The American Studies Center at the University of Bahrain is a division of the Department of English Language & Literature in the College of Arts whose general purpose is to offer a minor in American Studies. In addition, its mission is to foster an increased awareness of various aspects of American culture and society among students and staff at the University, as well as the larger community in Bahrain.
This is done formally through courses offered by the Center in American literature, history, government, and culture. Courses are taught by American Studies Center staff as well as other professors from the Department of English Language and Literature, professors from other areas of the University, and Fulbright scholars who are appointed to the University of Bahrain for a semester or a year.
The American Studies Center also offers an active program of lectures and presentations on various aspects of American culture both for students and outsiders. Speakers are drawn locally from organizations such as the American Mission Hospital, the US Embassy, the American Women’s Association, the American Association of Bahrain, the US Naval Support Activity, the Fulbright program, and others.
In 2004, the Center co-sponsored a visit to Bahrain by Dr. James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, and an authority on Arab Americans and US-Middle East relations. More recently (2006), a grant from the US Embassy enabled the Center to sponsor a Symposium on “Diverse Voices in American Literature.” Scholars/authors from institutions such as Cornell and the University of California presented surveys of the literary contributions by the various ethnic communities they represent in addition to reading from their own poetry, short stories, novels, and essays.
The Center also works closely with the US Embassy to promote various scholarship programs. To date, five of its students are completing their BS degrees at US universities. In addition, a number of students have participated in shorter summer programs such as those sponsored by the Middle East Partnership Initiative.
More recently, a student-initiated ASC Theater, fully organized by ASC students, which shows regularly scheduled American and English language films, has become quite popular in the Center.
The Center publicizes its activities and programs through the regular publication of a semi-annual news magazine as well as an active website.
It was the vision of Dr. Mohamed Al-Ghatam, former President of the University of Bahrain, that such a Center would be a highly beneficial addition to the University program. It was inaugurated in May 1998 by Dr. Al-Ghatam and Mr. Johnny Young, the then-US Ambassador to Bahrain.
To date, the US Embassy in Bahrain has supplied the Center with a large collection of books—from reference works on a variety of topics, to standard collections of American literature and individual monographs on history, social studies, the arts, ethnic studies, religion, politics, etc. In addition, a grant from the Embassy has been used to acquire a substantial collection of videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs, audio cassettes, and printed materials. The University has supplied bookcases, desks, and other furniture, as well as a room in the College of Arts at its Sakhir campus.
The American Studies Program has drawn an increasing number of students to its minor, among them some of the best students in the Department. It is anticipated that the Center will continue to grow and that both its formal academic program as well as its extracurricular offerings will provide students, faculty, and the broader Bahrain community with a deeper and more critical understanding of America and thereby foster increased understanding between the two communities.