May 6, 2002
- To promote understanding of the Middle East through expanded
curricular and research opportunities.
The Middle East is on many
minds these days, and there is a dramatic need for improved understanding
of these subjects. Yet even before the current War on Terrorism,
understanding these subjects was a priority for North Carolina
and the United States. Our ever-expanding connections with Muslim
societies - through migration, trade, investment, and cultural
flows - demanded that we re-think old assumptions and explore
- To gain international prominence for Carolina's unique approach
to Middle Eastern studies: the combination of regional study with
the cross-regional study of Muslim civilizations around the world.
Carolina is on the verge of establishing this prominence, as it
is already well known for this innovative approach to the study
of the Middle East. As Islamic ideas and movements circulate across
regions, it is increasingly important to avoid geographic blinders.
To pick an example from current headlines: If al-Qa'ida terrorists
move from Saudi Arabia or Yemen to Pakistan or Malaysia, must
Middle East studies stop studying them?
Strategic Priorities for the Next Five Years
- Establishment of the concentration in Middle East Studies within
the Curriculum in International and Area Studies (Year 1).
As noted in the proposal for this concentration (http://www.unc.edu/mideast/concentration.html),
Carolina already has in place two dozen courses that fulfill our
distinctive pedagogical goals, namely the emphasis on cross-regional
perspectives on the Middle East. A list of these courses is appended
to that proposal.
- Institutionalizing Carolina's distinctive approach through the
establishment of a Center for Middle East Studies (Years 1-5).
This Center will be the first Middle East Studies Center in North
America to include cross-regional perspectives in its mission. It
will promote faculty and student research, organize colloquia, conferences,
course development, community outreach. The Center will have a half-time
director and a full-time associate director, with additional staff
support to be provided by the Center for Asian Studies. The Center
will be housed in the new Center for Global Education. The existence
of this Center will facilitate external grant development (see item
- Broadening course offerings and building infrastructure through
application for external funding (Years 1-5).
University resources for instruction and research-support can be
augmented and leveraged through external funding sources. We would
like to pursue several such sources: a Title VI grant from the U.S.
Department of Education to establish an undergraduate-level National
Resource Center in Middle East Studies (Fall 2002); a private foundation
grant to support a research group on "The Middle East and Beyond:
Cross-Regional Approaches to Middle East Studies" (growing
out of the longstanding Carolina Seminar on Comparative Islamic
Studies); a private foundation grant to support the Muslim Networks
Consortium, of which Carolina is a charter member; and private donations,
for which purpose the Planning Group will continue to work closely
with Development Officer Raymond Farrow.
- Integrating Study Abroad into the concentration (Years 1-3).
The proposed concentration encourages students to participate in
Study Abroad, and will work with Study Abroad partners to integrate
the course-work abroad with the requirements of the concentration.
A Study Abroad program at the American University in Cairo, Egypt,
is beginning in Summer 2002, and a second program at Bosphorus University
in Istanbul, Turkey, is scheduled to begin in 2003. Additional programs
are being developed in East Africa and South Asia, both of which
could offer instruction and experiences relevant to Muslim civilizations.
We are eager to pursue a wide range of collaborative possibilities
with the American University in Cairo, which could serve as our
hub for study and research in the region.
- Strengthening the concentration's course offerings through course-development
grants (Years 1-3).
A course-development grant competition will offer incentives for
faculty to develop new courses that fit the concentration's goals,
especially on regions that are not currently covered (Islam in Europe,
for example); to revise existing courses to correspond as fully
as possible to these goals; and to revive infrequently taught courses.
(The courses identified in the concentration proposal are offered
regularly, at least twice in the past three academic years.)
- Strengthening of the concentration's core-course faculty through
the hiring of a junior-level Middle East historian with a specialization
in the study of North Africa and a familiarity with cross-regional
perspectives (Year 1).
