The Concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies gives students basic knowledge of the Middle East and broader Muslim world, and allows students to employ discipline-specific tools for advanced work in this area.
The faculty at Haverford College who research and study the Middle East and Islam are committed to educating students about the politics, histories, and socio-cultural formations of the Middle East and broader Muslim world. We believe that our students must have basic knowledge about the Middle East and Islam if they are to participate thoughtfully and constructively in the many contentious debates that frame public discourse about Muslims and the Middle East today.
Students in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies will:
- learn the politics, histories, and socio-cultural formations of the Middle East and broader Muslim world.
- gain knowledge of key political, economic, and social issues in the contemporary Middle East.
- demonstrate basic knowledge of a language pertinent to the students’ areas of research.
An “Area of Concentration” at Haverford is designed to facilitate the pursuit of an area of study distinct from a major, but which a student can use the disciplinary tools of the major to pursue. To that end, at least two courses, and no more than three, may fulfill both the student’s major requirements and the concentration requirements. In practical terms, this means that students who want to concentrate in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies usually major in anthropology, comparative literature, history, political science, or religion.
In some cases, students may find that they can combine other majors with a concentration in MEIS (for example, History of Art and Growth and Structure of Cities at Bryn Mawr are two departments that sometimes have two or three course offerings that could count for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies). Students who can demonstrate that at least two courses in their major are about Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies can petition the concentration coordinator and faculty to approve their major as one that can be linked to the MEIS concentration.
We strongly encourage students with interests in the Middle East and Islam to meet with the concentration coordinator early in their college program (during their first and second years). We also invite students to take advantage of Haverford’s study abroad programs in Jordan, Morocco, Israel, and other appropriate locations to advance their work in the concentration.
The MEIS concentration is normally available to students majoring in anthropology, history, political science, religion, or comparative literature. Courses from their major must represent at least two but no more than three of the requirements detailed below. Proposals to concentrate on the basis of other majors must be approved in advance by concentration coordinator.
Students must demonstrate competence above the basic level in a language pertinent to their area of research:
- In cases where a student has selected Arabic as their relevant language, this means completion of ARAB 002.
- If a student is doing research for which another language is more appropriate, they may need to study at the University of Pennsylvania (Pashtu, Persian, Turkish and Swahili) or Bryn Mawr (Hebrew), or take other Haverford language classes (e.g., Chinese, French).
Some study abroad programs are also suitable for gaining language competence. Students should consult with the concentration coordinator about the course of language study to fill this requirement.
Students must take two of the core courses listed below, in which they learn about the Middle East and Islam. Students must choose from two of the four departments listed (e.g., history and political science, anthropology and religion, political science and religion). Students should consult the concentration coordinator to ensure they fill this requirement.
By completing this core requirement, students gain broad exposure to the history and politics of the Middle East, and to Islam as a major world religion and social and political force that began in, and continues to be affected by, the Middle East.
The core course options are:
- ANTH 253 (Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa)
- ANTH 259 (Ethnographies of Islam)
- HIST 117 (Modern Mediterranean History)
- HIST 266 (Sex and Gender in the Early Modern Islamic World)
- HIST 270 (From Empire to Nation: The Ottoman World Transformed)
- ICPR 274 (History of the Modern Middle East)
- Political Science:
- POLS 256 (The Evolution of the Jihadi Movement)
- POLS 357 (Conflict in the Middle East)
- RELG 108 (Vocabularies of Islam)
- RELG 218 (The Divine Guide: An Introduction to Shi’ism)
- RELG 248 (The Qur’an)
Students should pursue areas of inquiry related to the Middle East and/or Islam and specific to their interests by taking four electives, at least one of which is at the 300 level. Examples might include anthropological approaches to the study of Islam or Middle East, Middle Eastern Nationalism, Islam in African politics, Israeli politics, evolution of the Jihadi movement, modern Arabic literature, etc.
To fulfill their elective credit, students may select from a list of designated electives at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore, or request approval from the concentration coordinator to take other appropriate courses at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, or the University of Pennsylvania’s Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Program. Students may also petition the concentration coordinator and MEIS faculty for approval of a course that is not on the electives list but which the student feels provides important content for their specific research topic.
See the end of this section of the Catalog for a sampling of courses that count toward the MEIS concentration. For more information about core and elective courses, contact the concentration coordinator.
Students must write a thesis in their major department (anthropology, history, political science, or religion) that addresses Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and that the concentration coordinator (as well as the major advisor) approves. The concentration coordinator must approve this thesis topic in advance to count for the MEIS concentration. To request approval, students should submit a brief (one page) thesis proposal to the concentration coordinator and arrange a meeting to discuss the proposal.
Students may fulfill some of the required courses for the Concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in study abroad programs. Some such programs that offer intensive language training can also count toward fulfilling the language requirement. Students are encouraged to consult with Dean Donna Mancini and the concentration coordinator about study abroad options.