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For more than a decade, Hamilton has offered an interdisciplinary minor in Middle East and Islamic World Studies. Thanks to new expert faculty who have helped build a wide-ranging curriculum, the College has designated a new concentration in the increasingly popular area of study.

The move also comes with an adjustment to the program’s name – now known as Middle East/Islamicate Worlds Studies – which reflects a critical differentiator between Hamilton’s program and others.

“Our curriculum tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other areas of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically,” said Associate Professor of Government Kira Jumet, who also serves as director of the Middle East/Islamicate Worlds Studies (MEIWS) Program.

 “‘Islamicate,’ a term coined more than 50 years ago by University of Chicago Islamic Studies Professor Marshall Hodgson, can include arts and architecture, family structures, literature, and ethical practices, such as Islamic finance, that are strongly influenced and shaped by Islam but are not necessarily part of the religion,” said Jumet. “‘Islamicate,’ therefore, also includes the cultures of Jewish and Christian communities that have developed in Islamic contexts. Our interdisciplinary program spans multiple regions, from the Middle East and North Africa to South and Central Asia.”

The goals of the new concentration are to enable students to gain an informed understanding of Middle Eastern and Islamicate world cultures as well as Jewish cultures across Eurasia, South Asia, Africa, and Europe. Students will be able to study the history, politics, religious cultures, and literature of these complex civilizations thanks to faculty from across disciplines.

“In recent years, we have benefitted from the presence of Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Usman Hamid and his courses related to Islam and Iran, as well as Assistant Professor of Arabic Rama Alhabian and her Modern Arabic Fiction and Film class,” Jumet said. “We are also fortunate to have Assistant Professor of Art History Arathi Menon contribute her Art of the Islamic World course to our program. This year, we are excited to have new classes taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Deina Rabie, whose research focuses on the Arabian Gulf, and Visiting Assistant Professor of History Rebecca Gruskin, who specializes in North African environmental history.”

“Our curriculum tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other areas of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically.” -Kira Jumet

“Our curriculum tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other areas of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically.” said Associate Professor of Government Kira Jumet, who also serves as director of the Middle East/Islamicate Worlds Studies (MEIWS) Program.

Previous graduates who minored in the area of study have pursued careers in fields ranging from international development to government intelligence. Morgan Perry ’21 came to Hamilton wanting to learn about the politics, societies, and languages of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and “further understand the migration crises taking place across the region and roiling the world.”

 After Hamilton, she worked at the Brave House, a non-profit supporting immigrant and refugee young women and gender-based violence survivors in New York City. Now a Fulbright scholar in Türkiye, she plans to continue her studies at graduate school or with an international relations think tank.  

“My experiences with the classes and professors [in] the minor broadened my love for Middle Eastern studies tremendously, and it completely altered my academic perspective on the region,” Perry said. “Because I was able to pursue such an in-depth Middle East and Islamic World Studies focus during my time at Hamilton, I was equipped with the background and resources to pursue a 50-page world politics [and] MENA-centered thesis in my senior spring. This project fomented my true academic passion in relation to the Middle East and North Africa: unearthing and exposing harmful U.S. Foreign Policy and neo-imperialism across [those regions] that produces profit while inducing harm.”

Hamilton’s MEIWS program offers Arabic up to the advanced level and one year of Hebrew, as well as the study of Islam and Judaism as religions and the study of the complex civilizations that grew out of those religions in the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia. Students interested in contemporary issues may study politics, literature, and culture across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as among the growing Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe. The senior project will most often take the form of a significant research or literary analysis paper through an advanced-level course or an independent study.

From Students to Scholars

Thanks to Hamilton's open curriculum, students get to explore their passions with the support of many curricular and cocurricular resources designed to ensure success.

 

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