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Middle East Studies Curriculum


12 courses consisting of the following:

Two years of Arabic or modern Hebrew (4 courses)
HIST 121 Middle East to 1750
HIST 122: Middle East since 1750

One social science course in another discipline (3 courses)

Three humanities courses (3 courses)
One additional elective
(NOTE: one of these electives to be in a country that is not the focus of the language study.)

Senior Research (1 course)

Senior research includes a senior workshop consisting of three 75-minute meetings in the first two weeks of the semester to help MEST seniors reflect on different disciplinary approaches to a contemporary issue.

In addition to any class with a MEST course number, the following courses will count toward the major. Relevant courses under the rubric of "topics" in various departments will also meet major requirements:

ARBI 101: Elementary Arabic
ARBI 102: Elementary Arabic
ARBI 201: Intermediate Arabic
ARBI 202: Intermediate Arabic
ARBI 301: Advanced Arabic
ARBI 302: Advanced Arabic
ARBI 360: Topics in Arabic Language and Culture
HEBR 101: Elementary Modern Hebrew
HEBR 102: Elementary Modern Hebrew
HEBR 201: Intermediate Modern Hebrew
HEBR 202: Advanced Modern Hebrew
HEBR 231: Hebrew Conversation and Composition
HEBR 232: Topics in Hebrew Literature
HEBR 331: Topics in Hebrew Literature and Israeli Culture
HIST 121/MEST 121: Middle East to 1750
HIST 122/MEST 122: Middle East since 1750
HIST 213: The Age of the Crusades
HIST 259/RELG 259/MEST 259: Islam
HIST 315: Modern Iran
HIST 371/MEST 371: The Arab-Israeli Conflict
HIST 404: US-Middle East Relations
JDST 204: Judaism
JDST 216: Jews and Judaism in the Medieval World
JDST 233/RELG 233: Israeli Cinema
JDST 234/RELG 234: Love, Sex and Hebrew Texts
POSC 277/MEST 266: International Politics of the Middle East
POSC 290: Comparative Politics of the Middle East
POSC 290/MEST 264: Politics, Society and Culture in Israel
RELG 111: From Abraham to Al-Qaeda: Jews, Christians, and Muslims from their Origins to the Present
RELG 307: Heretics, Pagans, and Martyrs: Formation of Religious Identities in Late Antiquity
RELG 312: Christianity in the Middle East

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The MEST major was designed with the hope and expectation that all of our students would spend one or two semesters in the Arab world or Israel. As a result, we developed the curriculum so that a student who did spend one/two semesters abroad could complete all the requirements for the major, as long as they followed a few guidelines.

The guidelines are written for the entering student who may want to major in MEST. Rather than specify the courses that you “must” have in a given semester, the following are general guidelines regarding courses that we suggest you take during each year. You should think of these guidelines as giving you a fast track into the major – this provides maximum flexibility in your junior and senior years.

First Year
Fall Semester: MEST/HIST 121, and Arabic or Hebrew

Spring Semester: MEST/HIST 122, Arabic or Hebrew, and MEST elective in humanities or social science

Sophomore Year
Arabic or Hebrew (complete language requirement: 4 semesters)
One MEST elective in humanities or social science
One additional elective to be in a country that is NOT the focus of the language study
MEST general electives: please refer to the MAJOR section of the Academic Bulletin: Middle East Studies.

Junior Year

MEST general electives: refer to the MAJOR section of the Academic Bulletin: Middle East Studies.
Arabic or Hebrew

Recommend one semester or full year in study abroad program

Senior Year
Senior research
Finish all other MEST requirements (core courses, electives, language as needed)
Arabic or Hebrew

For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact a MEST faculty member and discuss with your advisor. Students not following these guidelines may still be able to study abroad and still complete the major, but will face a more demanding senior year.


