As pro-democracy protests and uprisings gain momentum in the Middle East, Harvard's Government Department remains without an expert in the field of Middle Eastern political science.
The department has not had an expert in its ranks since visiting Professor Emad Shahin left in 2009, and has not had a tenured position in the field since Nadav Safran retired about 20 years ago.
The Government Department currently does not have a search in progress for a new professor, according to Government Department Chair Timothy J. Colton.
"The problem isn't a lack of demand on our side, it's a lack of supply," Colton said. "There just aren't enough people being trained to do this."
Colton added that language barriers and the difficulty of doing research under authoritarian governments deter scholars from entering the field. The department has struggled in the past to secure scholars for both junior and senior level faculty positions.
"It'd be nice to have a few more professors considering what's going on in the world, but I definitely don't feel like I'm missing out," said Colby A. Wilkason '13, who is concentrating in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
The Government Department has used visiting professors and graduate students with experience in Middle Eastern studies to help fill the void.
According to Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch, the department tries to provide seminars that "touch on issues relevant to Middle East politics," such as Gov 98wd: "Islam and Secular Public Spaces" and Gov 90da: "Democracy, Alienation, and Muslims in the West." They also direct students to courses in NELC, she said.
William E. Granara, a professor who teaches courses on Arabic language and literature in NELC, offers two courses on the modern Arab world (Arabic 162 and 170) that together span Arabic history from the Ottoman Empire to the present day.
The Government Department also tries to cross-list courses taught by Middle East expert and Harvard Kennedy School Professor Tarek Masoud, according to Welch.
Masoud, currently on sabbatical, normally offers a course at the Kennedy School called "Middle East Policy."
While the Government Department has tried to get Masoud to teach at the College in the past, Masoud said he has not had the opportunity.
"I would love to teach students in the College, but my obligations to HKS students, and the fact that I took a research leave this year, have meant that I haven't had a chance to do so yet," Masoud said.
Other Middle East-focused courses include Anthropology Professor Steven Caton's Anthropology 2690: "Middle East Ethnography: Discourse, Politics, and Culture" and Middle East History Professor E. Roger Owen's History 1891: "Understanding the Middle East since 1945: The Basic Socio-Economic and Political Structures." Owen also teaches a seminar titled "Debates in the Political and Ideological History of the Middle East."
—Staff Writer Julia L. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff Writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at email@example.com.