Three faculty members from Elizabethtown College have been chosen to join members from other local colleges as participants in the 2011-2012 Faculty International Scholarship Seminar (FISS). Six participants represent five disciplines at three local colleges: Etown, Franklin & Marshall and Gettysburg. The seminar program, focused on the Middle East, includes many on-campus events and a trip to Oman and Egypt hosted by Ambassador John Craig, former ambassador to Oman and current director of the Center for Global Citizenship. The three professors participating from Etown are Dr. Brian Newsome, Dr. Peggy McFarland and Dr. Heather Kanenberg.
Newsome, an assistant professor of history, is conducting a project about Ibadi Islam in the era of Salafi reform. Newsome hopes that, by completing his research, he will be able to “develop units on Ibadi Islam and Ibadi reformism for (his) existing courses on the colonial and post-colonial eras in the Middle East and North Africa.” In the next three to five years, Newsome also hopes to create a course centered directly around Islam, and the trip to Oman and Egypt will help him greatly in his preparation for such a course.
Newsome’s topic of Ibadi Islam is predominant across the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Oman. “Because Ibadi Islam also exists in parts of North Africa, analysis of this branch of Islam would help me bring new perspectives to my courses on both the Middle East and North Africa,” Newsome said. “During my time in Oman, I plan to examine Ibadi Islam on two levels. First, I will participate in tutorials on the fundamentals of Ibadi Islam with an imam.” Newsome will also be in contact with many local scholars in Oman, with the help of Ambassador Craig.
“My second line of inquiry is to focus on what historian John C. Wilkinson has termed, ‘neo-Ibadism:’ the evolution of Ibadi thought prior to and immediately after the election of Salim bin Rashid al-Kharusi as imam in 1913,” Newsome continued. “Together, the tutorials and documentary research [to be conducted while abroad] will allow me to enrich my understanding of Ibadi Islam, both in overarching theological terms and the specifics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century reform movement that played a key role in Muslim responses to European imperialism.” Newsome also added that his work in Oman and Egypt will help him to bring a new “layer of depth” to the courses he currently teaches.
For McFarland, a professor of social work, the topic of her project is social services provision in Oman and Egypt. McFarland said, “One focus will be to increase my knowledge of the provision of social services in the Middle East region of the world for the purposes of advancing the social work department’s emphasis on international social work, human rights and social justice issues.”
Her second focus is exploring “the possibility of establishing a short-term service learning trip to Egypt.” McFarland will use the seminars arranged before the trip, contacts and research she finds while in Egypt and time spent during the international faculty seminar to learn about the area and prepare for a possible student trip in the future.
McFarland has several short and long term goals for both focuses of her trip to Oman and Egypt. She would like to learn more about the provision of social work services and non-government organizations (NGOs) in Egypt and Oman, for the purpose of integrating this knowledge into social work practice classes. McFarland would also like to build relationships with locals on behalf of the College, in order to explore further research study and employment opportunities for students and faculty.
McFarland will also explore the possibility of a short-term service project to Cairo, Egypt in January 2013. The idea of semester-long study abroad and internship opportunities will also be considered during the trips to Oman and Egypt.
As an assistant professor of social work, Kanenberg is conducting another project coming out of Etown. Her project is focused around human rights and women’s rights in the Middle East. Kanenberg is also a member of the women and gender studies faculty and is focusing much of her research to help grow her knowledge in this area.
“It is clear that the region is ripe with opportunities to learn about women and gender issues, social policy, community organizing and social change, all of which are of particular interest to my teaching and research agenda. Given that Oman is considered to be progressive with regard to the roles of women in public life, I envision my work as being focused on meeting with those persons in Oman that are working and living in the community that can share different perspectives on the roles and responsibilities of women and family in their society,” Kanenberg said, regarding her studies in Oman.
Kanenberg also added information about the second part of the trip: “In Egypt, my primary goal would be to connect with the faculty and staff of the Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies at American University, as well as their students. Through meetings to explore the research and work of the institute, I would not only advance my knowledge and collect material for use in my classes, but also develop relationships that could serve as long-term opportunities for collaboration and sharing of information.”
McFarland and Kanenberg will help each other with the development of the proposed short-term study abroad trip to Egypt in 2013.
All three professors will present their projects at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 in Nicarry 212.