March 1, 2005
- To promote understanding of the Middle East through teaching,
research, and community outreach.
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 new realities.
- To explore and promote cross-regional approaches to Middle
Carolina is 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
- Expand the concentration in Middle East Studies within
the Curriculum in International and Area Studies through
increased course offerings (Years 1-5).
The Middle East concentration, founded three
years ago, offers only an average number of courses, as
compared with the other area studies concentrations within
the Curriculum in International and Area Studies. Given
student interest in this region, and the region’s
importance in public policy, this number should be larger.
One challenge is the number of faculty teaching in this
area; another challenge is a function of Carolina’s
success: our faculty's prominence often takes them away
from the classroom through research grants and fellowships.
- Build the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle
East and Muslim Civilizations with staffing equivalent to
the other area studies centers on campus. (Year 2)
This Center, founded in 2002, has already gained
prominence among Middle East specialists for its cross-regional
perspective. It organizes dozens of colloquia and cultural
events for students and the community each year, and serves
as a clearinghouse for more than one hundred events on
the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. In addition,
it generates internal and external funding applications
and is active in the planning for the new Global Education
Center, which is due to open in 2006. To assist the Center
in applying for external funds, and to put its operations
on a firm administrative footing, the Center has received
a half-time teaching release for the director and a one
course release for the full-time associate director, with
staff support from the Carolina Asia Center. This level
of staffing emulates the other area studies centers on
campus and is preparing the Center for its place in the
new Global Education Center.
- 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 will 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 2005); 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 Center will continue to work closely with University
- Integrating Study Abroad into the concentration (Years
The Center encourages students to participate
in Study Abroad and will work to offer a number of opportunities
for both beginning and advanced students who wish to study
in the region. We have two priorities. First, we actively
support the UNC
Summer in Jordan study abroad program, a program led
by UNC faculty members designed to introduce undergraduates
to the peoples and cultures of the Middle East. Second,
with the assistance of the Study Abroad Office, we will
identify additional study abroad programs to meet more
specific and academic needs of the students who are seeking
more advanced study. To this end, we are especially eager
to pursue a wide range of collaborative possibilities
with the American University in Cairo, the Bosphorus University
in Istanbul, the University of Jordan in Amman, and other
campuses with which UNC has already established strong
institutional and personal ties.
- Strengthening the concentration's course offerings through
course-development grants (Years 1-5).
Ongoing course-development grant competitions
will offer incentives for faculty to develop new courses
that fit the goals of the Middle East concentration, especially
on regions that are not extensively covered (Islam in
Europe, for example); to revise existing courses to correspond
as fully as possible to these goals; and to revive infrequently
- 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).
The Middle East concentration requires students
to take "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 is required for the concentration.
This series is offered every academic year, rotating among
two faculty members, one in History (Professor Sarah Shields)
and one in Religious Studies (Professors Carl Ernst).
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 the Department of African and African
American Studies and a member of Center, emphasizes the
importance of this coverage for ongoing grant-application
efforts in African Studies.
- Accommodating the growth of the Arabic-language program
through the hiring of a third faculty member in a tenure-track
position (Year 1).
Enrollment numbers in first-year Arabic have
risen dramatically over the past several years, to more
than 60 students in Fall 2005, filling the second section
of the introductory class that was opened several years
ago. The two faculty members and one lecturer currently
teaching Arabic, Professors Sahar Amer and Nadia Yaqub
and Instructor Nasser Isleem, offer four years of the
language, in addition to courses on Arabic literature
and culture. As student demand for courses in this area
continues to rise, an additional faculty member will allow
us to offer more sections of Arabic and a wider array
of non-language courses. This appointment can be made
jointly with Asian Studies and another department, and
might also be shared with Duke University, since Carolina
and Duke have collaborated in Arabic language instruction
in the past.
- Building the concentration's course offerings in social
science through the hiring of a junior-level Middle East
expert with a specialization in Islamist movements and a
familiarity with cross-regional perspectives (Year 2).
The Middle East concentration's course offerings
lean somewhat towards the humanities, in large part because
the primary teaching duties of the Center’s social
science faculty lie in disciplinary rather than regional
subjects. This disciplinary focus is a strength, not a
weakness, since it allows our social-science faculty to
speak to broader disciplinary audiences. However, for
curricular purposes, we consider it a priority to balance
the course offerings with the hiring of a social scientist.
We propose an emphasis on the single issue that is bringing
massive public and scholarly attention to the region:
the subject of Islamist movements. This issue area lies
across many social-science disciplines, and the hire might
be made in any social science department, possibly in
conjunction with the Curriculum in International and Area
- Building library holdings through the hiring of a Middle
Eastern collections development librarian in collaboration
with Duke University and North Carolina State University
(Year 3), with ongoing funding for the further development
of the Ellen-Fairbanks Collection of Middle Eastern and
Islamic World Films (Years 1-5).
The University Library’s Middle East collections
are excellent for undergraduate instructional purposes,
with considerable holdings in European languages, basic
holdings in Arabic, and an unparalleled collection of
documentary films on the Middle East and the Islamic world
(the Ellen-Fairbanks Collection). However, to bring the
Library to the graduate research level will require additional
collecting in the languages of the Middle East, and this
will require a librarian who specializes in these languages.
Following the model of the South Asian bibliographer,
who was hired jointly by UNC-CH, Duke, and NCSU, we propose
a Middle East bibliographer who will serve all three campuses
and develop complementary collections for each.
- Filling gaps in the concentration's course offerings through
five additional junior-level positions (Years 3-5).
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) Islamic art history. The Department of Art has identified
this position as a priority for its next growth hire.
The position would build on the significant Islamic art
holdings in the Art Library and the Ackland Art Museum.
(2) Persian language and literature. The Department of
Asian Studies currently offers two years of Persian language
instruction through lecturers and adjunct faculty positions;
raising the status of these positions to tenure-track
faculty would build the University’s commitment
to this important language. In combination with a lecturer
or adjunct faculty, this position would allow a third
year of the language to be offered, giving students in
the Middle East concentration a choice of languages for
specialization (currently, only Arabic is taught through
(3) Central Asian history. This position would promote
linkages with Carolina's strengths in Eastern Europe/Eurasian
(4) Middle Eastern media studies. This position could
bridge the College of Arts and Sciences and the School
of Journalism; it might also take advantage of the Ellen-Fairbanks
Bodman Collection of Middle East and Islamic World Films.
(5) Middle Eastern economic development. This position
could bridge the College of Arts and Sciences and the
Kenan/Flagler School of Business
Strategic Plan of May 6, 2002, revised at the Center meetings
of January 21 and February 3, 2005.
Circulated for comment
on February 3, 2005 and approved on March 1, 2005.
August 29, 2005.