. Two to three guest lecturers from participating departments will contribute their expertise in one-week seminars during the course.
Elizabeth T. Goizueta
ICSP7010 Islam and History in the Middle East
An in-depth study of the role of Islam in Middle Eastern history from the pre-Islamic era through the 18th century with emphasis on engagement with primary documents. We will introduce methods of historiography and the growth of the Arabic language historical tradition and will examine the role of Islamic thought and practice, Sunni, Shii, and Sufi alike, in the development of society and civilization across time and space.
MUSA2308 Music in the Medieval Islamic World
This course examines the nature of music in the medieval Islamic world and its relationships with cultural factors that shaped the history of the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish speaking worlds after the rise of Islam. The course will cover a period of history from the rise of the Ummayad Caliphate (c. 660), through the Perso-Islamic empires of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Some aspects of music under the Safavid and Moghul Empires during the sixteenth century will also be addressed. Topics covered in this course include: the place of music in the context of Islamic philosophy, the function of music within the Islamic Caliphate, the use of music in Islamic mysticism and musical changes that occurred in response to the changing nature of Islamic Empire.
MUSA2309 Music and Culture in the Middle East
This course explores the relationship between different music traditions of the Middle East and their respective cultural contexts. It addresses issues of music's structure and content vis-a-vis its role in social, political and religious situations in the region; the ways that these forces influence musical aesthetics, while also addressing the role of music in the Middle East historically. The cultural areas covered in this class include the Arab World, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
MUSP1660 Middle Eastern Ensemble
This course is an ensemble dedicated to learning how to play music from cultures of the Middle East: the Arab World, Iran, Turkey, as well as parts of Central Asia. Repertoire covered includes rural and urban repertoires, popular music forms as well as art music genres. Permission of instructor required for enrollment.
PHIL4407 Medieval Philosophy - Spring: 3
Far from being repetitive, the Middle Ages were a period during which multiple solutions tried to make sense of the world by combining philosophic and scientific knowledge with religious views. The aim of the course is to provide an accurate image of this diversity of thoughts. We will study a wide range of Christian authors, from St. Augustine to Ockham, as well as Islamic and Jewish thinkers. The course will highlight the essential concepts that were formed in the Middle Ages and have been transmitted to modern philosophy in metaphysics and ontology, theory of knowledge and consciousness, ethics, etc.
POLI2363 Muslims in U.S. Society and Politics - Spring: 3
An examination of the demographic, social, cultural, religious, and political forces that are shaping the emergent American Muslim community. Inter-generational family dynamics, Muslim schools, mosque governance, civil religion in America, advocacy group politics, and voting patters will be examined. So will ethnic, linguistic, national-origin, and sectarian differences among immigrant-origin Muslims, particularly their political implications. African-American Muslims will also be considered, especially their relations with immigrant-origin Muslims. Attention will be paid both the impact of Muslims on American society and to the impact of American institutions and policies, especially post-9/11 initiatives such as the Patriot Act, on Muslims
POLI2414 Politics & Society in Central Eurasia - Spring: 3
This course explores political systems and contemporary society in Central Eurasia and devotes special attention to ethnic relations among the various peoples of the region. Greater Central Asia constitutes the western part of Inner Asia, stretching from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang Province in China and from Chechnya in the north to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the south. It belongs culturally to the Islamic world. The region has been impacted by the imperial policies of the Soviet Union and China, the rise of nationalism, and religious radicalism, terrorism, and war. Reform strategies and models will be discussed.
POLI2426 Modern Turkish Politics
The aim of this course is to introduce the major historical developments, main actors and institutional framework of modern Turkey. It will enable students to understand the complexities of and developments in political life, institutions and processes; as well as socio-economic factors that influence the political system in Turkey. After providing a historical overview, starting from the westernization efforts during the late Ottoman Empire to the founding of modern republic, contemporary issues that have considerable impact on Turkish political life in the last decades will be discussed.
Cigdem Hajipouan Benam
POLI2502 U.S.-Iran Relations since World War II - Spring: 3
This course examines the domestic, ideological, and strategic dimensions of the troubled relationships between the United States and Iran since the Second World War. After a brief overview of the relationships in the pre-war period, it will focus on the war-time occupation of Iran by the Allied powers and the subsequent onset of the Cold War; Iran's oil nationalization crisis and the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup; U.S.'s unstinting support for the Pahlavi monarch after the coup until his fall in 1979; and the state of mutual distrust, tension, and hostility between the two countries since the Islamic Revolution.
