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area studies vs. history - History Graduate Students

About area studies vs. history

Previous Entry area studies vs. history Mar. 22nd, 2010 @ 11:21 am Next Entry
i'm interested in getting a degree in middle eastern studies (focusing in middle eastern history) but i've been told that i should just get a history degree instead and focus in middle eastern history. im aware that in the future (if i should attempt to apply for a tt position in history dept), it might be very difficult for me get accepted. but what do you all think? my former professor stated that the training in history is the most rigorous and thorough than any other area. (with some bias, of course) but i'd also like tog et my degree within 5 years or less. and a phd in history (as we all know) can also add up to 8-10 years (depending on area of study ... and in my case, middle eastern study can take up to 8+ years) please tell me what you think. thanks!
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From:endxgame
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
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I am a history graduate student but I don't know if I'd say history is the most "rigorous and thorough" when it comes to training. Certainly sociologists and political scientists have their own idea of what constitutes rigour and train their students to embrace it.

Depending on your language skills I think five years or less is fairly ambitious in any discipline, but also doable. I am not really convinced that history would take longer than another PhD if all other things are equal and you're an efficient archival researcher.

What field do you envision yourself teaching and publishing in? What methodologies do you normally employ? What books on the subject do you like and find useful? What books do you wish you would have written?
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From:tigg
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
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The 8-10 years, of course, is if you include an MA in there. if you get into a PhD program where they grant you the MA as part of your qualifying process, then you could finish the whole thing in six years with no problem. But, language requirements - whether in middle eastern studies OR history - would probably be the thing that would take the most time for you.
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From:dreadpirateange
Date:March 22nd, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
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In general, there are a few schools that are biased against people from area studies programs (like Middle Eastern studies or American Studies). These programs are often less stable financially, and dependent on the good will and cooperation from many different departments in order to work. Sometimes that results in a powerhouse known nationally for its rigor, and sometimes that results in programs being established only to be reabsorbed by departments when the administration messes up and/or funding runs dry.

Chances are, if you go into Middle Eastern History, you'll be able to take classes in all fields -- Middle Eastern Literature, language, sociology, geography, anthropology/archaeology, etc. and get credit for them. Do find out before you apply, but this is the case with all of the places I applied to and where I've ended up.

And if you pick a place that has both a history department strong in Middle Eastern faculty, and a Middle Eastern Studies program, you can often get a special certificate that works similar to the way dual majors work in undergrad.

Also, your former prof isn't wrong. Often, history departments have the most funds out of the humanities and their students are better taken care of. These departments have more say in administrative processes and tend to be on the larger side, and these advantages will trickle down to you.
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From:bafooz
Date:March 22nd, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
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The reason, as already stated above, many people in "_____ Studies" (the ones that involve challenging languages, at least) take longer is because we have language requirements way above & beyond those of our American & Europeanist colleagues, generally speaking. I'm in an Asian historical field & we have to pass three language exams, as compared to one or two for other field groups. In my field, we also have more challenges when it comes to accessing archival sources, tend to go abroad for a year minimum while doing our research, etc.

I do work in a non-area studies "____ studies" field, in addition to my more obviously historical research, and I have ALWAYS been told (by both historians & people in other fields) it's better to come from a solid disciplinary background, whether that's history, sociology, or whatever. I take classes outside my primary field & get plenty of exposure elsewhere, but people do seem to feel better when they know what they're getting (or think they know - which is easier to do when you have a degree in 'history' vs. '___ studies')
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
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Heating and Air Conditioning.

Seriously. Less school, better money, better hours, and people actually understand why what you do is important.
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From:raven_moon
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
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*snerk*
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)

midwest85 responding (too lazy to sign on)

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what does that mean?
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85 responding (too lazy to sign on)

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"History or ____ Studies" is a false binary. There are other options. Like HVAC certification.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)

midwest85 replying again

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ok, it took a while for me to get that. haha. truth be told, i'm not planning to become a full-time student. im already a full-time research librarian (with great benefits); i work at a top research library in the world, and frankly, my workplace provides financial support for me to pursue advance study. im interested in collection development and sharpening my bibliographic research skills in middle eastern studies/history. so im not just another person who should consider going into plumbing work instead of academia.
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85 replying again

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So assuming you're the OP...

