Dean Randall Woods Appoints Vincent Cornell Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Vincent Joseph Cornell will assume the post of Director of the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences beginning July 1, 2000.

Dr. Cornell is a nationally known scholar in Islamic studies whose expertise extends across the entire field, from Islamic history to theology and law. His 1998 book Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism was praised by a peer reviewer as "the most significant study of the Sufi tradition in Islam to have appeared in the last two decades."

After earning a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1989, Cornell joined the Department of Religion at Northwestern University in Illinois as a visiting professor. He served as assistant professor of religion at The University of Georgia from 1990 until 1991, when he began teaching at Duke University. During his tenure at Duke as an associate professor in the Department of Religion, he created new courses in Islam, Muslim minorities in society, and the cosmologies of religion.

"Dr. Cornell will certainly bring other talented scholars and students to our Middle East Studies program," said Randall Woods, dean of Fulbright College. "His expertise is such that The New York Times, Voice of America, and other national media outlets regularly seek his opinion on issues ranging from the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 to Islam in America."

Cornell is the author of two major books, 18 articles and book chapters in print, six book reviews, and seven works in progress, including a casebook on Islamic law for American law schools. He won two grants from the U.S. Information Agency to direct overseas summer programs in Cairo, was named Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Religion at Duke in recognition of excellence in teaching and research; and was a recipient of two Fulbright scholarships for research in Morocco and Malaysia. His dissertation was the 1990 winner of the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Humanities from the Middle East Studies Association.

"The substantial endowment that supports the King Fahd Program creates opportunities unmatched by any Middle East Studies program in the United States," said Cornell. "It allows for scholarly initiatives and cooperative and outreach ventures that are, in effect, limited only by the scope of one's imagination. These opportunities are enhanced by the geographical location of the University of Arkansas, which is well situated to become the premier center for Middle East Studies in a wide region, bordered by Texas to the west, Missouri to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and North Carolina and Georgia to the east."

Cornell, who spent nearly six years in Morocco as well as substantial time in Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia, plans several initiatives for strengthening and broadening the scope of the King Fahd Program.

"Although the program is presently focused on the Arab world and parts of Africa, I see its regional scope expanding to include Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, South Asia, and even Islamic Southeast Asia. It should retain its interdisciplinary character and augment its fine core faculty in history, anthropology, political science, and education with new faculty in sociology, economics, law, and similar relevant disciplines. In foreign languages, faculty should eventually be augmented by new positions in Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew."

Cornell said he will coordinate activities with other international studies programs on campus whenever possible. "For example, the program's connection with Morocco might be used to enhance offerings in both the Arabic language and francophone African literature, while students and faculty interested in Spanish language and history might also use this connection to pursue studies in the history and civilization of Islamic Spain. The Religious Studies Program can benefit from the King Fahd Program, both in the study of Islam and in the study of early Christianity and the eastern churches in North Africa, Egypt, and Syria. To facilitate such interdisciplinary connections, the program will provide an active schedule of conferences and lectures, to be held on a regular basis throughout the academic year," he explained.

Building the international stature and reputation of the program, said Cornell, will serve as a fitting tribute to former Senator J. William Fulbright. "The Fulbright grant programs provided the means for many scholars in Middle East Studies, including myself, to pursue their careers."

Vincent Joseph Cornell, associate professor of religion, Duke University, 919-660-3502,

Randall B. Woods, dean, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, 479-575-4804,


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