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Media Advisory

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

February 25, 2003
To: Reporters, Editors, Producers
Fr: Amy Cowles | (410) 516-7160 | amycowles@jhu.edu
Re: Johns Hopkins professor available to comment on the cultures and politics of the Arab world through an analysis of the language situation

As the United States inches closer to fighting another war in the Persian Gulf, Americans are turning to news outlets for an understanding of Arabic life and culture. Reporters looking for sources for such stories should consider speaking with Niloofar Haeri, a professor in the Anthropology Department at The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Sacred Language, Ordinary People (Palgrave Macmillan, January 2003), which focuses on the centrality of classical Arabic -- the official language of all Arab states, although it is not spoken as a mother tongue by any group of Arabs, Haeri says. Classical Arabic is the language of the Quran, and is, therefore, considered sacred. Understanding this fact, Haeri says, is the key to understanding the culture and politics of the Arab world. Sacred Language, Ordinary People discusses the role that language has played in shaping culture, politics and religion, specifically in Egypt, as its writers and leaders have worked to bring classical Arabic back into everyday usage. Haeri has conducted research on language change and its relation to class and gender. She was a Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (1999-2000) and is an internationally recognized scholar of Arabic. Haeri is traveling abroad, but can be reached via e-mail. A limited number of copies of Sacred Language, Ordinary People are available to the media upon request. To request a book or contact Haeri, call Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160. For more information about Haeri, visit her Web site, www.jhu.edu/~anthro/niloofar_haeri.htm.

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