Mason Welcomes New Islamic Studies Program Director

Aydin brings experiences from Istanbul, Tokyo and Harvard to George Mason

by B.J. Koubaroulis

Mason Welcomes New Islamic Studies Program Director

George Mason University welcomes Dr. Cemil Aydin as the new director of its Center for Global Islamic Studies.

Aydin joined Mason’s History and Art History Department in the fall of 2009, holding the Endowed IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies, bringing with him years of experience in the fields of history and Middle Eastern studies.

Aydin studied at Boğaziçi University, İstanbul University, and the University of Tokyo before receiving his Ph.D. degree at Harvard University in 2002.

He was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. Dr. Aydin previously taught at Harvard University, Princeton University, Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Dr. Aydin has published extensively on the international history of the Muslim world and Asia, Orientalism, and global intellectual history. His recent publications include a book, Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (Columbia University Press, 2007), a co-edited volume on “Critiques of the West in Iran, Turkey and Japan” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 26:3 (Fall 2006). Dr. Aydin is currently working on a book manuscript on the intellectual history of the idea of the Muslim World (forthcoming, Harvard University Press).

CHSS Recently caught up with Aydin. Here’s what he had to say:

CHSS: Why did you come to George Mason? What aspects of the Mason environment drew your interest?

AYDIN: For a scholar of Islamic Studies and global history, Mason is now one of the most exciting and attractive campuses in the country. This campus has more than 15 scholars  researching and teaching on issues related to the Muslim world. It is an amazingly diverse campus with a significant Muslim-American student population. Coupled with its key location, I am convinced that Mason will be a major center of scholarship in Islamic studies. Moreover, George Mason’s history department pays close attention to the growing field of world history. After all, Mason Provost Peter Stearns himself is one of the most important scholars of world history in America. These two strengths of Mason in Islamic Studies and world history helped my decision to come here.

CHSS: What are your plans for developing the Islamic studies offerings at Mason in the next few years?

AYDIN: Together with my colleagues in Islamic studies, we are improving the course offerings in Islamic studies, which we hope will culminate with the establishment of a master’s program in Islamic and Arabic Studies. Personally, I will teach undergraduate courses on Islam in world history and graduate courses in intellectual history of the Muslim world. We are working on improving the number of study abroad programs in universities of different Muslim societies and language offerings.

CHSS: What makes Mason a unique place for teaching Islamic studies?

AYDIN: George Mason has one of the most diverse campuses in the world. Here, when we teach about the Muslim world, we are not talking about an unfamiliar religious tradition or parts of the world. Every single classroom here has students from Muslim heritage. Moreover, our students come from relatively cosmopolitan backgrounds. Thus, we have an opportunity to move beyond the simple introductory facts and discuss more complex issues related to Islamic tradition and Muslim societies. Our master’s program, which we hope to start in Fall 2011, will help create a more research-oriented culture as well.

CHSS: What might draw a prospective student to Islamic studies?

AYDIN: Currently, Mason has a fantastic minor program in Islamic studies, with lots of interesting courses offered by leading scholars in their fields. Any student, from any major, can take six rigorous and eye-opening courses on the history, politics, religious tradition, and culture of Muslim societies, and will have a good grasp of this topic. It will prepare students for exciting career opportunities in government and international non-governmental organizations, or help  them enter competitive graduate programs.