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University expands Middle Eastern studies

photo of Ali Banuazizi and Benjamin BraudeAided by a $160,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Boston College has begun a major project to revamp its Middle Eastern Studies minor. The new course of study is called the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program, and it offers an expanded and growing list of classes in disciplines ranging from history to theology to fine arts.

Faculty from seven humanities and social sciences departments have been involved in the planning, which began several years ago. New elements of the program include a language component; courses on the Islamic world beyond the Middle East; and a series of seminars for freshmen that will explore aspects of Islamic culture in depth. The program will also sponsor a lecture series open to the University community.

Courses in Arabic debuted in the fall, with more than 40 students registering for the introductory class—enough to warrant an additional section. An intermediate-level course will be offered next year for students who wish to continue.

Starting in the spring and continuing next fall, several new classes in Islamic culture will be offered. Project codirectors Ali Banuazizi, a professor of psychology, and Benjamin Braude, a professor of history, led a faculty development committee that helped design the curricula. Among the new courses are “Islamic Political Philosophy,” taught by political science professor Nasser Behnegar; “Muslim Women’s Writing,” taught by associate professor of English Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks; “Good and Evil in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism,” taught by honors professor Marty Cohen; and “Islam in South Asia,” cotaught by history professor Prasannan Parthasarathi and theologian Qamar-ul Huda.

Jonathan Bloom, coholder (with wife Sheila Blair) of the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship in Islamic and Asian Art, inaugurated the freshman seminar series in September with “Jerusalem.” The class (one of four freshman seminars planned) explored the art and religious and political history of the Holy City, from the perspectives of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Tim Heffernan

Photo: Psychologist Ali Banuazizi (left) and historian Benjamin Braude. By Lee Pellegrini

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