What does it matter which you choose?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)

midwest85 again

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well, in case if i decide to aim for a tt position in the future. and also if ___ studies is worth it over just history. i was just looking for feedback from history grad students to see what they might say.
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85 again

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Well, now you're contradicting yourself.

If you're doing this out of a love of lifelong learning & because it won't cost anything, then it really doesn't matter.

If you're doing it out of a desire to jump the library ship for the teaching tanker eventually, I'd strongly suggest broadening your search parameters, because they're both pretty crap job markets.

Whichever of the contradictory things you said you finally decide you actually are, there's one opinion from someone familiar with both markets.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85 again

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look, i was curious what history people had to say about this. that's all.
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85 again

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And as somebody a few years into a History PhD, whose MA is in _______ Studies, I offered my opinion, bifurcated to match the two different reasons you claim to be asking.

I'd suggest you look at what the experts on the market have to say on the topic In History I'd recommend Sterling Fluharty and the AHA's Rob Townsend. It's not good out there.

And personally, I switched to history 'cause there were more HIST listings than interdisciplinary regional studies ones.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)

midwest85:

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Thanks, I wanted to read just this kind of feedback, "I'd suggest you look at what the experts on the market have to say on the topic In History I'd recommend Sterling Fluharty and the AHA's Rob Townsend. It's not good out there. And personally, I switched to history 'cause there were more HIST listings than interdisciplinary regional studies ones."

Not the other comments about plumbing or HVAC certification -- that was unhelpful and unnecessary. but you are entitled your opinion. i still fail to see how i'm making two different claims? i just wanted advice whether area studies vs. history is much different after all and see what others had to say.
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From:pansette
Date:March 23rd, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)

Re: midwest85:

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They're different, but the degree to which they are different, and to some extent the ways that they are different, is dependent on your reasons for getting the degree.

You're going to get different things out of a program if you're there to get a career, or to do it for the love of learning, or to advance a career you've already begun. Different circumstances bring us to have different experiences.

You said different things-- that you're interested in getting the degree simply out of a desire to be a life-long student, and then you said that you wanted to get a tenure-track position. Different goals. And if you were doing it to advance yourself as, say, a subject reference librarian, that'd be a different goal as well. With different goals, we approach things differently, and get different results. The fact that you're not clear on your goals makes me want to encourage you to think about it a bit more before applying. This is a major undertaking, a commitment.

As for what you feel is helpful or unhelpful, I'm under no obligation to be either, so I don't really care what you think is what. Personally, I think that lightheartedly saying "Don't do it" is EXTREMELY valuable feedback. Especially since I did frame it in terms of a craptastic job market.

Edited at 2010-03-23 09:07 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)

last comment from mw85

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people have different ideas and goals. what i might want to do now might change over the course of my study. who knows. and yes, you should be "determined" when you apply for a phd program, but guess what, things always change. and im mindful of that.

and maybe you should start considering a change in your academic career if you are so focused on this craptastic job market. it's obviously making you bitter about it.

im not in the same situation as you. if you don't care whether your opinions are helpful or not, please stop posting comments that aren't helpful. Maybe you should stop wasting time on livejournal and start being productive and optimistic about your career; otherwise, maybe it's you who should consider a career in plumbing.
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From:pansette
Date:March 24th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)

Re: last comment from mw85

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I'm not "bitter." But I have actually looked at the numbers and been watching job listings for the last six years.

I'm optimistic about my career. Doesn't mean I need to be optimistic about the job market in general, or your or any other individual's prospects on the market.

Since I don't know anything about you or your skills, I'm forced to assume you're a perfectly average potential PhD candidate. Which means that, statistically speaking, your chances of ever landing a tenure-track position are significantly less than 50%. It's worse than a coin toss, optimistic or not.
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