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Judith Laffan

  • Near Eastern Studies
Position: Lecturer
Title: Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies.
  • Arabic-language teaching
  • Ottoman Levant
  • Translation and translators
Judith Laffan

In Memoriam (July 23, 2014) 
Just before Christmas in December of 1992 I made my first visit to the Middle East. My flight was delayed. So my first cultural experience was spent eating a complimentary breakfast in the early morning light of a deserted dining hall at the Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan. The view of the vast, desolate, rock-strewn landscape was peaceful and only interrupted by the discordant sounds of Christmas carols emanating from a nearby plastic Christmas tree. Soon the vibe and buzz of Cairo would send this memory to the far reaches of my mind.
Living for the following year as a student in various parts of Cairo was one of the foundational experiences of my adult life. After returning home (Australia) I left my work as a registered nurse and started studying Arabic as part of an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies at the Australian National University. My interests at that time were mainly in Islamic art and architecture, but have expanded to include more social and historical aspects of life in the Arabic-speaking Middle East. Again, in 1997, I went to Cairo for 9 months to further my studies of Arabic, this time as a formal component of my undergraduate degree.
Since completing my BA in Asian Studies (Arabic) I have lived in the Netherlands and Egypt again. In 2011 I completed my Ph.D., “Negotiating Empires: ‘British’ dragomans and changing identity in the 19th century Levant.” In it, I look at Ottoman-born mediators working for the British in the Arabic-speaking provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In particular I discuss their roles and multifaceted identities that influenced British ideas of protectorates, dependencies, and nations, the definitions of which were very much in flux at that time.
I am currently happy to be included among the talented Arabic teaching team at Princeton.