A student will be awarded Honors if the student has a 3.50 average overall and in the major, and two readers (the thesis advisor and another reader) agree that the Senior Research Paper deserves an A.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Students should consult with the program coordinator and the Center for Global Study and Engagement to determine suitable opportunities for off-campus study. For students taking Arabic, Dickinson has a Partner Program with the American University in Cairo. For students taking Modern Hebrew, Dickinson has a Partner Program with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

Co-curricular activities/programs

Middle East Studies offers films and lectures that are coordinated with the core courses, but which are open to the entire community, often in cooperation with the participating departments.  The Arabic Club, a student-led organization associated with Middle East Studies, publishes a newsletter, organizes pizza/movie nights, offers calligraphy demonstrations and other programming that is open to the entire Dickinson community.  


121 Middle East to 1750
The rise of Islam, the development of Islamic civilization in medieval times and its decline relative to Europe in the early modern era, 1500-1750.
This course is cross-listed as HIST 121.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Global Diversity, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Social Sciences

122 Middle East since 1750
Bureaucratic-military reforms of the 19th century in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, European imperialism, regional nationalisms, contemporary autocratic regimes, and the politicization of religion.
This course is cross-listed as HIST 122.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Social Sciences

200 Selected Topics in Middle East Studies
The subject matter will vary from year to year dependent upon the expertise of faculty and the needs and interests of students.
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year

221 Women of the Middle East: Stories of Resistance
The condition of women writers in post-colonial, predominantly Arab countries is heavily marked by the dual legacy of the region’s Muslim heritage and the cultural imprint of former colonizers, which are intertwined with ethnic, religious, linguistic and other differences that in varying ways traverse the region as a whole. The tensions associated with these differences erupted in wars in some countries and violence and discrimination against women in some others. Several women writers stood up against injustice and sexism by writing to defend women’s rights and render justice. Their writing served to bear witness and preserve the victim’s memory. This course focuses on Middle Eastern women’s narratives in times of conflict and examines issues of representation, gender and sexuality, national identity, and memory and trauma.
This course is cross-listed as WGSS 221, and FREN 364.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, FLIC French, Global Diversity, Humanities, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Middle East Humanities

231 The Arab-Israeli Conflict
A study of conflict through four phases: the early stages of the Zionist movement and its impact in Ottoman Palestine to 1917; Zionist immigration and settlement and Arab reaction during the Mandate period; the creation of Israel and its wars with the Arab states to 1973; and the rise of a Palestinian Arab nationalist movement and the challenges it poses to Arab states and Israel.
This course is cross-listed as HIST 371.
Attributes: INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Social Sciences

233 U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab World
This course introduces the students to the theory and practice of U.S. public diplomacy in the Arab world from a historical and a comparative perspective, looking at past challenges, successes and failures. The course examines the role of public diplomacy in the context of U.S. strategic interests in the region, U.S. efforts to promote democratic governance in the Arab world through the use of public diplomacy tools including traditional and new media, cultural exchanges, and educational programs. Students will debate whether public diplomacy should be integrated into the policy-making process, and how it could complement traditional diplomacy and advance political, military, and economic policies.
Attributes: AMST Struct & Instit Elective, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Security Studies Course, Social Sciences

234 Middle Eastern American Communities
This interdisciplinary course considers the history of Middle Eastern American communities, and the related development of "Islamophobia." We survey the history of the diverse immigrant communities that trace their heritage to a vast region of the world, the variously defined "Middle East." In the 1990s, Islamophobia emerged as a controversial concept after decades of discussion around Orientalism and anti-Arab racism. Today, some see Islamophobia as a catch-all concept for discrediting necessary anti-terrorism measures like profiling, surveillance, and wiretaps. Others see Islamophobia as fitting into a pattern of racialized scapegoating, where people experience violence and discrimination. Topics for discussion include ethnic group and identity formation, the "war on terror," connections between domestic and international US policy, and civil rights advocacy.
This course is cross-listed as SOCI 234. Offered every two years.
Attributes: AMST Struct & Instit Elective, Middle East Social Science, Social Sciences, US Diversity

