Islamic concentration to be offered in the fall

By Hae-Ryun Kang

Beginning in the fall, Macalester students will be able to take courses in a new Islamic Studies concentration. The interdepartmental course plan is part of several Islamic Studies efforts, including two searches for professors.Islamic World Studies, the official name for the concentration, will overlap a wide array of disciplines, including sociology, political science, religious studies, classics, and international studies. It is being organized by the Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization Interdepartmental Program.

“I’m excited about it,” Evelyn Daugherty ’11 said. “I like how you can learn about Islamic society in multiple disciplines. You must take seven classes. You can’t have more than two from one discipline.”

According to the Macalester College Catalog, the Islamic program will “[promote] breadth by requiring that students complete courses (in several departments) dealing with both Middle East and the wider Islamic world; it [will promote] depth by requiring a capstone project focused on a relevant topic.”

The department is coordinated by Sociology Professor Khaldoun Samman, who will be on sabbatical until August 2009. So far the department has arranged interdisciplinary faculty meetings and is on the lookout for new professors in Islamic Studies. However, there is “no mud on its boots” as of yet, said Professor of Classics Andrew Overman.

“It requires time for any concentration to become ensconced in the Mac curricular map,” he said. “And right now, we are looking for new energy, new impetus. There is tremendous interest in the Islamic concentration, and with the right structure and administration, the core faculty will crystallize over time.”

In addition to the new concentration, two departments are searching for new professors specializing in Islamic Studies.

International Studies is looking for the next Humphrey Endowed Chair, a seat that is not exclusive to Islamic Studies, but has been held by professors specializing in Islamic Studies for the past few years. The seat is currently held by Smadar Lavie.

Religious Studies is also in the process of finding a new professor of Islam. So far neither department has identified a top candidate.