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S.F. State to strengthen its faculty in Islamic Studies this fall


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June 27, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- San Francisco State University this fall will take the first steps to quickly and dramatically expand its faculty resources devoted to the interdisciplinary and wide-ranging subject of Islamic Studies, an area of growing interest at universities across the country.

If the initiative succeeds -- and gains faculty support -- San Francisco State University will examine the possibility of creating one of the country's first Islamic Studies Program that will be shaped by the new Islamic Studies specialists arriving on the campus this year and next.

"We know that there is much interest from our students and the academic community in Islamic Studies," said Joel J. Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at S.F. State and one of the chief architects of the initiative. "The problem has been that these classes have been offered only occasionally and without any connectiveness. Here at San Francisco State University, we are going to change that."

The idea was first presented to the faculty earlier this year by S.F. State President Robert A. Corrigan, who believed that San Francisco State University urgently needed to take the lead in seeking outstanding scholars for the emerging academic area of Islamic Studies, said Kassiola.

Beginning in the fall, the first scholars will arrive on campus. One is a historian who created S.F. State's course on Islamic history. And the second is a scholar in Islamic culture who will be joining the Department of Humanities. In the meantime, the University will begin four international searches for scholars in academic areas that faculty at S.F. State have painstakingly identified over the last several months.

The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will conduct three of the four searches. The first is in comparative politics of the Middle East and falls under the Department of Political Science. The candidate will teach the politics of Muslim states in the Middle East as well as on Israel and the Palestinian territories. The faculty member's expertise will cover secular states such as Egypt and Turkey, Islamic republics such as Iran and Sudan, and monarchies in the Gulf States and Jordan.

The second search, which falls under the Department of International Relations, will center on a scholar who will teach international and transnational relations of Muslim states and communities. The faculty member will have expertise in social movements both religious and nationalist. The candidate also will teach on other ideologies in relation to development, modernization and globalization.

And the third position, a joint appointment in psychology and anthropology, will focus on cross-cultural psychology. The candidate will teach about children and families in relationship to war, ethnicity and peace, and peace promotion through education. The faculty member also will specialize in areas such as war trauma, ethnic identify development under conditions of war, conflict resolution and the impact of language structure in conflict.

The College of Humanities will begin the fourth search in the cluster for a scholar in Islamic religion for the Department of Philosophy.

Kassiola said that he doesn't think the University will have difficulty filling its faculty searches. "Student interest in Islamic Studies is very strong on our campus, which I think would make these positions very, very desirable," Kassiola said.

Kassiola said although early thinking on the plan began before Sept. 11, the attacks have added the element of immediacy. "The attacks and their aftermath drove home the need for an interdisciplinary focus," Kassiola explained. "The psychology of terrorist motivation, the politics of global identities, and the economics of oil and illiteracy play off each other in ways that defy the theoretical edifice of each individual department in BSS and our university. Our only hope is to enable students to view the complex from different disciplinary angles."

The faculty appointments may be only the first steps in developing even more scholarship on the Middle East at S.F. State. Once the scholars arrive they will work with other faculty to possibly create a Segment III (Relationships of Knowledge) cluster of courses on Islamic Studies, similar to the nine-unit Jewish Experience cluster now offered at S.F. State. Further down the road, the University wants to look at the possibility of developing a minor in Islamic Studies. The university already offers a minor in Jewish Studies.

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Last modified June 27, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs