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Middle East Studies

The major in Middle East studies provides students with the opportunity to deeply explore this region’s historical, political, social and cultural complexity. Broadly conceived, this geographical region stretches from North Africa to southwest and central Asia.

There are two minor tracks. A minor in Middle East studies provides an opportunity to study the region in an interdisciplinary fashion, with attention to key fields of knowledge. The minor in Arabic is designed for students wishing to achieve proficiency in modern Arabic.

An Interdisciplinary Field of Inquiry

MES draws on and integrates a wide range of disciplinary knowledge, across the social sciences and humanities.

MES provides for thematic breadth, permitting students to design a course of study reflecting their interests.

MES requires a regional focus, directing coursework toward the development of interdisciplinary expertise on a major world region.

Department Update

Susanna Ferguson to be honored with the SGA Faculty Teaching Award on Rally Day 2024 

Susanna Ferguson, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies, has been nominated and selected by students to be a recipient of the 2024 Faculty Teaching Award.  This award is given annually by the Smith Student Government Association to faculty members recognized for their dedication to excellent teaching, and to thank those honored for their support, encouragement and inspiration.  Rally Day will be held on February 22, 2024 at 1:30 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall.  

Mary-Kate Wilson ’25: Medalist at Arabic Debate Championship

Mary-Kate Wilson '25, a student of Arabic, attended the U.S. Universities Arabic Debate Championship at Stanford in October, and came away with a medal.  Read the Grécourt Gate's coverage of Mary-Kate's achievement here.

Steven Heydemann Interviewed on the 10th Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising

As part of their series on the uprising and its aftermath, the Syrian Observer asked Steven Heydemann, Director of the Program in Middle East Studies, for his perspective on the economic roots of the war and the current crisis. Read the full interview here.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Middle East Studies

The Program in Middle East Studies expects students to graduate with an understanding of the histories, cultures, politics, economics and languages that define the lived experiences of the peoples of the Middle East from the emergence of Islam (7th century CE) to the present. This includes equipping students with the knowledge and skills to: 

  • Frame questions and situate core texts and ideas in their appropriate intellectual, social, material and cultural contexts.
  • Analyze and critique texts, ideas and materials produced in or pertaining to the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the present.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the diversity of Middle Eastern experiences through time and space, including an understanding of the interactions between the Middle East and other cultures, peoples, empires, economies and states.
  • Situate the Middle East in global flows of ideas, material cultures, technologies, and political, economic and social forms.
  • Understand how such global flows have shaped the Middle East and how the Middle East has influenced global movements of people, ideas and material forms across time and space.
  • Think critically, speak and write critically about the ways in which the interdisciplinary field of Middle East studies contributes to, broadens and challenges important theoretical, methodological, analytic and conceptual approaches applied to the study of the Middle East in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Apply knowledge of the Middle East to contemporary issues as informed and engaged citizens.
  • Attain beginning competency in a Middle Eastern language.

Middle East Studies Major

Requirements

Ten courses plus MES 100 (41 credits)

