Liora Halpern '05
Position: Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies
Thesis Title: “In Search of Semitic Roots: The Ideological Foundations of Arabic Language Instruction among European Zionists in Palestine, 1918-1948” Awarded the Hoopes Prize
I am using my History degree quite directly—I went on from Harvard to complete a Ph.D. in History at UCLA, where I worked on modern Jewish and modern Middle Eastern history. I went on from there to hold a postdoc in Jewish Studies at Yale, was an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Judaic Studies at Princeton, and am now an Assistant Professor in History, University of Colorado at Boulder. Entering the History Department program as a sophomore I had no idea that I would be headed for a career as a professor of history—I was simply interested in a certain period and place and wanted to learn more. As I went through the tutorial sequence in the department, however, I became increasingly convinced that I wanted to apply the sorts of tools I was learning as part of a career. The Harvard tutorial program is simply unparalleled. I learned how to search for and carefully read primary documents—newspaper articles, letters, and reports—to learn about how scholars debate historical phenomena in books, and to think critically about how a document can be understood in reference to larger political, intellectual or cultural trends. It has been fascinating to try to understand how and why historical actors act the way they do, how scholars write about history, and how humans make records of their own lives. In the process, I made contacts with professors and graduate students, and fellow students, that remain important to me. As I design my courses and think about my own research now, I constantly think back to the tools I gained as an undergrad History concentrator at Harvard.