241 Romantic Orientalism & Its Critics
Ever since Byron returned from Ottoman Greece and Ali Pasha's Albania in 1811, British culture has sought to interpret the "mysterious" East in ways that were as complex as they were contradictory. Romantic orientalism emerged out of the effort to describe Arabic (and especially Islamic) culture in ways that reflected not only reality but also the biases of the Europeans who did the describing: religious, political, social, and aesthetic. Our course will begin with examples of Romantic Orientalism--The History of Nourjahad, Vathek, and Byron's own The Giaour--and will then read contemporary critiques of these works (Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Maria Edgeworth) as well as more recent critics: Felicity Nussbaum, Adam Potkay, and Marilyn Butler. We will then read Eastern works that have had a more direct influence on our own times: The Arabian Nights, the poems of Rumi, and works of contemporary fiction and poetry by Elias Khoury, Naguib Mahfouz, Adonis, and others. Finally, we will consider film and media images of the Arab and Islamic world that have contributed to a more contemporary American version of orientalism, and we will examine the Arab world's view of these same images and stereotypes: evil sultans, alluring harems, violent terrorists. We will also consider the possibility of an occidentalism that parallels the excesses and confusions of orientalism. Our goal in all of our work will be to see the world once called "The Orient" reflected, refracted, and reimagined by Western and Eastern viewers. Along the way we will seek to understand how literary texts can help us to understand the complexities of different cultures. Two essays and a final exam.
This course is cross-listed as ENGL 370.
Attributes: Global Diversity, Post-1800 English Course

259 Islam
An introduction to Islamic beliefs and practices in their classical forms: rituals, law, mysticism, and other topics. The course will consider aspects of Islamic cultures and societies in medieval and modern times.
This course is cross-listed as HIST 372 and RELG 259.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Global Diversity, Humanities, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Religion - Western Traditions, Social Sciences

260 Media & Politics in the Middle East & North Africa
Together we will try to answer the questions: What roles do media technologies and practices (particularly new digital technologies) play in the politics of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries? How do states respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by changes in the communication ecosphere? We will study the development of mass media and its regulation in the MENA region. Students will collaborate to produce presentations for the class on particular problems in the role of media in politics and society, and will also complete individual critical and reflective works. The class will make extensive use of digital and social media, seeking to understand their political and social impact partly through first-hand experience.
This course is cross-listed as POSC 260. Offered every two years.
Attributes: Global Diversity, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Political Science Elective, Social Sciences

261 Authoritarianism & Change in the Middle East & North Africa
This course will examine the most important features of the different varieties of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) and seek to explain the different outcomes of popular uprisings against them and other pressures to reform. Participants will study the range of governing institutions and traditions among modern MENA regimes. Students will learn to analyze competing explanations for the persistence of authoritarianism in the region—for example: explanations derived from culture; from abundant hydrocarbons resources; from colonialism; and from historical institutions—as well as the prospects for the spread of more democratic government in the region.
This course is cross-listed as POSC 261.
Attributes: Comparative Poli Sci Course, Global Diversity, Social Sciences

262 Zionism: Ideology, Institutions, Cultures & Contestations
This course aims to provide students with a multi-dimensional understanding of Zionism as a political ideology that found its expression in the creation of a state, the establishment of a particular set of economic and cultural institutions as well as in the creation of new conceptions of land, space, and group interaction. At once a future-oriented revolutionary ideology and revivalist movement based on the idea of returning to an ancient homeland, the significance of Zionism in 20th and 21st centuries cannot be understated. Zionism (or rather, Zionists), produced a state Israel whose foundation has roiled politics in the Middle East until today. This course will look at the particular historical circumstances that gave rise to Zionism in the late 19th century, Zionist institutions, political culture and dominant historical narratives. The course will conclude with a detailed examination of more contemporary critics of Zionism both from within Israel and outside of it.
This course is cross-listed as POSC 290 and JDST 262.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Global Diversity, Humanities, Judaic Studies Elective, Political Science Elective, Social Sciences