  1. Basis: MES 100 (1 credit)
  2. Language:  (at least 8 credits) Two years of language study in Modern Standard Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Turkish or another approved Middle Eastern language.  Please refer to Additional Guidelines for further information on language requirements.
  3. Focus: (16 credits) Four courses in an area of focus, which may be religion, history, politics, cultures (literature, film, music, art) of the Middle East, or may explore an interdisciplinary topic such as gender in the Middle East, ethno-religious diversity of the region, etc. Students design an area of focus in consultation with an adviser. One course in an area of focus may satisfy the capstone requirement.  
  4. Electives: (at least 16 credits) Four electives
    • At least three must be in areas other than the student’s area of focus
    • Advanced study of a Middle Eastern language may count toward the elective courses
    • One elective may satisfy the capstone requirement
  5. Capstone: (4 credits toward either Focus or Elective requirements) One 300-level seminar or research-based special studies MES 400.
  6. Beyond the Arab World: (4 credits toward either Focus or Elective requirements) At least one course with a primary focus on the Middle East beyond the Arab world (Iran, Israel, Turkey).
Additional Guidelines
  • All courses taken for major credit shall be drawn from courses listed or cross-listed by the Program in Middle East Studies. Exceptions must be approved by an adviser or by the director of the Middle East Studies program. Any First-Year Seminar cross-listed in MES may count toward the major.
  • Courses in the major may not be taken S/U.
  • When MES 400 functions as the capstone for the major it must be a research intensive course approved as the capstone by the major adviser.
  • No more than four courses in the major may be applied toward a second major.
  • Language study beyond the requirements of the major in Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, or Turkish at Smith or within the Five Colleges is strongly encouraged. Students may apply to the Middle East Studies Committee for funding of summer language study (e, g., Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish). In addition, courses in Arabic dialects offered by any of the Five Colleges or by the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages may be applied toward the major, with approval of the student’s adviser. If a course offered by the FCCSWL is worth less than 4 credits, students will be expected to make up the credit shortfall through supplemental language instruction. Participation in study abroad programs offering intensive language instruction may count toward the MES major language requirement, on approval of the student’s adviser.
  • Students proficient in Modern Standard Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi or Turkish may take a placement exam in lieu of coursework. Students who place out of the MES major language requirement are expected to make up 8 credits of coursework through electives or the study of a second, approved regional language. 
  • Normally, at least half of a student’s courses toward the major shall be taken at Smith. Students who study abroad may petition the Program in Middle East Studies should they seek credit toward the major of non-Smith courses that exceed half of those required by the major.

Middle East Studies Minor

The Middle East studies minor at Smith provides students with the opportunity to complement a major with a concentration of courses that treat the region in its historical, political, social and cultural complexity. The minor provides the opportunity to study the region in an interdisciplinary fashion, with attention to key fields of knowledge.

Requirements 

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. Language: One year of college-level Arabic or modern Hebrew. Additional language study of Arabic and Hebrew at the intermediate and advanced levels at Smith or within the Five College Consortium is strongly encouraged. Students may petition the MES Committee to substitute the minimum requirement of a year of Arabic or Hebrew with the study of another Middle Eastern language (Farsi, Turkish, etc). (1 course)
  2. Breadth Requirements (2 courses)
    1. One course on classical Islam or pre-modern (prior to 1800) Middle Eastern history, broadly defined. (Courses do not necessarily have to be offerings from the history department but must be historically oriented.)  
    2. One course on modern history, contemporary politics, economics, cultures, sociology, anthropology, or modern or contemporary Islamic thought.
  3. Electives: In consultation with the minor adviser, students choose additional electives in religion, literature, arts, history or the social sciences. (3 courses)
  • Students who wish to conduct independent research may approach an adviser for permission to enroll in MES 400
  • Apart from language classes, no more than two courses may be taken from the same department or program.
  • Normally, no more than three courses can be taken away from Smith.

Arabic Minor

The minor in Arabic is designed for students wishing to achieve proficiency in modern Arabic.

Requirements 

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. One year Intermediate Arabic (8 credits)
  2. One year Advanced Arabic (8 credits)
  3. Two electives (8 credits)
  • Minor credits are not awarded for the first year of language study. 
  • Special studies MES 400 in Arabic language, taken for four credits, may count for as many as two of the six courses.
  • Courses in Arabic dialects offered by any of the Five Colleges or by the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages count toward the minor. If a course offered by the FCCSWL is worth less than 4 credits, students will have to make up the credit shortfall elsewhere.
  • Courses taught in English do not count toward the minor in Arabic.
  • Students are encouraged to fulfill some of the requirements toward the minor in an Arabic-speaking country, either during a semester or summer of study abroad. Courses taken outside Smith College or the Five College Arabic Program in Arabic language or in Arabic in any discipline must be approved by the director of the Middle East Studies program and by the minor adviser. Students are also encouraged to take a course in Arabic that focuses on a topic or issue. Such courses, which may consist of a special studies course, might include media Arabic, Arabic literature, Arabic translation, Arabic linguistics (syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis), aspects of Arabic culture, film, religions or thought.

Courses

The Program in Jewish Studies at Smith College partners with the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts to offer Smith students a full complement of courses to bring them to advanced proficiency in modern Hebrew. Advanced study in Hebrew is offered at UMass or through Special Studies at Smith. Please consult the website of the Program in Jewish Studies for a full list of summer Hebrew language programs.

