Starting next fall, students at the College of William and Mary will learn how connected the world is in a newly joined program – Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
The multidisciplinary degree-seeking program integrates East Asian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. The new joint program will offer students an opportunity to better understand what unites and separates the neighboring regions, which have historically been connected through trade, travel, pilgrimage, proselytizing, warfare, colonization and more, according to Professor Sibel Zandi-Sayek, co-director of the Asian Studies Initiative.
“They also share comparable, albeit distinct, experiences in their imperial and colonial pasts, nation-building efforts and modernization processes,” Zandi-Sayek said of the two regions.
Asian Studies faculty received a grant from the Freeman Foundation three years ago to re-examine how they taught their discipline. Through collaboration with 35 faculty members from 11 departments and programs, they agreed to explore an idea of studying Asia in the international world.
“Even though we’ve been teaching what have been considered very separate areas, we realized there are lots of bridges between East Asia, the Middle East and South Asia,” said Professor Rachel DiNitto, co-director of the Asian Studies Initiative.
The new curriculum will allow students to choose a track in either East Asia or the Middle East. They will study the history, politics, religion, literature, fine and media arts, performing arts, expressive and ritual culture and the major languages of the region. Minors will be offered in four areas: East Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, South Asian Studies or Comparative and Diaspora Studies.
“We wanted to offer students a broad, interdisciplinary scope, but also a more in-depth specialization,” DiNitto said. Specialization in more than one area can be beneficial for students aiming to work in the Foreign Service or for the government, she said.
Current students who are freshman or sophomores, along with incoming freshmen, will be eligible to enroll in the program.