Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Orientalist Training

Martin Kramer (December 6) and Angry Arab may agree, but after seeing the issue I'm not sure I do. Both feel that Middle East Studies should return to orientalist training. That would essentially make Middle East scholars linguists who happen to study history, theology, or whatever. Far be it from me to dispute the importance of language ability for research, but I've certainly benefitted from being trained primarily in the discipline of history, and I'm sure lots of people in other fields feel the same way. True, there's a danger of getting caught up in intellectual fashions of the moment, but I feel I've learned more from poking around a seminar in ancient Roman history or reading Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities than I would have absorbing the traditional orientalist program. However, the best path for any individual probably depends on their particular research interests more than anything else.


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