A Center for Modern Assyrian Studies to be Established at University of Cambridge

cambridge.jpgAn online archive containing a vast amount of information about the Assyrians, an annual conference for academicians to discuss their fresh findings and a full-time professorship in modern Assyrian studies are all parts of a vision now about to become reality.The idea of creating the Modern Assyrian Studies Center in Cambridge was germinated by Prof. Geoffrey Allan Khan, a well known professor of Semitic languages and a fluent speaker of modern Assyrian; Mr. Nineb Lamassu, Director of the UK-based Firodil Institute; and Mr. Aryo Makko, acting head of the Assyrian Youth Federation in Sweden.
All three, together with Dr. John MacGinnis, a senior fellow in the Near Eastern Archaeology Dept at Cambridge, announced the idea to the Assyrian community in Sweden during the last days of March as a prelude to Akitu, the Assyrian New Year festival of life and rebirth.
Although there are many universities offering studies on the Assyrian history, there is no real home for the modern ´´Assyrian studies´´. The envisioned center at Cambridge is expected to change the academic status quo views. The university’s international reputation and its Department of the Middle Eastern Studies with leading researchers in modern Assyrian dialects, make Cambridge an ideal site.
´I believe this is a missing piece today and once established it will facilitate every student’s engagement in the study of the Assyrians and Assyrian-related issues,´ says Aryo Makko, himself a PhD Candidate in history at the University of Stockholm.
The primary objective of the Center is to create an online archive within the system of the University of Cambridge, thus making it easier for students and researchers to find relevant information. The archive will be maintained by the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge, serving as the central archive for the Assyrian Studies and, from an Assyrian point of view, also as a kind of national archive for the scattered nation. ´We will need Assyrian institutions and individuals to send us copies of whatever they have which concerns Assyrian issues, no matter in which language it is written. We need to archive as much as possible,´ says Makko.
The archive is the first test for this grand vision and if successful the plans are to advance by having an annual researchers’ conference on the Assyrian issues at Cambridge, offering junior scholars the possibility of meeting and exchanging ideas.
The last part of the vision, and perhaps the most complicated, is to eventually seek funds and establish a professorship in Modern Assyrian studies. ´But that’s in the future; we are concentrating on the archives for now,´ says Aryo Makko.