MES 100 Introduction to Middle East Studies (1 Credit)

This 8-week course of weekly lectures will provide students with a comprehensive overview of the Middle East by focusing on the big questions that animate the teaching and research of faculty in Middle East Studies and related fields. S/U only.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 203 Introduction to Middle East Comparative Politics (4 Credits)

This lecture class provides an introduction to the comparative politics of the Middle East. Readings, lectures, and discussions will examine political environments in the Middle East, with a focus on states as units of analysis, and on the general processes and conditions that have shaped state formation, the formation of national markets, and state-society relations in the region. The course will equip students to understand and critically assess how political interests are organized; the development of major political, social, and economic structures and institutions; and sources of political contestation within Middle Eastern societies. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 208/ HST 208 Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as HST 208 and MES 208. This course examines the history of the modern Middle East from a global perspective. How have gender, economy, ecology and religion shaped Middle Eastern empires and nation-states within a broader world? The course begins with transformations in Egypt, Iran and the Ottoman Empire between 1800 and World War I. Next, it turns to experiences of colonialism, the rise of independent nation-states and the birth of new political movements. Students learn to appreciate the diversity of the region’s cultures, languages and peoples and to critically assess how the Middle East has been imagined from without and within. Enrollment limited to 40. {H}

Fall, Spring, Annually

MES 213 Colloquium: Sex and Power In The Middle East (4 Credits)

This course invites students to explore how sexuality has been central to power and resistance in the Middle East. When and how have empires, colonial powers and nation states tried to regulate intimacy, sex, love and reproduction? How have sexual practices shaped social life, and how have perceptions of these practices changed over time? The course introduces theoretical tools for the history of sexuality and explores how contests over sexuality, reproduction and the body shaped empires, colonial states and nationalist projects. Finally, we examine contemporary debates about sexuality as a basis for political mobilization in the Middle East today. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 217 ​International Relations and Regional Order in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the dynamics of inter-state relations in the broader Middle East (encompassing Turkey, Israel and Iran). It provides a brief introduction to relevant theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain the international and regional relations of the Middle East, and applies these theoretical frameworks through in-depth attention to a wide range of themes and cases. In addition to readings on specific cases, the course covers the origins and development of the Arab state system, alliance dynamics, the effects of oil on international relations, war and international relations, and the domestic sources of Middle East international relations. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 219 Colloquium: Histories of Arab Feminism (4 Credits)

This course traces the history of Arab feminisms as movements forged in the context of social change in the Arab world, transnational ties, and the rise of European imperialism. How did feminist movements take shape in the modern Arab world? How have feminisms beyond the West been forged by processes of situated translation, as well as in response to local and regional conditions and struggles? And, how might feminisms from the Middle East and North Africa speak with, or speak back to, feminist politics and histories in other contexts, enriching our sense of what feminisms have, and could, accomplish? Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 220 The Arab Spring: Economic Roots and Aftermath (4 Credits)

Explores the social, economic and political causes and effects of the mass protest movements that came to be known as the Arab Spring or the Arab Uprisings. Through a wide range of readings, documentaries, media accounts, social media content, and other materials we dissect the most significant, and still unresolved, political transformations in the Middle East in the last 100 years. A previous course in Middle Eastern politics, history or culture recommended, but not required. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 222 Islam and Democracy in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course aims to address the following questions: Are Islam and Democracy compatible? How is religious interest defined? How are Islamic images and institutions used? What is the historical relationship between Islam and politics?When and under what conditions is Islam publicized and politicized? Is Islam compatible with modernity? Is it possibleto be modern and Muslim at the same time? How do Islamic scholars deal with the questions of "difference", democracy,and science? What are the social and political origins of reformist and democratically inclined Islamist parties andmovements? How do they envision the relationship between Islam and democracy?. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 228/ ARH 228 Islamic Art and Architecture (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 228 and ARH 228. This course surveys Islamic visual art and architecture from the spread of Islam in the seventh-century until the present day, covering the Dome of the Rock and Persian miniatures to French Orientalism and Arab Spring graffiti. Attention is focused upon the relationships between Islamic visual idioms and localized religious, political and socioeconomic circumstances. In particular, lectures and readings examine the vital roles played by theology, royal patronage, gift exchange, trade and workshop practices in the formulation of visual traditions. Direct analysis of Islamic artworks at the Smith museum expand students’ command of critical visual analysis. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 230 Society and Development in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the political economy of the Arab Middle East with emphasis on the social dimensions of economic development. It provides students with insight into the effects of shifting economic and social policies and economic conditions on the peoples of the Middle East and the social transformations that have accompanied post-colonial processes of state- and market-building. It explores how economic conditions shaped political activism, social movements, modes of protest and broader patterns of state-society relations. Students become familiar with theories of economic and social development and major analytic frameworks that are used to assess and make sense of society and development in the Middle East. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 235/ JUD 235 Perspectives on the Arab-Israel Conflict (4 Credits)