264 Politics, Society & Culture in Israel
This course provides an overview of the major political, social, and cultural forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, modern Israel. It covers the origins of the Zionist movement, political leadership, foreign relations, parties, the electoral system and the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict more broadly. In society, it focuses on the major cleavages in Israeli society, civil society, consumerism, as well as the impact of the Holocaust and the role of the Israel Defense Forces. The cultural component centers largely on poetry, short stories and changes in popular music. The course is intended to add nuance and depth to the often one-dimensional portrayal of Israel in the media and provide students with the analytical tools to better understand events in the Middle East.
This course is cross-listed as POSC 264 and JDST 264.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Comparative Poli Sci Course, Global Diversity, Humanities, Judaic Studies Elective, Social Sciences

266 International Politics of the Middle East
This course examines key factors and events in the formation of the modern Middle East state system and evolving patterns of conflict and cooperation in the region. Students will apply a range of analytical approaches to issues such as the conflicts between Arabs and Israelis, Iraq's wars since 1980, and the changing place of the region in global politics and economics.
Prerequisite: one course in any of International Studies, Middle East Studies, or Political Science. This course is cross-listed as POSC 277 and INST 277.
Attributes: Global Diversity, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, LAWP Policy Elective, Security Studies Course, Social Sciences

270 Middle Eastern Christianity: Its Rich Past, Its Uncertain Future
Since its inception Christianity has existed in the Middle East. There it expanded even before it attained legal status in the early fourth century. There it experienced both consolidation and division as a result of the ecumenical councils. There it has been interacting with Islam for fourteen centuries. There it has encountered the various forms of Western Christianity that encroached on its territory. And there it is struggling to survive despite continual emigration, cultural marginalization, and increasing persecution. In this course we will trace the evolution of the Christian communities in the Middle East (Assyrian, pre-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant), analyze contemporary challenges to their survival, and examine their diasporic displacement, especially to western Europe and North America.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 270.
Attributes: Humanities, Middle East Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions

272 Islam and the West
This course examines the contemporary relationship between the Islamic world and the Western world. In recent years, many interpretations of this relationship have developed, with some claiming a clash of civilizations is underway. The course critically engages the rapidly growing literature on this topic, while providing an introduction to the sociology of religion, an examination of so-called Western values and their Islamic counterparts, an analysis of key moments in recent history, and finally a survey of minority Muslim communities in the West.
This course is cross-listed as SOCI 272. Offered every year.
Attributes: AMST Struct & Instit Elective, Global Diversity, Middle East Social Science, Social Sciences

280 Political Economy of the Middle East
This course aims to help students gain a more nuanced understanding of the issues and problems facing the economies of the Middle East. To do so, we will review the region's history to introduce the institutional, religious, social, political and economic factors that have led to the current economic conditions and developmental problems in the region; make an introduction to the theoretical and conceptual frameworks such as human development, the political economy of oil, political Islam, alternative banking systems, the role of the state in the economy; apply the theoretical and conceptual frameworks to the analysis of the current economic and social ills such as unemployment, inflation, high dependency ratio, low trade levels; gender inequalities, civil wars; examine scenarios for the future with an emphasis on the human development framework. In our analysis, we will pay special attention of the Middle East's place in the global world economy. To understand the economic relations of the countries in the region with each other and the rest of the world, we will introduce and discuss the concepts of regional integration, trade and financial liberalization, structural adjustment programmes, economic restructuring and internal and external migration including brain drains, economic roots of terrorism.
This course is cross-listed as ECON 214.
Attributes: Social Sciences

490 Middle East Studies Research Seminar
Selected topics in Middle East Studies at the advanced level, designed for Senior research. The subject matter will vary. May be cross-listed with seminars in related programs.
Prerequisite: dependent upon topic. Offered occasionally.