For more than a decade, Hamilton has offered an interdisciplinary minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic World Studies. With expert new faculty contributing to the development of a broad curriculum, the College has designated a new concentration in the increasingly popular field of study.
This move also comes with an adjustment to the name of the program – now known as Middle Eastern/Islamic Worlds Studies – which reflects a key differentiator between Hamilton’s program and others.
“Our program tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other parts of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically,” said the associate professor of government. Kira Jumet, who also serves as director of the Middle East/Islamic Worlds Studies (MEIWS) program.
“‘Islamicate’, a term coined over 50 years ago by University of Chicago Islamic studies professor Marshall Hodgson, can include arts and architecture, family structures, literature and practices ethics, such as Islamic finance, which are heavily influenced and shaped by Islam but are not necessarily part of the religion,” Jumet said. “‘Islamic’, therefore, also includes the cultures of Jewish and Christian communities that have developed in Islamic contexts.Our interdisciplinary curriculum 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 the cultures of the Middle East and the Islamic world as well as Jewish cultures across Eurasia, South Asia, Africa and the Europe. Students will be able to study the history, politics, religious cultures and literature of these complex civilizations thanks to professors from all disciplines.
“In recent years, we have benefited from the presence of Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Usman Hamid and his classes related to Islam and Iran, as well as Assistant Professor of Arabic Rama Alhabian and his class of modern Arab fiction and cinema,” Jumet said. “We are also fortunate to have Assistant Professor of Art History Arathi Menon contributing her Islamic World Art course to our program. This year we are delighted to have new courses taught by the Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Deina Rabie, whose research focuses on the Persian Gulf, and Visiting Assistant Professor of History Rebecca Gruskin, specializing in the environmental history of North Africa.
“Our program tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other regions of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically.” -Kira Jumet
“Our program tries to encompass the overlapping, but not identical, cultural complexities of the Middle East, as well as other regions of the world where Islam has had a significant presence historically.” said Kira Jumet, associate professor of government, who is also director of the Middle East and Islamic Worlds Studies (MEIWS) program.
Past graduates who have earned a minor in the field of study have gone on to careers in fields ranging from international development to government intelligence. Morgan Perry ’21 came to Hamilton to learn more about the politics, societies and languages of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and “understand more of the migration crises unfolding in the region that turn the world upside down”.
After Hamilton, she worked at Brave House, a nonprofit that supports young immigrant and refugee women and survivors of gender-based violence in New York City. Now a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, she plans to continue her studies in a graduate school or in an international relations think tank.
“My experiences with classes and teachers [in] the minor greatly expanded my love for Middle Eastern studies and completely changed my academic perspective on the region,” Perry said. “Because I was able to pursue an in-depth study of the Middle East and the Islamic world during my time in Hamilton, I was equipped with the experience and resources to pursue a 50-page global policy. [and] Thesis focused on the MENA region in my senior spring. This project fomented my true academic passion in relation to the Middle East and North Africa: unearthing and exposing harmful American foreign policy and neo-imperialism through [those regions] that produces profit while causing 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 evolved from these religions in the Middle East, South and Central Asia. Asia. Students interested in contemporary issues can study politics, literature, and culture in 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 significant research work or literary analysis through an advanced level course or independent study.
Through Hamilton’s open curriculum, students can explore their passions with the support of many curricular and extracurricular resources designed to ensure success.