The Middle East Institute-Columbia University

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Founded in 1954, The Middle East Institute of Columbia University states on its website that it "has helped to set the national pace in developing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the present, with a primary focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. Fostering an inter-regional and multi-disciplinary approach to the region, the Institute focuses on the Arab countries, Armenia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Central Asia, and Muslim Diaspora communities." [1]

The Institute which is part of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) currently offers a number of courses, including a Regional Concentration in Middle East Studies for current MIA degree candidates and a Certificate in Middle East Studies, as well as sponsoring "approximately 30 lunch-time talks per year on topics ranging from art and literature to current events, hosts conferences, and provides a neutral atmosphere for scholarly and student exchanges of views on issues concerning the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. It offers courses and outreach seminars to teachers and adult education groups, briefs journalists, and generally acts as a clearing-house for requests for information on the region and its peoples by the media, educational professionals, and the interested public, drawing upon the expertise of its own staff and the multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural faculty of the School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia University."[1]


From its website: [1]

Advisory Board

Accessed April 2009: [2]

Research Projects

Muslims in New York

"On February 14, 2002, Columbia University's Muslim Communities in New York City Project, supported by the Ford Foundation, hosted a one-day in-service training for over one hundred New York City high school teachers. This special program, (Re)embracing Diversity in New York City Public Schools: Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity, provided teachers with a fully integrated mini-curriculum that addresses the problem of intolerance towards Arab-, South Asian- and Muslim-Americans in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11."[3]

According to its website the "the curriculum (Re)embracing Diversity combines a wealth of information about Islam and Muslims with interactive classroom activities that foster the critical importance of tolerance and respect for ethnic and religious diversity. For the convenience of teachers, the curriculum is downloadable either in its entirety or as individual lesson plans depending on students' needs or interests. Also, most lessons include one or more handouts, but these must be downloaded separately from the instructor's guide."[3]

Religious and Cultural Missions

"Altruism and Imperialism" conference at Rockefeller Foundation Conference center in Bellagio, Italy.

"Dr.Reeva Simon, Assistant Director of the Middle East Institute, and Dr.Eleanor H. Tejirian, Research Associate, were invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to hold an international conference on "Altruism and Imperialism: Western Religious and Cultural Missions in the Middle East," at the Foundation's conference center in Bellagio, Italy, from August 28-September 1, 2000. The sixteen participants in the conference came from six countries in the Middle East and Europe, as well as the United States. Most of the participants submitted research papers, which were discussed at the conference and will soon be posted on CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online) [1] [3]

"The conference center at Bellagio is housed in a sixteenth century villa that was given to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1959 by Her Serene Highness, Ella, Principessa della Torre e Tasso, the former Ella Walker, heiress to the Hiram Walker fortune. Located on a hillside overlooking the village of Bellagio, the three arms of Lake Como, and the Alps, the estate occupies a promontory extending into the lake and is crowned by the ruins of a medieval fortress. Approximately twenty scholars in the sciences, the arts, and the social sciences are invited to spend a month in residence at the center, and are joined by participants in week-long conferences such as ours, described by the foundation as "small, non-routine conferences that might be expected to arrive at important conclusions concerning the state of knowledge in a given field and point out a path for future development."[3]

According to the Middle East Institute's website, "the intention of the conference on "Altruism and Imperialism" was to bring together scholars from several countries who have been using missionary sources in their research, or who have been working specifically on topics dealing with missionaries. The term "missionary" was broadly defined to include not only Protestant, Anglican, and Roman Catholic missionaries, but also the French lay mission and the Alliance Israelite Universelle, both of which sought to spread French culture rather than having a specifically religious agenda. Our goal was to examine the relevance of mission sources for the broader study of political, social, and economic change in the Middle East, and to retrieve the mission experience as part of the history of the region. Beyond that, we sought to consider the role of the missions in setting an agenda for Western concern that would be carried through by nongovernmental organizations in the present day."[3]

Occasional Papers Series


The Middle East Institute
Columbia University
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027

Telephone: (212) 854-2584
Fax: (212) 854-1413

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 About the Institute-Homepage, accessed April 16, 2009.
  2. Advisory Board, Middle East Institute-Columbia University, accessed April 17, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Research Projects, accessed April 16, 2009.

External resources

External articles