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The Department of Near Eastern Studies (NES) teaches the diverse histories, religions, languages and literatures that originated in a vast region of the world extending from the Nile to the Oxus Rivers, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. Faculty provide students majoring in Near Eastern Studies with an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to societies, beginning with the emergence of cities and writing in Sumer and Ancient Egypt, to the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and onwards to the Modern Middle East, extending to its transnational and diasporic communities. The course offerings in the major are designed to provide an understanding of the dynamics that have shaped the literary, linguistic, visual, social and political histories of Middle Eastern societies past and present.

The major in Near Eastern Studies ensures that students form a linguistic and cultural foundation while also encountering higher-level concepts and theories.  Coursework in Near Eastern Studies ranges from the origins of human civilization to the development of foreign language skills. Many courses also cover a range of disciplines, including history, linguistics, literature, visual culture, gender studies, and more!

Language Programs

The language programs in NES teach (on rotation) 14 modern and ancient Middle Eastern languages. We encourage students to engage actively and interactively with reading, writing, listening and speaking each language. Classes are kept small and students benefit from individual attention inside and outside the classroom.


Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

The academic minor in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures provides students with the opportunity of gaining fundamental knowledge of Near East civilizations through the study of lower and upper level language and humanities courses in one of the three divisions within the Department of Near Eastern Studies: Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies; Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies; and Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies.

Early Christian Studies

The academic minor in Early Christian Studies provides students with the opportunity of gaining fundamental knowledge of early Christianity in its Near Eastern and Classical contexts, through the study of lower and upper level language and humanities courses in the Near Eastern Studies and Classical Studies Departments.

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About Near Eastern Studies

The Department of Near Eastern Studies is part of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, which administers its undergraduate programs leading to the B.A. degrees, and of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, which administers its graduate programs leading to M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. The regular faculty numbers about 26 of which 12 are full professors. The Department offers several programs of study at the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. levels, covering Near Eastern languages, literatures, civilizations, linguistics, history, Ancient studies, Biblical studies, Egyptology, Medieval Islamic history and Islamic studies.

M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the following fields of specialization are available:

  • Ancient Israel/Hebrew Bible
  • Arabic Linguistics
  • Arabic Literature
  • Arabic Studies
  • Armenian Literature
  • Armenian Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Egyptology
  • Hebrew Studies
  • Iranian Studies
  • Islamic Studies
  • Jewish Literature
  • Mesopotamian and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
  • Modern Arabic Language
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Persian Literature
  • Persian Language
  • Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins/New Testament
  • Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL)-MA only
  • Turkish Studies
  • Turkish Literature

Other degree programs may be arranged with permission of the student's Ph.D. committee and the Director of Graduate Studies in the department. Programs and courses on the Near East are also offered through the following departments: Anthropology, Classical Art and Archaeology, Classical Studies, Economics, History, History of Art, Judaic Studies, Linguistics, Political Science, and Sociology.