A group of at least 15 undergraduates recently launched a quarterly journal on Middle Eastern affairs, hoping to spur student dialogue about the region.
The journal, titled New Society, was released last week under the sponsorship of Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature Ruth R. Wisse. According to Associate Editor Gabriel M. Scheinmann '08, it aims to provide the campus with a student-run outlet for dialogue regarding a Middle Eastern region defined as stretching "as far west as Morocco and as far east as Afghanistan."
"Our intent is to fill a niche on campus where there's been lacking substantive academic views on the Middle East as a whole," Scheinmann said. "No other undergraduate publications deal with the political, historical and social aspects of the region."
Ascent Magazine, published twice a year by students at Harvard and MIT, delves into Middle Eastern issues and says it aims "to elevate the level of discourse on Islam in the academic and popular fora." Another student publication on the Middle East, the Harvard Israel Review, published its last issue in spring 2004, according to its Web site.
Na'eel A. Cajee '10, a member of Ascent's Editorial Board, said that he supports opportunities for "more voices that come from the Middle Eastern community" to speak their minds.
"I think it's great that people are getting together and collaborating to write and sparking interests," Cajee said. "I think those voices definitely need to be louder."
The inaugural issue of New Society loosely focuses on Iran's growing role in the region through the journal's two featured pieces, one written by Abigail R. Fradkin '09 and the other by Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies James R. Russell.
New Society Editor-In-Chief Julia I. Bertelsmann '09 said that it was difficult persuading Iranian students to write for the issue for fear of consequences in their home country.
"A lot of my friends have told me, ‘Look, we love our country too much and we want to go back and change things,'" Bertelsmann said. "‘We want to visit our grandparents.'"
The Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies often publishes the works of students in its publications, but Scheinmann stressed that the draw of New Society was the depth of its content. The Spring 2007 issue features 10 original pieces by undergraduates, graduate students, and professors.
Junior Editor Matthew D. Klayman '10 said he would welcome future publications following New Society's lead.
"I'd say that the more publications out there like this, the better, because the more dialogue that goes on about these kinds of issues, the better," Klayman said.