Same as MES 235. What is in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians? What has prevented a resolution to the conflict, and why does it continue to arouse such passions? Situating contemporary controversies in their historical contexts, explores key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, security, debates about Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the impact of religious claims, and the role of regional and international players and activists. Includes analysis of competing models for conflict resolution. No prerequisites. Open to students at all levels. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 237/ HST 237 Colloquium: Mobility and Migration in the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 237 and HST 237. The history of the modern Middle East is a story of border-crossing as well as border-making. From 19th century immigrants from the Ottoman Empire to the Americas, to today's migrant laborers in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf, the region has been forged by those who move within and beyond national borders. How have forces of gender, class, and ethnicity shaped these journeys? This course examines the gendered processes of movement and migration--voluntary and involuntary--that have shaped the modern Middle East from the 19th century to the present. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 240 Colloquium: Encounters with Unjust Authority: Political Fiction of the Arab World (4 Credits)

This course will expose students to contemporary political literature of the Arab world in translation. Through their critical engagement with this literature, students will gain a nuanced, tangible and deeply dimensional understanding of contemporary life in the Middle East and the many diverse and complex ways in which lives of the region’s peoples are shaped by their political circumstances. Enrollment limited to 20. {L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 244/ HST 244 Colloquium:Thinking Revolution: Histories of Revolt in the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 244 and HST 244. How could we theorize revolution from the MENA region? How might we connect older histories and vocabularies of social change to recent events in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia? In the first part of this course, students engage prominent theories of revolution generated within EuroAmerican and MENA contexts. Next, we consider diverse theories of social change generated within key moments in the history of the modern Middle East, from Ottoman constitution in 1876 to postcolonial revolts in Oman, Yemen, and Algeria. Finally, we consider the 2011 Arab spring within this longer history of social change in the region. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 290 Colloquium: Islam and Capitalism (4 Credits)

This course examines how interactions between Islamic law and commerce shaped Muslim societies during watershed moments in the history of capitalism, including the rise of trade networks in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean; the birth of the joint-stock company and the corporation; colonialism and industrialization; and most recently, the ascendancy of neoliberal financial capitalism. Enrollment limited to 20. (E) {H}{S}

Fall, Variable

MES 327 Seminar: Histories of Science, Nature and the Body in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course explores the history of science in the Middle East from the early modern period to the present. In order to introduce debates within the discipline of history of science, this course takes a broad view of that discipline’s object: the many and disparate attempts to understand changes in the body of knowledge about the reality of lives and the world. Scholars have often analyzed the history of science in Middle Eastern societies either in relation to a timeless Islamic culture or through a framework that conflates Westernization with inevitable scientific “progress.” This course goes beyond these paradigms to explore unexpected and multidirectional encounters, connections and mobilities of ideas, practices, people and specimens among various communities within and beyond the MENA region. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 380 Seminar: Authoritarianism in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This upper-level seminar focuses on the durability of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. The course examines the emergence of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world; their consolidation into full-fledged systems of rule; patterns and variation in authoritarian governance among Arab states; the political economy of authoritarianism; state-society relations under authoritarian rule; and authoritarian responses to democratization, economic globalization and pressures for political reform. Prior course work on the history, politics, sociology, anthropology of the modern Middle East is useful. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Admission by permission of the Program in Middle East Studies, normally for junior and senior minors in Middle East studies, and for qualified juniors and seniors from other departments. Offered both semesters each year.

