In the Fall 2020 semester, the Department of World Languages and Cultures’ new Middle Eastern Studies Minor welcomed its first students. The minor aims to provide Iowa State students with an in-depth understanding of the history, politics, arts, cultures, and languages of the Middle East. While it is housed in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, it is an interdisciplinary endeavor that brings together faculty from the departments of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Political Science, and World Languages and Cultures. Most of the courses offered as part of the minor are taught in these key departments. Students who enroll in the minor will not only get a chance to expand their geographic, intellectual, and cultural horizons but will get valuable training that will prepare them for potential careers in education, international business, law, foreign service, the military, national security, intelligence, and non-governmental organizations operating in or focusing on the Middle East, as well as inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and its many agencies.
The Middle Eastern Studies Minor also hopes to foster a sense of community and provide an intellectual platform for both faculty and students who are interested in or do research in the Arab world, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and Turkey. Aside from the courses and career paths mentioned above, the minor will hopefully serve as a focal point for organizing conferences, talks, and cultural events related to the region. It also promises to be a hub of exchange between Iowans and Iowa State’s vibrant international student community.
Dr. Gabiam is an expert in migration, both within and from the Middle East. She first became interested in the Middle East as an undergraduate student after taking a class on People and Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. After getting her BA in anthropology, she spent two years teaching Social Studies at an American school in Kuwait and then decided to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology. Her doctoral dissertation as well as her first book examine a United Nations-led attempt to transition from a focus on humanitarian aid to a focus on sustainable development in Syria’s Palestinian refugee camps. She is currently writing her second book on the experiences of Palestinians refugees who have been displaced by the ongoing war in Syria. Drawing on these experiences, she reflects on how recurring displacement within the Middle East and beyond is affecting Palestinian identity and political claims.
Dr. Low specializes in the history of the late Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Peninsula, and Middle Eastern connections with the Indian Ocean world. After his undergraduate degree, Dr. Low taught 7th grade in Atlanta, Georgia. He first became interested in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world while working with international students from Bosnia, Somalia, West Africa, the Arab world, and South Asia. During his graduate studies at Georgia State University and Columbia University, he studied Arabic in Yemen and Morocco and traveled widely across the Islamic world from Timbuktu to Singapore. Eventually, his interests migrated to Istanbul, Turkey, where he studied Turkish and Ottoman Turkish. Dr. Low wrote his dissertation and first book on the Ottoman Empire’s administration of the pilgrimage to Mecca. If international travel becomes possible again soon, Dr. Low will be spending this year at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates.