29 September 2016
This issue of The Middle East in London magazine is a special issue devoted to the SOAS Centenary in 2016, so on this occasion we have renamed it The Middle East at SOAS.
Set up one hundred years ago ostensibly to serve Britain’s diplomatic language training needs in her Eastern colonies, SOAS is now a much transformed educational establishment. Our offi cial strapline describes it as ‘the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.’ Despite the fact that the Middle East is only embedded in the ‘Oriental’ portion of SOAS’s offi cial title, or that it comes after ‘Asia and Africa’, the Middle East has been and remains at the heart of SOAS and its regional perspective on world affairs. The structure of this magazine and the varied contributions to it make this point amply clear.
Given this centrality, the idea of celebrating the SOAS Centenary through a special issue of our magazine needs little justifi cation perhaps. The spirit of this task is reflected in the structure withwhich the contributions are presented in this issue:
- The Study of the Middle East
- The Middle East & SOAS
- The Past in the Present
The first section reflects on the historical depth and breadth of Middle Eastern studies as an interdisciplinary field within area studies at large, its scope and methodological complexities and its evolution over time. This is true of the region at large as well as particular countries and subregions which highlight it (for instance, the study of Iran, Palestine and the GCC states).
The second section highlights SOAS’s intertwined relationship with the region both in historical perspective and its current offerings (for instance, the study of languages, ancient religions, art andarchaeology, to name but a few).
Last, but not least, the final part is an acknowledgement of the challenges remaining for understanding the contemporary Middle East and the importance of past perspectives for shedding light on the present and future.
Submissions for this issue were initially commissioned from all academic members of the London Middle East Institute at SOAS (a remarkable concentration of academic expertise exceeding some 80 scholars). This was followed by specific invitations to colleagues (including selected external associates and Editorial Board members) to write on chosen subjects. The challenge was to produce pieces that were critical and reflective rather than pieces that could be read as SOAS publicity material! I hope the result justifies this challenge and is as enjoyable as the work that went into producing this hefty – double – volume over the past few months!
The real unsung heroes of The Middle East in London are as always the readership, the Editorial Board members and my colleagues Megan Wang, Shahla Geramipour, Vincenzo Paci and Louise Hosking without whom the magazine would not see the light of day.
A big thank you to all!
For more information visit The Middle East in London.