We have in place a core course for the proposed concentration, "Introduction
to Islamic Civilization," a two-course series offered jointly
by the History and Religious Studies departments (HIST 36-37/RELI
25-26). Only one semester of this series will be required for the
concentration. We propose that this course series be offered every
academic year. Three faculty members are slated to rotate the teaching
of this course series, one in History (Professor Sarah Shields)
and two in Religious Studies (Professors Carl Ernst and Edward Curtis).
We recommend that a second historian be hired so that the course
series can be shared more equally among the two departments. This
hire would also contribute to the History department's goal of minimizing
the number of regions covered only by a sole faculty member. Since
the existing Middle East historian on campus specializes in the
Levant, we propose that the new faculty member balance this focus
with an emphasis on North Africa, the other "wing" of
the Middle East. This specialization is additionally useful in contributing
to the efforts to build African Studies at Carolina; Professor Julius
Nyang'oro, chair of African and African American Studies and a member
of our Planning Group, emphasizes the importance of this coverage
for ongoing grant-application efforts in African Studies. Finally,
faculty members who are active in European Studies identify the
additional synergy that would be gained if the new faculty member
specializes in the Francophone regions of North Africa.
- Accommodating the growth of the Arabic-language program through
the hiring of a third faculty member in a tenure-track position
Enrollment numbers in first-year Arabic have risen dramatically
over the past several years, to 33 students in Fall 2001, justifying
a second section of the introductory class. The two faculty members
currently teaching Arabic, Professors Sahar Amer and Nadia Yaqub,
are offering four years of the language, so their teaching schedule
is already over-full. This appointment can be made jointly with
Asian Studies and another department, and might also be shared with
Duke University, since collaboration between Carolina and Duke in
Arabic language instruction is already well-established.
- Building the concentration's course offerings in social science
through the hiring of a junior-level Middle East expert with a specialization
in democratization and/or social movements and a familiarity with
cross-regional perspectives (Year 1).
As the concentration's course offerings lean somewhat towards the
humanities, we consider it a priority to balance this tendency with
the hiring of a social scientist. We propose an emphasis on two
substantive fields that build on current Carolina strengths and
speak to major issues in the Middle East: social movements, in particular
Islamist movements, and democratization. Carolina has an extensive
track record in the field of democratization, having received a
National Science Foundation graduate training award in this area;
in the field of social movements, Carolina's growing cadre of specialists
has been honored with an award from the American Sociological Association's
Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline. Both of these issue
areas lie across several social-science disciplines. We propose
that this position be offered competitively to all social science
departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, possibly in conjunction
with the Curriculum in International and Area Studies.
- Boosting Carolina's prominence through the hiring of a senior-level
scholar to lead our efforts in this area (Years 2-5).
Our existing senior faculty in this area are pulled in numerous
directions through administrative duties and other responsibilities.
Our efforts would be greatly enhanced by the hiring of a well-known
senior scholar with a primary mandate to build our program in the
study of the Middle East and Muslim civilizations. This scholar
could come from any discipline, but would be someone with considerable
name recognition who is committed to Carolina's distinctive approach
to the field.
- Filling gaps in the concentration's course offerings through
five additional junior-level positions (Years 2-5).
We propose that the following fields ought to be covered more fully
in order to build a concentration that fulfills Carolina's ambitions
in this area. Each of these searches should emphasize candidates
who are familiar with cross-regional perspectives.
(1) Middle East librarian. The library's Middle East collections
are currently being developed by the West European bibliographer,
with no specialized training in the Middle East.
(2) Central Asian history. This position would promote linkages with
Carolina's strengths in Eastern Europe/Eurasian studies.
(3) Islamic art history. The Department of Art has already identified
this position as a priority for its next hire.
(4) Middle Eastern media studies. This position could bridge the
College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Journalism.
(5) Middle Eastern economic development. This position could bridge
the College of Arts and Sciences and the Kenan/Flagler School of
Drafted by Planning Group Secretary Charles Kurzman,
April 10, 2002.
Revised at the Planning Group meeting of April 19,
Circulated for comment on April 22, 2002.
as of May 6, 2002.