Stanford University

News Service


NEWS RELEASE

12/11/01

Lisa Trei, News Service (650) 725-0224; e-mail: lisatrei@stanford.edu

Campus reacts to events of Sept. 11 with courses in a range of fields

International security, bioterrorism and Islamic studies have become hot topics for students following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As the university responds to soaring class enrollments in those fields, it plans to beef up Middle East scholarship with proposals to hire additional faculty in the Department of Religious Studies.

"Students want to try to promote some serious dialogue on the causes and consequences of Sept. 11 for themselves and their generation," said history Professor Norman Naimark, director of the International Relations and International Policy Studies programs. "There's a tremendous amount of interest. People want to understand how their world is changing." In response, International Relations will offer five courses next quarter related to the September attacks.

Religious studies Professor Bob Gregg, associate dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, said fundraising has been under way for about three years to hire Islamic scholars, specifically for two faculty and several graduate student positions. With support from school Dean Sharon Long, Gregg said he expects to reach that goal in the near future.

"[Professor] Arnie Eisen and I have been pressing the administration for 10 years to have more scholars of Islam on the faculty and in Religious Studies," Gregg said. "It's quite an embarrassment that Stanford doesn't have this and that most other [major] universities do. A lot of people around the university have gotten a positive wake-up call from Sept. 11 that Islamic culture is not understood."

History Associate Professor Ahmad Dallal has been trying to fill the breach since September. "I'm a bit exhausted lecturing all the time but, on the other hand, I feel there's a need for it," said the scholar of Islam. "People are genuinely interested so I can't turn my back on them. That's a great knee-jerk reaction. It could be much worse."

Apart from the History Department which includes Professor Joel Beinin, a Middle East politics expert, and Assistant Professor Kathryn Miller, a medievalist Dallal said the field is seriously underrepresented on a departmental level. "It's scandalous not to have someone to teach Islam [in Religious Studies]," he said. "People haven't recognized the geopolitical importance of the Muslim world, which has one-quarter of the world's population. For some reason, it doesn't sink in."

Mary Dakin, assistant director at the Center for Russian and East European Studies (CREES), said one historical reason for failing to focus on the region is student perception of the job market. "We're still looking at the consequences of research agendas driven by the Cold War," she said. "Afghanistan, India, Pakistan these are areas that have been neglected everywhere, not just by Stanford."

CREES, for its part, plans to offer broader courses. "We will be making concrete efforts to include Afghanistan in expanded coverage of Central Asia, in particular as it relates to political and security issues in the post-Communist world," she said. Next month, CREES will organize a panel on rebuilding Afghanistan from a foreign policy perspective. "This [situation] isn't going to go away," she said. "This [represents] a long-term shift in public interest and research agendas."

Political science Professor David Laitin, who studies ethnicity, insurgency and civil war with department colleague Professor James Fearon, said Middle East studies long has faced problems consolidating itself in political science departments in the United States. "I've been on hiring committees since 1975 and major universities around the country have had difficulties appointing Middle East specialists," he said. "There's an enormous amount of back-stabbing. The conflicts in the region tend to work their way into conflicts among scholars. When you try to make an appointment, the set of [reference] letters always includes some diatribes about the shoddiness of the [person's] scholarship. It's much more difficult for a department to get a consensus."

That said, Laitin is upbeat about the future of Middle East research in his department. Graduate students Quinn Mecham and David Patel respectively are researching Islamic fundamentalism and the social organization of Islam. "In my view, Stanford, without a Middle East expert, may produce some of the finest Middle East scholars of the next generation," Laitin said. "They're getting the kind of analytical training that's enabling them to ask fundamental questions that have not really been addressed by the specialists."

While Stanford may lack Middle East scholars, the campus offers rich published and archival resources from the region, said Edward Jajko, deputy curator of the Middle East collection at the Hoover Institution. "It's a well-kept secret for many," he said. The 125,000-volume collection, established in 1948 and open to the public, focuses on 20th-century history, politics and social movements. The holdings are mostly in Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Western languages. They include an Islamic fundamentalist movement collection and audiotapes of fiery Islamic rhetoric from the Persian Gulf War period.

Jajko, curator since 1983, has spent the last few years tracking online listservs from the region that will be copied onto CD-ROMs. While the Sept. 11 attacks horrified him, Jajko said the online dialogues in recent years indicated a growing antipathy from some groups in the Middle East toward the United States. "One could see a tremendous amount of hate building up," he said. "That hasn't changed since the attacks. People have remarked, 'Now they know what it feels like,' and 'About time.'" But, he added, people also expressed sympathy for what happened.

Naimark wants the scholarly community to look at such issues raised in the post-Sept. 11 world in a serious and rigorous fashion. "We're far away [from the center of conflict] and living in a pretty place," he said. "But this is our world and we have to understand it."

 

 

A sampling of Winter Quarter courses related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks includes:

 

IR 121. Beyond Jihad: Indonesia in Global Perspective. Donald Emmerson, senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies

 

IR 141. European Security: NATO and EU from Cold War to Sept. 11. Heinz Gaertner, Austrian chair

 

IR 161. Russia and Islam. Hoover Senior Fellow John Dunlop

 

IR 193A. Understanding 9/11: Its Causes, Context and Consequences. Naimark and lecturer Gili Drori will be the advisers for this student-initiated course.

 

IR 194. American Foreign Policy at Sept. 11. Michael McFaul, associate professor of political science, and Hoover Senior Fellow Larry Diamond

 

PS 138. International Security in a Changing World. The course will include a panel discussion on "What Is Terrorism?" led by Laura Donohue, a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. In the spring, she will teach PS 138C. Security, Civil Liberties and Terrorism.

 

During the Summer Session, Cultural and Social Anthropology will offer two related courses: CASA 119S. Investigating Violence: An Anthropological Approach and CASA 187B. Anthropological Approaches to Human Rights.

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By Lisa Trei

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