This symposium looks to define the contours of possibility for revitalized Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies; a revised area studies paradigm that engages with these regions as sites of rich cultural production, tied histories and futures, and locations of critical insight with global import. As recent history has demonstrated, scholarly focus on these pivotal areas is vital to helping students and the general public better understand world events. Despite critical work that has deconstructed the euro-centric nature of these regional categories, Middle East and South Asia Studies have played fundamental roles in ensuring that institutions of higher education incorporate perspectives from regions at the apex of continents and much of world history. As different constructions of world geography, such as the “Global South,” become more prominent on university campuses, how do we ensure that the unique contributions of Middle Eastern and South Asian scholarship do not disappear into just two more interchangeable categories of “other” to an unspoken Euro-American “Global North”? What would it mean to integrate the ways in which South Asia and the Middle East are viewed within these regions, where they are not understood as autonomous spaces but areas with long histories of flow between them? Goods, trade, religion, people, ideas, aesthetics have traveled, been bartered, been transacted: how do we hew to the 'truth' of these mobilizations and movements to transform our ideas about the regions?
Over two days of panels and a keynote presentation, the symposium will highlight collaborations, connections and continuities between these two and other world regions, and the global scale, while maintaining a grounded focus on the depth of regional knowledge that has traditionally marked Area Studies as a discipline. How should Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies adapt to 21st century paradigms and challenges? What aspects of research, teaching and approaches to funding must be reimagined and what must be retained? While setting a broad forward looking goal for the future of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies over the unfolding 21st Century, as a joint Middle Eastern and South Asian Department, this symposium also aims to explore the future of scholarly attention to these regions here at the University of Virginia. We invite scholars whose work speaks to these possible futures, and aim to incorporate the assembled works into an edited volume that will lay out a foundation for future endeavors.