New UConn Major Aims for Cultural Connections

The new Arabic and Islamic Civilizations program at the University of Connecticut hopes to bring context and conversation to an increasingly connected world by offering courses ranging from the classical to the contemporary.

The program, which will include a major and minor track, will launch during the 2018-19 academic year, Dr. Nicola Carpentieri, Assistant Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic studies at UConn, said.

“One of the great assets of this program is that students have a choice to focus on contemporary issues like modern Arabic literature, Arabic cinema or the press,” Carpentieri said. “Or they can focus on the classical heritage.”

Courses under the major will provide for a variety of interests with topics including classical Arabic literature, folk tales, Arabic media and more, Carpentieri said.

“I had to create about 14 new courses to cover the kinds of things that I think students would be interested in,” Carpentieri said. “We also have quirky things like a course on folk tales and advice literature for princes…These kinds of things are part of Islamicate culture.”

Among the program’s many goals is to provide a distinction between Arabic and Islamic culture and to study their interaction, Carpentieri said.

“We aim here to give a plural and inclusive view of Arabic and Islamic civilizations in many linguistic traditions but also different religious traditions,” Carpentieri said.  “Arabic is always associated with Islam but that’s a very simplistic association.”

Morgan Boudreau, a senior graduating this May with an individualized major in Arabic and Islamic Studies, said she is elated to see her interests reflected in the new courses.

“It’s really nice to see that once I graduate people will be able to pursue that degree path,” Boudreau said. “I think UConn is a great place for this program because they have such a unique student body.”

Janae McMillan, a sixth-semester political science major, said that for some students such as herself, UConn provided the first opportunity to explore the Arab world and spurred interest in pursuing further studies about this topic in the future.

“I think it’s important that students have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, especially those that are as fascinating as Arabic and Islam,” McMillan said. “I started at the college level and now that I know how amazing it is, I wish other students could have that same possibility.”

Carpentieri said he is enthusiastic about the program’s future.

“There’s a lot to be learned I think,” Carpentieri said. “If students are interested in the Arab world and Islam, we hope to offer this to open the eyes of people on the positive values of every culture.”


This article first appeared on the Daily Campus on 2/8/2018 and was written by Colin Sitz. The photo is from Dunia: Kiss Me Not on the Eyes directed by Jocelyne Saab (2015).