Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization
Coordinator Brett Wilson
651-696-6150

Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization

The broad goal of this concentration is to provide students with an opportunity to engage in the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world. More specifically, the objectives of the concentration are to cultivate in students (a) a basic familiarity with the culture, politics, religion, philosophy, literature, economy, and geography of both the Middle East and the wider Islamic world; (b) an understanding of some of the major theoretical and/or methodological approaches to the study of both the Middle East and the Islamic world; (c) an appreciation of the social, political, and cultural diversity/complexity of the Middle East and the Islamic world; (d) a sympathetic understanding of a relevant worldview or cultural perspective different from his/her own; (e) a capacity to engage thoughtfully and constructively in potentially difficult dialogues regarding some of the more contentious issues affecting the region/civilization (e.g. U.S. intervention in Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict); and (f) if possible, facilitate knowledge of a language that is spoken natively by people of the Middle East or Islamic world.

Given that students and faculty approach the study of Middle East and Islamic civilization from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, the program permits students to complete this concentration in conjunction with a wide array of majors. The program promotes breadth by requiring that students complete courses (in several departments) dealing with both Middle East and the wider Islamic world; it promotes depth by requiring a capstone project focused on a relevant topic.

Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization

Structure of the Concentration

A concentration in Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization (MESIC) consists of seven (7) courses chosen with the assistance of a MESIC advisor. Three of these courses must focus primarily on the Middle East region. Of these three courses, one (1) course must focus primarily on the history, culture, politics, religion, philosophy, literature, economy, and/or geography of the Arab world or a particular Arab country; one (1) course must focus primarily on the history, culture, politics, religion, philosophy, literature, economy, and/or geography of Israel or the pre-national Jewish community in the Middle East; and one (1) course must focus on any topic relevant to the study of the Middle East. An additional three courses must focus primarily on Islamic civilization. Of these, one (1) course must focus on Islam as a religion; one (1) course must focus on Islam as a broader cultural formation (i.e. as a civilization) and/or the relation of this cultural formation to the West; and one (1) course must focus on any topic relevant to the study of Islamic civilization. The seventh course must be a capstone course in which the student completes a substantial research project focusing primarily on the Middle East and/or Islamic civilization. This capstone requirement may be fulfilled by (a) completing a departmental senior seminar that includes a major paper focused on the Middle East and/or Islamic civilization; (b) a departmental honors project focused on the Middle East and/or Islamic civilization; or (c) an independent study with a MESIC faculty member resulting in a major paper focused on the Middle East and/or Islamic civilization.

In order to ensure interdisciplinarity, students are normally permitted to apply no more than two (2) courses (not including the capstone project) in any one academic department toward satisfying these requirements. Up to two (2) study away courses (not including language courses) may count toward the completion of this element of the concentration.

It is highly recommended that students participate in a MESIC-related study away program in order to experience and study first-hand some of the issues and ideas explored in Macalester courses. It is also strongly recommended that students lacking appropriate language skills (i.e. competence in a language spoken natively by people of the Middle East or the Islamic world) enroll in a MESIC-relevant language. Students should consult with a MESIC advisor regarding specific language programs available to Macalester students.