Middle East, North African studies major to be offered next fall

Tal Axelrod, Reporter

Northwestern will soon offer a new major in Middle East and North African studies to keep up with increasing interest in the region. The major will be offered to students starting Fall Quarter 2013 and will require a study abroad component in a Middle Eastern or North African country.

The new major, along with majors in the Asian Studies Program, will replace the Middle East Languages and Civilizations major in the Asian and Middle East Studies Program, anthropology Prof. Jessica Winegar said.

“There was a real concerted interest for its building Middle East and North African studies as a central area of academic inquiry these days,” Winegar said. “It was seen as an area of exciting scholarship.”

These factors, combined with the region’s growing influence in international politics, led the University to create this interdisciplinary major, she said.

Winegar said the University is implementing a 300-level seminar sequence specifically for juniors and seniors in the Middle East and North African studies program.  She said enrollment in the seminar will be kept low in order to facilitate  interaction among the students and with the professors.

The University made an effort to acquire professors with expertise in this region of the world, according to Winegar.  The major will have classes on medieval times, but the main focus will be on Ottoman and post-Ottoman Middle East and North Africa.

“We don’t have too many faculty that teach ancient history in the region, but we have faculty that focus on medieval to present times,” Winegar said.

The new major will require 17 course units, including three in history, three in the social sciences and three in the humanities. There are also six units of a language required beyond freshman year.

McCormick freshman Athif Wulandana said he had not heard of the new major, but found it interesting. He said that as a Muslim student, he thought the major could provide more insight about the region and allow students to form their own opinions.

“I think it’s really valuable just because of all the questions (about the region) that people are searching for answers for,” he said. “It’s a culture that’s very foreign to Americans. It’s a different culture that is important for Americans to understand. … It definitely sounds pretty enticing.”