Emory approves new Ph.D. in Islamic Civilizations Studies

By Elaine Justice | May 2, 2012

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While a focus on the religion of Islam is not excluded from the new Ph.D. program in Islamic Civilizations Studies, it is designed primarily for students who wish to study Islamic civilizations beyond the topic of religion.

A new Ph.D. program in Islamic Civilizations Studies (ICIVS) has been approved by Emory University's Board of Trustees for the university's Laney Graduate School. 

"Faculty have come together from several Emory schools and departments to establish a comprehensive approach to research and scholarship in this vital area, a pattern which is a hallmark of the Laney Graduate School,” says Lisa Tedesco, dean of the Laney Graduate School and vice provost for academic affairs–graduate studies. 

The program will offer an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the global impact of Islam, says Vincent Cornell, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Middle East and Islamic Studies and chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies.

"Demand for specialists in the Islamic world and Islamic studies is high and is expected to remain so for the next decade at least,” he says. "The program in Islamic Civilizations Studies will be a place for graduate students who are interested in the interface between the histories, languages, literatures and societies of the Islamic world.”

The new independent and interdisciplinary program is designed to complement and cooperate with Emory's current Ph.D. programs in the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR), anthropology, comparative literature, Spanish, history, political science, philosophy and the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. It also is designed to complement and cooperate with current and future programs in Jewish studies.

While a focus on the religion of Islam is not excluded from the program, it is designed primarily for students who wish to study Islamic civilizations beyond the topic of religion.

"In recent years, Emory has established itself as a major center of Middle Eastern and South Asian studies,” says Cornell. "Although an Islamic studies concentration already exists in the GDR, the intellectual importance of the Islamic world extends beyond religion alone. 

Currently 23 universities in the U.S. and Canada offer Ph.D. degrees in Islamic studies in conjunction with religious studies or religion programs. Emory's own Islamic track in its Graduate Division of Religion is a prime example. But "few programs outside of Emory are truly interdisciplinary,” says Cornell. 

Emory already is home to some of the top scholars in the fields of Islamic studies, Middle Eastern studies, South Asian studies, political science, law and anthropology, who will teach in the new Ph.D. program, along with the language faculty in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies.  

Another advantage of the program is Emory's membership in a consortium for the study of Islam with Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Each institution's graduate students can take courses at member institutions without paying extra tuition, attend professional conferences sponsored by the institutions, and have access to a wider pool of potential dissertation committee members. 

The program will begin accepting applications in fall 2012 for the first class of students entering in fall 2013.