POLI2638 Islamic Political Philosophy - Spring: 3
What is the relationship between philosophy and Islam? Does the divine law (Shari'a) need to be supplemented with purely rational reflections on the nature and purpose of political life? What is the place of toleration and individual rights in the Islamic legal and philosophic tradition? We will explore these and similar questions by focusing on two particularly fertile periods of Islamic thought: the encounter of Islam with Greek philosophy in the classical period and its encounter with the modern secular west in late modernity.
David Di Pasquale
POLI3444 Intellectuals and Politics in the Middle East - Spring: 3
This course examines the role of intellectuals, both religious and secular, in several Middle Eastern countries in analyzing the key problems of their societies, articulating visions for change, supporting or challenging the political status quo, and at times acting directly as agents of social change. The main themes to be explored in the words of a number of prominent Middle Eastern intellectuals include: the conflict between tradition and modernity; the encounter with the West and the quest for authenticity; secularism, human rights, minority rights, and democracy; and reformist versus radical strategies for political, social, and cultural change.
POLI7700 Muslims and American Institutions - Spring: 3
Will Muslims integrate successfully into the American regime? How do we define success? What does such integration—or lack thereof—tell us about contemporary American political institutions? What challenges does Islam pose for our understanding of the place of religion in America, or in liberal democracies generally? Such questions will be addressed by examining the institutions Muslims in America are building for themselves—for instance, mosques, schools, political advocacy groups. To what extent are these shaped by values and ideas—religious or political? To what extent by overseas actors? To what extent by American social and cultural forces?
Slavic & Eastern Languages and Literatures
NELC2063 Near Eastern Civilizations
This course investigates the rise and development of civilization in the Middle East, from the beginning of settled life (ca. 10th millennium BC), and into the establishment of modern state-system in the early 20th century. The course themes examine the political, social, economic, religious, and intellectual underpinnings of the rise, growth, faltering, and downfall of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt, Israel, and Carthage, evaluate their contributions to the rise of classical civilization (Greece and Rome,) and their influence on Western Civilization, monotheistic traditions, and the modern Middle Eastern state-system.
NELC3162 Business Arabic
This course is intended for students who have had at least five semesters (approximately 200 hours) of Arabic study or equivalent. Otherwise, the permission of the instructor is required. Students are introduced to the specialized structure and vocabulary of business Arabic, beginning with the analysis of headlines and telegraphic language and messaging, and continuing into video, radio, film, and web- based content. They will examine extensive and varied as well as authentic and recent media Arabic materials taken from different Arabic newspapers and media sources such as Al-Hayat, Al- Ahram and Al-Gazeera with a view to introducing them to a variety of stylistic features and terminologies pertaining to the conventional and specialized writing of Arabic business writing. The course is divided into a number of modules organized around topical issues. These will include, though not limited to, “diplomacy and the economy,” “elections and the economy,” “terrorism and the economy,” “sanctions and the economy,” and “violence and anarchy and the economy.” Although emphasis will be placed on reading comprehension, translation and writing, language in context and listening will be emphasized, as they are key to helping learners later navigate the universe of authentic Arabic talk shows and broadcast news.
NELC4121 Advanced Arabic I - Fall: 3
Prerequisite: SL 090 Intermediate Arabic II or equivalent
Satisfies Foreign Language Proficiency Core Requirement
Conducted in Arabic.
Advanced-level work toward a thorough proficiency in all aspects of modern standard Arabic, with an emphasis on composition, syntax, style, and careful translation of advanced texts.
NELC4122 Advanced Arabic II - Spring: 3
This course is for students who have had prior formal exposure to modern standard Arabic. It is a continuation of Advanced Arabic ( SL25101). It continues the process of presenting grammatical structures, reinforces techniques for vocabulary building and extends reading skills, speaking and writing at the paragraph level and beyond. The course will emphasize intensive conversational practice and communication in context. Additional material prepared by the instructor will serve to supplement the textbook in such matters as conversations, grammar, vocabulary and listening skills/drills. Instruction will adopt a communication-based approach: emphasis is placed on the functional use of the language and on communication in context rather than on the conscious learning of grammatical rules. New vocabulary will be used and applied in class in various new authentic contexts such as by asking questions and engaging in various speech activities that necessitate the use of new vocabulary and structures. Some grammatical structures for further elucidation and/ or emphasis will be selected, whenever necessary or needed. However, the course emphasizes the acquisition of grammatical structures by application rather than explanation.
SLAV2065 Society and National Identity in the Balkans
An overview of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity among peoples of the Balkans (Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats, Greeks, Macedonians, Romanians, Serbs, Slovenes, Jews, Turks, and gypsies ). It is a study of what constitutes the various parameters of identity: linguistic typologies, religious diversity (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islam, and Judaism), culture, and social class. An analysis of the origins of nationalism, the emergence of nation-states, and contemporary nationalism as a source of instability and war in the Balkans will be considered.
SLAV2066 Conversion, Islam, & Politics in the Balkans
Through a study of fiction, works of scholarship, folklore, and movies, the course examines the conversion of Christians to Islam in Southeast Europe. It analyzes the most important cultural, social, and political implications of this change with the goal of identifying the various factors that promote cooperation or conflict among mixed Christian-Muslim communities.
SLAV2067 Gender and War in Eastern Europe - Spring: 3
A study of the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and ideology in the Russian Revolution, the World Wars in Eastern Europe, and the recent Yugoslav wars. In World War I women confronted their duties to nation against the backdrop of an on-going struggle for equality. In World War II women in communist Eastern Europe were liberated by their nations’ ideology to fight, against tradition, on all fronts. More recently in former Yugoslavia, women, particularly Bosnian Muslim women, flouted tradition in a different way—by organizing and fighting for peace.
SLAV2069 Literature of the Other Europe in Translation - Fall: 3
Cultural Diversity Core Credit
A survey of outstanding and influential works of and about the political and social upheavals of the 20th century in Eastern/Central and Southeastern Europe. These works often share the themes of frontier, identity, exile, and apocalypse, issuing directly from the experience of the borderlands of four empires—Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and at the other end of the 20th century, Soviet—and four religions—Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Yet, the authors' concerns often also resonate with what we can identify as "universal" issues of the twentieth century.
SLAV2071 War and Peace in Yugoslavia - Fall/Spring: 3
A study of the numerous differences—ethnic, religious, linguistic, and historical—that, along with economic disparities, characterized Yugoslavia as a country situated “at the crossroads” of East and West, and of their role (real and “constructed”) in the dissolution of the nation and subsequent war. A consideration also of the Yugoslav conflicts, and their resolutions, as successful (or unsuccessful) models for the response of the “international community” to strife among peoples of unstable nations and cultures.
SOCY1150 States and Minorities in the Middle East - Spring: 3
Cross Listed with SL150 and PS153
A broad-based overview of the role of language choice plays in the construction of national and cultural identity in the Middle East. We will examine the role of Modern Standard Arabid (or Fus-ha) in the elaboration of Arab Nationalism, and the role of local dialects in the conceptualization of competing national identities and territorial nationalisms. In particular, and in addition to Arab Nationalism and Zionism, we will examine the ideas of Greater Syria, the Egyptian Pharaonic idea, Lebanonism, Mesopotamianism, and the Canaanite movement in Israel.
SOCY3367 Human Rights and Social Justice in Israel and Palestine - Fall: 3
A study/immersion trip over winter break is required of participants.
This seminar, using a human rights framework, is designed to prepare students to better understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by comparing historical narratives, evaluating the most discussed political solutions (the one vs. two state debate), assessing the possibilities of an "economic peace" absent a political solution, and evaluating the role of religious ethics in conflict resolution.
THEO3116 Medieval Religions and Thought
The medieval world of philosophy and theology was a multicultural world: Arabian, Jewish and Christian thinkers from the three great religious traditions adopted, adapted and shared the philosophical riches of the classical world and the religious resources of the biblical heritage. This course introduces students to the great Arabian thinkers: Alfarabi, Avicenna, Algazel and Averroes, the respected Jewish authors: Saadiah Gaon, Moses Maimonides and Gersonides, and the famous Christian writers: Anselm, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas and the intellectual challenges from the Greek intellectual world that they met and faced in the Middle Ages.
Stephen F. Brown
THEO5351 Faith Elements in Conflict - Spring: 3
Religious differences appear often to figure in the dehumanization of enemies and rationalization of violence. This course will look at the way key concepts such as revelation, election, and universality in various religions, especially in sectarian guise, affect the origins and progress of violent conflicts, and will ask to what extent such employment of these concepts betrays the religions themselves. It will also examine how far the institutional interests of religious bodies make them vulnerable to manipulation by other parties engaged in any given conflict, and how the religious elements and loyalties relate to other interests that figure in such conflicts.
Raymond Helmick, S.J.
THEO5352 Israelis and Palestinians - Fall: 3
The parties in the Middle Eastern Conflict came, in 1993, to a watershed agreement, which had eluded them earlier, to recognize one another's legitimacy as peoples. The agreement has been difficult to maintain and to withdraw, and has figured massively in the turbulent events in the region since that time. This course examines how, in the whole history of the conflict, the elements of ethnicity and faith have contributed to the hatreds and resentments of these peoples, and the extent to which mutual acceptance and respect at these levels of faith and ethnicity can contribute to healing the conflict.
Raymond Helmick, S.J.
THEO5441 Ibn 'Arabi and the Islamic Humanities: Islamic Philosophy and Theology - Spring: 3
This new seminar—based entirely on English readings and open to students at all levels, without any prerequisites—has two primary aims: First (weeks 1-7), to introduce one of the deepest and most influential Islamic thinkers and writers, who was at once a poet, philosopher, theologian, jurist, and seminal spiritual explorer. Secondly (weeks 8-14), to introduce some of the key strands of his extraordinary influence, through all of the Islamic humanities in a wide array of languages and artistic and social forms, in shaping later Islamic civilization and making possible the development (subsequent to the Mongol invasions and prior to the colonial onslaught) of Islam as a truly world religion. At the same time, both these complementary historical dimensions of the course should help to suggest and illuminate the many ways in which Ibn „Arabi has recently become a central resource for contemporary thinkers, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, poets and artists developing his ideas and emphases in our own emerging global civilization.
THEO5544 Prophetic Tradition and Inspiration: Exploring the Hadith - Fall: 3
For Advanced Undergraduates and Graduates
Using English translations, this seminar surveys the ways the corpus of Prophetic hadith has inspired every area of Islamic life, including spiritual devotions and practices; theology, cosmology and eschatology; family, social and economic life; models of proper behavior (adab); the interpretation of the Qur'an and sacred history; and later disciplines of Arabic learning. Focuses on acquiring familiarity with the structure, contents, and uses of major Sunni hadith collections (but including representative Shiite sources), as well as later influential short collections (Nawawi, Ibn `Arabi).
THEO5557 Introduction to Islamic Philosophical Traditions - Spring: 3
This seminar is designed to provide a chronological introduction—based as much as possible on English translations of key treatises, with some basic contextual studies—to the most important figures, themes, and schools from across the broad spectrum of Islamic philosophical traditions, while also illustrating the many fundamental ways that these learned traditions of philosophy, science and medicine helped to shape and inform much wider areas of Islamic civilization, society, and the Islamic humanities (politics, poetry, architecture, etc.). Given the limited time and introductory level of this course, a number of important Muslim philosophers and schools of thought could not be included here: e.g., the earlier Neoplatonists and al-Kindi, the wide range of Ismaili Shiite thinkers, parallel Jewish philosophers writing in Arabic (such as Maimonides) , and Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of culture and history.
Summer Abroad Courses
Kuwait: Politics & Oil in the Gulf - Summer: 3
POLI2475 / ICSP2475 / INTL2475
The Kuwait Program exposes students to a unique and unfamiliar environment, where they will explore a wide range of issues relevant to the GCC countries of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Seminar style classes are enhanced and complemented by local guest speakers and a wide variety of enticing site tours, including the tallest building in the world and the largest mosque ever built. Students interact with local citizens every day in Kuwaiti homes, restaurants, diwaniyyas, at desert encampments and at beach chalets.
Economic Policy Analysis in Turbulent Times: Europe and Turkey - Summer: 4
ECON3368 / INTL3368
This summer program takes an interdisciplinary approach to issues of economic policymaking as it is faced in two quite different economies: Turkey and Germany. Presentations by guest speakers from research institutes, central banks, and government help students understand the challenges of policymaking, incorporating political, sociological and cultural constraints, and acquire a solid understanding of the Eurozone, European Union, and newly developed economies' policy prescriptions. Students will develop a real-world perspective on careers in economics, as well as ample opportunities for cultural enrichment, sightseeing, and living in these two vibrant cultures. This unique experience will provide ample material to support the theory and material covered in class at Boston College. Access to prominent guest speakers, company and site visits, and numerous cultural activities will constitute an exclusive, rich, educational, fun and memorable four-week program.
Can Erbil, Christopher Baum
Turkey at the Crossroads: Politics, Religion and the State - Summer: 3
THEO1224 / ICSP1224 / INTL1224
Turkey is a nation at the crossroads. Its geographic location astride Europe and Asia makes it a bridge between the civilizations of “the West” and the broader Middle East, and an historical site of contest and exchange between Islam and Christianity. It is a key player in the geopolitics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as it vies with Iran, Egypt and the Gulf States for leadership of the region’s many Islamic states. But Turkey is also at a crossroads in its own cultural and political history, as the strict secularism embraced by its elites for many generations gives way to a new openness to Islam in public life that has worried many religious minorities and nonreligious Turks.
Join us in summer 2015 for an in-depth examination of religion and public life in this fascinating country. Based in Istanbul, one the world's great cities, we will also travel to the nation's capital in Ankara and visit the shrine and burial place of the great 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi (known in Turkey as Mevlâna) in Konya. Course readings and discussion will complement guest lectures and meetings with politicians, civic and religious leaders, activists and academics.