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Leading scholars from Northwestern University’s home campus in Evanston, Illinois, who took part in the conference. BELOW: Dr Brian Edwards, Director of Northwestern’s MENA studies programme.
Doha: Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) gathered top scholars from its United States (US) campus, and faculty and students from the campus in Doha to better understand Qatar and the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region for the benefit of its students recently.
Eight leading scholars of the region from NU’s home campus in Evanston, Illinois, led by Dr Brian Edwards, Director of Northwestern’s MENA studies programme, took part in both conferences, one of which included original papers that will be edited into a monograph to be issued later in the academic year.
Northwestern already has an enviable array of Middle Eastern studies and Middle Eastern media courses, said Dr Everette E Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q, who convened and chaired the two conferences.
“We need to better define and organise the course work we have and connect it more effectively to offerings across Education City as well as with those at our home campus.”
The conference is the latest outcome of a Task Force on Middle Eastern/Islamic Studies appointed last year and led by Dr Zachary Wright, assistant professor of history and Islamic studies at NU-Q.
The report was a pretext for the consensus conference at which some fifty to seventy faculty, staff and students discussed prospects for a minor in a discussion that considered the role of history, contemporary affairs, religion, politics and the role of the media.
Students attending were asked whether they would pursue a minor if it were offered and there was widespread enthusiasm for such study.
Conferees said the speciality would not only serve NU-Q students and others in Education City, but would also have appeal on the home campus which will begin sending exchange students to Doha in 2013.
In a charge to the conference Dean Dennis called for a clear understanding of the value of such study that embraces several disciplines and professional fields and goes well beyond geography.
While Dennis admitted that there was no formal consensus or vote on the shape for the proposed minor, he said there exists widespread acceptance of the idea and a desire to find a way to take the next steps toward an approved plan that could be ready for students by Fall 2013, though they can already take existing courses.
Whether this will be a formal minor with up to six courses, a concentration or specialization, needs to be worked out, he said.
Following the Consensus Conference, a full day research colloquium explored “New Directions in Middle Eastern Studies,” and gave attention to innovative research inquiries from the fields of anthropology, history and law, political science as well as literature and media.
The delegates included anthropologists, Dr Jessica Winegar and Dr Katherine E Hoffman, historian Dr Henri Lauziere, English and humanities scholar Dr Rebecca Johnson, political scientists Dr Wendy Pearlman and Dr Elizabeth Shankman Hurd and legal scholar and historian, Dr Kristen Stilt, all members of the faculty at Northwestern’s home campus. The Peninsula