First Year Program - Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Skip Navigation

Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MIST)

Director: G. Frank

Colgate offers both a major and a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MIST). The MIST program focuses on the Middle East and North Africa while also studying the wider Islamic world. It provides students with an understanding of the origins and development of the Islamic faith in its heartland, as well as an awareness of the multi-cultural and dynamic character of modern Islam. It also trains students in the history, culture, politics, and political economy of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Islamic world.

The area encompassed by this minor extends from Morocco to the Philippines. It contains an extraordinary variety of linguistic and ethnic groups such as Arabs, Iranians, Turkic peoples, Kurds, Baluchis, Malays, and others. This region is home to over 1.4 billion Muslims, who constitute more than one fifth of the world’s population. It is the source of a rich religious and intellectual tradition that emerged from the same roots as the Western tradition and evolved over a long history of interaction with the West. It also plays an important role in global peace, security, and prosperity. These demographic, cultural, and strategic considerations will lead to a steady increase in contact between the Islamic world and the West in the future. The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program equips Colgate students with the knowledge and conceptual tools needed to understand and manage this relationship.

The themes addressed by the program include the history and development of the Islamic faith; colonialism and its impact on the cultures, economies, and polities of the region; the rise of nationalism and its relationship to tribal, religious, and ethnic identities; the emergence and impact of political Islam; the Arab-Israeli conflict; the prospects for democratization; and United States foreign policy toward the Middle East, North Africa, and the Islamic world.

Courses counting toward the MIST major and minor are drawn from various departments and programs, including art history, the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, history, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology and anthropology, and others. The program also offers elementary, intermediate, and advanced Arabic language courses. MIST 121 provides basic training in listening, speaking, reading, and writing Modern Standard Arabic. Students with background in Arabic are encouraged to contact the program director about Intermediate Arabic I (MIST 201).


View all with day/time information
CORE 183C, The Middle East
A multi-disciplinary introduction both to the region conventionally referred to as the Middle East, and also to the academic discipline of Middle Eastern Studies. In other words, it is a study of the people, religion, history, and culture of the region, and also about the politics of studying that region. One of the presuppositions is that a careful, rigorous, and critical study of cultural studies can help one understand one’s own assumptions, presuppositions, etc. Among the topics students examine are the multiple interpretations of religion, including sects within Islam, that exist in the region; a variety of cultural practices and various languages; and the effect of imperialism and colonialism on the area. Readings include what current native commentators are saying on cultural, economic, and social debates.

HEBR 121, Elementary Hebrew I
Teach modern Hebrew as spoken in Israel and are designed for students who are interested in developing oral and written Hebrew skills. The course is helpful to those who are interested in deeper knowledge of Jewish culture and wish to improve their knowledge of Hebrew for religious studies. Designed for students with no previous Hebrew background and students who have learned to read phonetically without comprehension.

MIST 121, Elementary Arabic I
Offers elementary training in the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing through intensive training in the phonology and script of Modern Standard Arabic and its basic vocabulary and fundamental structure. There is a focus on simple interactive communicative tasks involving teacher with students and students among themselves. Basic grammar is taught through reading, writing, and speaking drills in conjunction with the formal exercises in the text. This training is supplemented with simple lessons on interpersonal transactions and cultural contexts.

RELG 234, Women & Religious Traditions
Examines autobiographical, biographical, descriptive, and historical materials that present and analyze the lives of women in the context of various religious traditions. In a given term, students focus upon specific geographical areas, historical periods, and/or religious traditions.

RELG 282, Islamic Traditions
Conceives of Islam as a cumulative tradition beginning with the event of the Qur'an and the paradigmatic example of Prophet Muhammad. The unfolding of this religious tradition is traced through the formation of Shi'a and Sunni schools of Islamic thought, the schools of law, the subtleties of Islamic mysticism, nuances of philosophical thought, and creative artistic expression in the form of calligraphy, music, and poetry. Concludes with two sections: an overview of the multi-faceted responses of Muslims to the challenges of modernity and post-colonialism, and the contemporary debates about the status of Muslim women and their self-understandings.