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Middle East Studies

The concentration in Middle East Studies (MES) seeks to build a strong, interdisciplinary understanding of historical and contemporary issues within the Middle East, broadly defined. Requirements are intentionally flexible to accommodate the focused interests of students in understanding the diverse dynamics, histories, and societies of this region. A variety of courses from departments across the University, addressing subjects from antiquity to the present day, expose students to methods and materials of different disciplines and help them build a framework for understanding the Middle East in historical and contemporary context. Concentration requirements are structured around four major cornerstones: language, foundational knowledge and methods, multidisciplinary area studies, and research.

A semester-by-semester roster of courses eligible for MES elective credit can be found on the Center for Middle East Studies website.

Standard Program for the AB Degree

Foundational Courses: All MES concentrators are expected to take both of the following foundational courses. It is recommended that students take the first foundational course (MES 0100: The Middle East: Cultures and Societies—offered every spring) before taking the second foundational course (MES 1968: Approaches to the Middle East—offered every fall). Foundational course requirements cannot be fulfilled via independent study, study abroad, or transfer credits.2
The Middle East: Cultures & Societies 1
Approaches to the Middle East (HIST 1968A) 2
Electives: Students must take at least five elective courses chosen in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) from among the courses listed by MES as approved electives on its website ( Students may apply up to two Middle Eastern language credits (beyond those that fulfill the language requirement: see below) to the MES electives requirement. To allow for exposure of different disciplinary approaches to the Middle East, students must take at least one course in the humanities (offered within the departments of Archaeology and the Ancient World, Classics, Comparative Literature, History of Art and Architecture, Modern Culture and Media, Philosophy, or Religious Studies) and at least one course in the social sciences (offered within the departments of Anthropology, History, International Relations, Political Science, Sociology, or Urban Studies). Some examples of recent courses that would fulfill these requirements include:5
The World of Byzantium
The Architectures of Islam
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Social Sciences:
Middle East in Anthropological Perspective
Understanding the Middle East: 1800s to the Present
Geopolitics of Oil and Energy
Migration, Displacement and Emerging Community Experiences: Contemporary Turkey
Jerusalem Divided: Politics and Cultural Heritage
Language Semesters: Middle East Studies concentrators are expected to achieve basic competence in at least one of the modern Middle Eastern languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, or Turkish. This entails the completion of at least four semesters of Brown language coursework in one of these languages, or the equivalent through transfer or study abroad credits. Students who surpass the language requirement can apply up to two Middle Eastern language credits toward the MES elective requirements (see above). Students who have reached proficiency in a Middle Eastern language but have not received four credits at Brown (including transfer and/or study abroad credits) can fulfill this requirement: 34
• Through advanced reading and writing courses in that language. Recent examples include:
COLT 1310J
The Arab Renaissance
Modern Arabic Poetry
• Through taking courses in a second Middle Eastern language.
• Or through courses in a non–Middle Eastern language to be used in a senior capstone project (for example, Spanish for the study of Andalucía or French for the study of North Africa).
Capstone/Honors Project: MES requires all concentrators to conduct a capstone project within their senior year (i.e., in their last two semesters before graduation). The purpose of the capstone is to synthesize and apply the skills and knowledge that MES concentrators have acquired through the MES curriculum—including disciplinary perspectives, methodological and theoretical approaches, background in the historical and contemporary dynamics of the region, and language competency—to particular interests developed through the concentration. Capstones offer students the opportunity to integrate and build upon their experiences within the concentration, while demonstrating intellectual creativity, research skills, and effective communication, and should serve in some sense as a culmination of or reflection on what one has gained in the concentration. All students are expected to present their capstone research in the final semester before graduation. Presentations of honors theses will be approximately twenty minutes long, and those of non-honors capstone projects will be approximately ten minutes long, both followed by a question-and-answer session. Capstone projects must fulfill the following requirements:1
• Must be taken in the final two semesters before graduation (excluding summer and winter sessions)
• Must incorporate research in a Middle Eastern language.
• Must be approved or overseen by a MES or MES-affiliated faculty member.
• Must be presented in the final semester before graduation.
Capstones can take one of three forms:
a. A Middle East–focused research paper of at least 20 pages for an existing concentration-eligible (MES-coded or X-Listed) course, undertaken with the permission and supervision of the instructor.
b. An independent study or project (artistic, research, or otherwise), approved by the DUS and supervised by at least one faculty member for at least one semester under the MES 1970 - Independent Study designation.
c. A two-semester honors thesis, completed under the supervision of a primary reader (who is an MES or MES-affiliated faculty member) and a secondary reader (who can be from other Brown departments and programs), and in coordination with the DUS. 4
Total Credits12


To be eligible for honors, students will have earned an ‘A’ (or 'S' with distinction)  in the majority of courses for the concentration. Two semesters of Independent Study towards the Honors Thesis (MES 1970) with the thesis advisor are required. This is typically done during senior year and will raise the total number of required courses to 13.