Fall, Spring

MES 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Fall, Spring

Crosslisted Courses

ARH 228/ MES 228 Islamic Art and Architecture (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 228 and ARH 228. This course surveys Islamic visual art and architecture from the spread of Islam in the seventh-century until the present day, covering the Dome of the Rock and Persian miniatures to French Orientalism and Arab Spring graffiti. Attention is focused upon the relationships between Islamic visual idioms and localized religious, political and socioeconomic circumstances. In particular, lectures and readings examine the vital roles played by theology, royal patronage, gift exchange, trade and workshop practices in the formulation of visual traditions. Direct analysis of Islamic artworks at the Smith museum expand students’ command of critical visual analysis. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FRN 230bl Colloquium: Topics in French Studies- Banlieue Lit (4 Credits)

In this course, students study fiction, memoir, slam poetry and hip-hop authored by residents of France’s multi-ethnic suburbs and housing projects, also known as the "banlieues" and "cités". The class examines the question of whether "banlieue" authors can escape various pressures: to become native informants; to write realistic rather than fantastical novels; to leave the “ghetto”; to denounce the sometimes difficult traditions, religions, neighborhoods and family members that have challenged but also molded them. Often seen as spaces of regression and decay, the "banlieues" nevertheless produce vibrant cultural expressions that beg the question: Is the "banlieue" a mere suburb of French cultural life or more like one of its centers? Basis for the major. Students may receive credit for only one section of FRN 230. Prerequisite: FRN 220 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 18. Course taught in French. WI {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FRN 251fi Topics in French Media, Now and Then-French Islam and French Muslims (4 Credits)

Through a survey of the contemporary flashpoints in the debate surrounding the place of Islam in French society, this course maps out the field of politicians, activists, youth movements, imams, artists, musicians and other cultural actors that have defined the discourse on the issue. With an emphasis on new media, students analyze a wide variety of documents including internet resources, journalistic articles and blogs, music videos, films, legal texts, political pamphlets, slam poetry, rap songs, as well as photo and video art. Course taught in French. {F}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FRN 380is Topics in French Cultural Studies-Immigration and Sexuality (4 Credits)

This course explains how gender and sexuality have been politicized in immigration debates in France, from the 1920s to the present. Students examine both cultural productions and social science texts: memoirs, psychoanalytical literature, activist statements, sociological studies, feature films, fashion, performance art, blogs and news reports. France has historically been the leading European host country for immigrants, a multiplicity of origins reflected in its current demographic make-up. Topics include: the hyper-sexualization of black and brown bodies, France as a Mediterranean culture, immigrant loneliness in Europe, intermarriage and demographic change, the veil and niqab, as well as sexual nationalism and homo-nationalism. {F}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FYS 186 Israel through Literature and Film (4 Credits)

What was the role of Hebrew writers in constructing a nation's founding myths and interpreting and challenging its present realities? How do literature and film about Zionism and the State of Israel frame and interpret tensions between sacred and secular, exile and homeland; indigenous and colonial; language and identity; and the national conflict between Jews and Palestinians? All readings and screenings in English translation. Includes texts from differing historical periods, political perspectives, and languages. Enrollment limited to 16 first years. WI

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 224 Colloquium: Globalization From an Islamic Perspective (4 Credits)

This course explores the complex challenges facing Muslim-majority states when it comes to their political, economic, and social development in the 21st century. In particular, we will be exploring the various Islamically-inspired ideas ("isms") that have emerged with the onset of globalization; from Islanic feminism and Islamic environmentalism to political Islam and Islamic banking. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 231 Colloquium: Women's Social Movements in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course explores how women’s social movements emerge and sustain themselves in the Middle East and North Africa. The class will cover issues ranging from women agitating for citizenship rights and the vote to questions of personhood, family code, and women's labor rights. Throughout the class, students consider how mobilized women negotiate a world of both contemporary and traditional religious and secular values to pursue their agendas in the public arena. Students leave this course with a fuller appreciation of the variety of issues around which women mobilize in the region as well as an understanding of the diverse strategies they adopt to meet their chosen goals. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 248 The Arab-Israeli Dispute (4 Credits)

