Annual Fund helps to deepen cultural understanding at the Institute of Islamic Studies

In 2015 the Arabic and Middle Eastern Society (AMES) secured a substantial grant from Exeter’s Annual Fund to expand the literature available at the Institute of Islamic Studies on Streatham Campus. 

The funding was secured in conjunction with the Islamic Studies Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) allowing Helena Scott, chair of the SSLC, and Tom Kent, President AMES, to start work. They aimed to gather foreign language literature to allow students the opportunity to browse genuine Arab and Islamic literature, helping them to improve their language skills and broaden their cultural understanding.

Although some books were available online many were not, so, after seeking advice from Arab and Iranian staff at the University, Tom set off on a journey to Jordan in order to track down the books they needed.

“Since Arabic literature is both hard to come by and expensive in the UK, Jordan seemed the best option.” Explains Tom, “I had hoped to go anyway in order to practice my Arabic, so the idea worked very well, giving me a fantastic opportunity to talk to ‘muthaqafoon’ or ‘learned people’ who own the  bookshops.

“There are a multitude of bookshops hidden amongst downtown Amman and, over the course of several weeks, I made numerous trips to these shops, comparing prices and investigating stock. Having bought particular books here and there, I eventually settled on a particularly well-stocked bookshop for my ‘big shop’. After negotiating with the owner, I bought a huge stock of books including traditional and modern literature, poetry, English literature in translation, and ‘readers’, which contain the story in Arabic with the corresponding English translation on the opposite page.”

“By the time I arrived back in the UK, our Internet orders had arrived which included Farsi literature, bookstands, dictionaries and more ‘readers’ from various sites. Combined with my Jordanian stock, we had a substantial collection.”

Tom and Helena were then able to install the collection into the study room in the Institute of Islamic Studies. To help people make the most of the collection, they picked out specific favorites and recommendations and wrote short summaries of the books to be displayed on the shelves.

The collection promises to be of great use to all students looking to expand their cultural and language knowledge at the Arabic and Islamic studies Institute.

Date: 23 January 2017

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