AU Sociology Professor Samih K. Farsoun Dies

Samih Farsoun founded AU's Arab Studies Program.
Samih Farsoun founded AU's Arab Studies Program. (Courtesy Of "The Arabic Hour" - Courtesy Of "The Arabic Hour")
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Samih K. Farsoun, 68, professor emeritus of sociology at American University, where he taught for 30 years until his retirement in 2003, died June 9 of a heart attack while on a walk with his wife in New Buffalo, Mich., where he had been visiting. He was a resident of Washington.

During his career at AU, Dr. Farsoun served as chairman of the Department of Sociology for 11 years, chairman and member of numerous university-wide committees and founder of its Arab Studies Program.

He was founding dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the newly established American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates from 1997 to 1999. In 2004, Dr. Farsoun was named founding dean of Academic Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences at the newly established American University of Kuwait, where he served until February.

An activist and mentor to young Arab Americans, Dr. Farsoun was a founding member of several organizations and the author or editor of several books and numerous other writings on varied aspects of the Arab world, Third World development and the political economy of the Middle East. He lectured at numerous conferences and provided commentary on radio and television news shows on the Middle East.

He served as a founding member and president of the Association of Arab American University Graduates and founding member of the Arab Sociological Association. He was editor of Arab Studies Quarterly; a member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Holy Land Studies; a founding fellow of the Middle East Studies Association; board member of Partners for Peace, formerly the American Alliance for Palestinian Human Rights in Washington; and board member of the Middle East Children's Alliance in Berkeley, Calif.

Dr. Farsoun was one of the first members of the board of directors of the Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development and of the executive committee of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, now the Palestine Center, both based in Washington. He was a founding member of the Trans-Arab Research Institute in Boston.

He is the author of six books about the sociology and politics of the Middle East, including "Palestine and the Palestinians" (1997). An updated Arabic edition of the book was published in Beirut in 2003. He also wrote "Culture and Customs of the Palestinians" (2004).

Additionally, he had published more than 75 papers, book chapters and articles. His works have been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Farsi, French, Italian and German. Dr. Farsoun also published numerous columns in Arabic and English journals and newspapers.

He was born in Haifa, Palestine, and graduated from Hamilton College in New York. He received a master's degree in 1961 and a PhD in 1971, both in sociology from the University of Connecticut.

His marriage to Karen Pfeiffer ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Katha Kissman of Washington and New Buffalo; a daughter from his first marriage, Rouwayda Farsoun of Northampton, Mass.; a brother; and three sisters.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company