Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago

Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago

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The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 is a National Resource Center for the study of a region extending from Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 in the West to Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 in the East. As a result, this Area Center covers some of the most important and controversial regions - including North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Prior to the Center's formation, scholars originally received funding administered by Title VI of the US Department of Defense's National Defense Education Act
National Defense Education Act
The National Defense Education Act , signed into law on September 2, 1958, provided funding to United States education institutions at all levels. The act authorized funding for four years, increasing funding per year: for example, funding increased on eight program titles from 183 million dollars...

. The University of Chicago did not form its center until 1965, well after the administration of funding was moved to the US Department of Education by President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

. This area center consistently ranks in the highest tier of those dealing with Middle Eastern studies
Middle Eastern studies
Middle Eastern studies is a name given to a number of academic programs associated with the study of the history, culture, politics, economies, and geography of the Middle East, an area that is generally interpreted to cover a range of nations extending from North Africa in the west to the Chinese...

 in the United States according to US Department of Education and external reviews. In the last competition for Department of Education's Title VI funds in 2006, the Center was awarded both NRC (National Resource Center) and FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) grants, one of only a few so honored nationwide.

Center functions

The primary function of the Center is to serve as a meeting-place and a forum for all University members dealing with the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, regardless of discipline. This is done informally in the social atmosphere of the Fazlur Rahman
Fazlur Rahman
Fazlur Rahman Malik was a well-known scholar of Islam; M. Yahya Birt of the Association of Islam Researchers described him as "probably the most learned of the major Muslim thinkers in the second-half of the twentieth century, in terms of both classical Islam and Western philosophical and...

 Common Room, as well as in formal settings, such as the Center's debates and sponsored colloquia. The Center also serves as the clearinghouse for all manner of Middle Eastern content for the mid-West region.

Masters of arts program

The Center also administers a two-year terminal Masters degree through either the Division of Humanities or the Division of Social Science, wherein a student may structure his or her own course of study in such areas as contemporary Middle Eastern studies, Middle Eastern history, Islamic studies, Islamic art and archaeology, and Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, or Turkic languages (Anatolian Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, Uzbek
Uzbek language
Uzbek is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has about 25.5 million native speakers, and it is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia...

, Kazakh
Kazakh language
Kazakh is a Turkic language which belongs to the Kipchak branch of the Turkic languages, closely related to Nogai and Karakalpak....

), and their accompanying literatures. In the academic year 2006-07, the MA program was the largest such program in the country. Currently (2007-08), it continues to be among the largest and most competitive programs in the United States.

Additionally, the Center offers a series of joint Masters of Arts programs. These include:

M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies/Masters in Business Administration - in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies/Masters in Public Policy - offered with the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies
Harris School of Public Policy Studies
The Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies is the public policy school of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is one of the top policy schools in the United States. It is located on the University's main campus in Hyde Park...

 at the University of Chicago

Current staff

  • Director: Fred Donner
    Fred Donner
    Fred McGraw Donner is an Islamic scholar and Professor of Near Eastern History at the University of Chicago.-Early life:Donner was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, where he attended public schools...

  • Deputy Director: Franklin Lewis
    Franklin Lewis
    Franklin D. Lewis is an Associate Professor of Persian Language and Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is also the incoming Deputy Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago...

  • Associate Director: Thomas E.R. Maguire
  • Project Assistant: Traci Lombré
  • Public Education Coordinator: Alexander Barna
  • MA Preceptor: Laura Freseman
  • Work Study Assistant: unfilled

Former directors

  • Holly Shissler: 2007-2009
  • Martin Stokes
    Martin Stokes
    Martin Stokes is a lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom where he is also Fellow and Tutor in Music at St John's College. Dr Stokes took up the position of Senior Dean at St John's College, University of Oxford in Hilary Term 2010.Dr Stokes obtained his DPhil...

    : 2004-2007
  • John Woods
    John Woods
    John Woods may refer to:* John C. Woods, executioner at the Nuremberg Trials* John E. Woods, translator of literature from German to English* John M...

    : 1998-2004
  • Cornell Fleischer
    Cornell Fleischer
    Cornell Fleischer is the Kanuni Suleyman Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at the University of Chicago.Dr. Fleischer received his PhD from Princeton University in 1982. After leaving Princeton, Dr. Fleischer held teaching posts at Washington University in St. Louis and the Ohio...

    : 1995-1998
  • Rashid Khalidi
    Rashid Khalidi
    Rashid Ismail Khalidi , born 1948, a Palestinian-American historian of the Middle East, is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.-Family, education and...

    : 1991-1995
  • John Woods
    John Woods
    John Woods may refer to:* John C. Woods, executioner at the Nuremberg Trials* John E. Woods, translator of literature from German to English* John M...

    : 1985-1991
  • Richard Chambers: 1979-1985
  • Marvin Zonis
    Marvin Zonis
    Marvin Zonis is an American global political economist and expert on Middle Eastern politics and history and an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he continues to teach courses on International Political Economy, Leadership, and E-Commerce...

    : 1976-1979
  • Leonard Binder
    Leonard Binder
    Leonard Binder is an American political scientist. He is a distinguished professor of political science and the former director of the Near East Center at the University of California, Los Angeles . Binder was also Chair of the Political Science Departments of UCLA and the University of Chicago...

    : 1973-1976
  • Nur Yalman
    Nur Yalman
    Nur Yalman is a leading Turkish social anthropologist and professor at Harvard University.Yalman received his high school diploma from Robert College, Istanbul, one of Turkey’s premier private high schools. For his BA and PhD, he studied Social Anthropology at Cambridge University under the...

    : 1968-1972
  • William R. Polk
    William R. Polk
    William Roe Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author, and relation of president James K. Polk. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas and grew up on a ranch in west Texas. He attended public school in Fort Worth and the New Mexico Military Institute...

    : 1965-1968

External links