A NEW WAY TO STUDY THE MIDDLE EAST
The Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle
East and Muslim Civilizations (CCSMEMC) represents a fruitful hybrid
between traditional area studies approaches and cross-regional Islamic
studies. The University aims to support a full range of traditional
Middle East Studies, including the region's non-Muslim peoples and
civilizations, while at the same time broadening the focus to include
Muslim peoples and civilizations outside of the traditional area
The central organizing principle of UNC's efforts
in Middle East Studies is to develop a new method of studying the
region, one that breaks down area studies barriers and combines
cross-regional approaches with traditional regional concerns. Middle
East Studies has come to be defined by somewhat arbitrary geographic
boundaries drawn by the U.S. government in the early days of the Cold
War. In the late 20th century, however, a number of scholars concluded
that the traditional area studies boundaries have become hindrances to
international studies. The global flow of ideas, commodities, and
people has accelerated to the point that no region can be studied any
longer in isolation.
By contrast with regionally defined Middle East
studies, the Carolina approach emphasizes five principles.
||The study of
Middle Eastern civilizations outside of the Middle East should be
incorporated, whenever possible, into the study of the Middle East.
definitions of regions, within the Middle East and beyond, should
themselves be the object of research and teaching.
||Flows within and
between regions should be the focus of research and teaching, as
opposed to static visions of geographically immobile cultures.
should be encouraged between scholars and teachers who specialize in
the Middle East and scholars and teachers who specialize in other
communities of the Middle East should not be neglected in favor of an
exclusive focus on cross-regional flows.
The rationale for CCSMEMC's interregional approach
to the Middle East is laid out more fully by Charles Kurzman in
“Cross-Regional Approaches to Middle East Studies: Constructing and
Deconstructing a Region," Middle East Studies Association Bulletin
41, no. 2 (Summer 2007), 24-29. [PDF]