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Our Mission

In Middle East Studies (MES), we study and teach the languages, cultures, and religions of the Middle East, past and present. Our courses, scholarship, and public events promote inclusive discussion of the region and productive engagement with Middle Eastern communities in Michigan, the nation, and the world.

Our Vision

Since our founding in 1948, the Department of Middle East Studies has built a national and international reputation for cutting-edge scholarship and education in our field. With 45 affiliated faculty, we teach 15 languages of the ancient and modern Middle East. Our research and publications include interdisciplinary scholarship in religious studies, history and literature. Our undergraduate major and minor and graduate program give our students a thorough grounding in the breadth and diversity of the languages, cultures and history of the region and its connections to the world. 

Middle East Studies at U-M stands for the thoughtful study of the languages, cultures and religions of the peoples of the Middle East, past and present, and for respectful and ethical engagement with our communities in the Middle East, on campus, in southeast Michigan, and throughout the world. Our faculty are experts in the history of the region - from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the modern Middle East - and our courses allow you to go beyond the headlines and put modern conflicts into historical context.

Our teaching and research mission is oriented around four core principles: language, context, diversity and community. We believe that:

  1. Language is not just a tool that enables you to study history and culture: the study of language is the study of history and culture. We teach 15 languages of the ancient, medieval and modern Middle East — a region that has produced writing since the fourth millennium BCE, including the scriptures of three world religions. We will teach you to dig into the history of a world with very deep roots, giving you direct access to original texts without the need for mediators or interpreters. Languages translate into real benefit on the job market, because employers recognize the value of our languages and the resilience required to learn them. And they introduce you to a broader world of human experience. With a new language, we become global citizens who can thoughtfully and respectfully engage with people from other regions and walks of life.

  2. You’ll only understand the languages of the Middle East when you understand the cultural context in which they’re used. Our classes teach the spaces and places, the self and the other, the histories and stories of the Middle East: religions, history, music, arts, literatures, and even food. We’ll give you the cultural literacy you need not just to translate but to interpret the texts and cultures you study. Our breadth is our strength. Our department includes faculty from across the humanities, and our classes invite you to approach the Middle East from a variety of perspectives.

  3. By studying languages and cultures in context, you’ll learn about the diversity of the Middle East. We teach a wide range of religious, historical, literary, and cultural perspectives on the Middle East, and the connections that link the Middle East to a globalized world — from the trade empires of the distant past to the connected media of the twenty-first century. As you learn about the Middle East, you’ll also learn to think critically and comprehensively about your own society and community. 

  4. We learn best when we are part of a community. Whether you’re studying language, history, religions, literature or the arts, your classroom is a community where you learn alongside others in a climate of mutual respect. We are committed to close communication and collaboration with other units on campus, including Judaic Studies, the Global Islamic Studies Center, the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, the Center for Armenian Studies, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Classics, Anthropology and History. And we are proud of our ties to the diverse Middle Eastern communities of Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan. 

Take a class with us and discover the Middle East, here in Ann Arbor!