This course investigates the causes and consequences of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the viability of efforts to resolve it. Students consider the influence of Great Power Politics on the relationship between Arab states and Israel, and between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. This exploration of the conflict touches on issues related to human security, terrorism and political violence, as well as broader questions of human rights, national identity and international governance. Designation: International Relations. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 257 Colloquium: Refugee Politics (4 Credits)

This course examines refugees--i.e., people displaced within their country, to another country or, perhaps, somewhere "in between." Refugee politics prompt a consideration of the cause of refugee movements; persecution, flight, asylum and resettlement dynamics; the international response to humanitarian crises; and the "position" of refugees in the international system. In addition to international relations theory, the seminar focuses on historical studies, international law, comparative politics, refugee policy studies and anthropological approaches to displacement and "foreignness." Although special attention is devoted to the Middle East, other cases of refugee politics are examined. Designation: International Relations. Open to majors in government; others by permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 341mw Seminar: Topics in International Politics-The Middle East in World Affairs (4 Credits)

This course considers the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through an international relations lens, exploring how the region broadly interacts with the rest of the world. It introduces students to the diversity of challenges facing the region and gives students the tools for a more substantive analysis of its ever-changing context. The class is divided into two sections: the first section represents a general overview of the most salient issues in the region including the Arab-Israeli conflict, while the second section incorporates case-study explorations of specific topics ranging from U.S. foreign policy in the MENA to the Arab Spring. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 347na Seminar: Topics in International and Comparative Politics-North Africa in the International System (4 Credits)

This seminar examines the history and political economy of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, focusing on the post-independence era. Where relevant, Egypt and Mauritania will be treated. The seminar sets Maghrebi (North Africa) politics in the broader context of its regional situation within the Mediterranean (Europe and the Middle East), as well as its relationship to sub-Saharan Africa and North America. Study is devoted to: (1) the independence struggle; (2) the colonial legacy; (3) contemporary political economy; and (4) post-colonial politics and society. Special attention will be devoted to the politics of Islam, the “status” of women and political change. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 208/ MES 208 Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as HST 208 and MES 208. This course examines the history of the modern Middle East from a global perspective. How have gender, economy, ecology and religion shaped Middle Eastern empires and nation-states within a broader world? The course begins with transformations in Egypt, Iran and the Ottoman Empire between 1800 and World War I. Next, it turns to experiences of colonialism, the rise of independent nation-states and the birth of new political movements. Students learn to appreciate the diversity of the region’s cultures, languages and peoples and to critically assess how the Middle East has been imagined from without and within. Enrollment limited to 40. {H}

Fall, Spring, Annually

HST 224 History of the Early Middle Ages (4 Credits)

This survey course examines Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the early medieval era, starting with the dissolution of the Roman Empire. Students will study the turbulent nature of political and societal boundaries and the rise of Christianity in Europe before 900 AD, as well as the emergence of Islam as a religion and political power and its influence on the medieval European and Byzantine worlds. Students will engage in the examination and discussion of early medieval notions of kinship, race, law and justice, popular piety and political power. Enrollment limited to 40. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

HST 225 Making of the Medieval World, 1000–1350 (4 Credits)

This survey course examines Europe, the Mediterranean world, from the late 10th century to the 14th, considered the height of the medieval world. Students study the interactions between peoples and societies in the medieval world - from the emergence of new conceptions of sovereignty, popular religion and the Crusades, the university, and Arthurian literature, to the restructuring of society in the calamitous century of the Mortalitas Magnas. Students engage in discussions about the notions of conquest and reconquest, race, law and justice, medieval love and chivalry, and the intersection of political and religious authority. Enrollment limited to 40. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

HST 227mm Colloquium: Topics in Medieval European History-Magic in the Middle Ages (4 Credits)

The course uses magic as a case study for exploring cultural transmission in the Middle Ages. The course examines Germanic and Greco-Roman occult traditions, and the way in which the medieval synthesis of these cultures effects understandings of the occult. The course follows the influence of the Arabic and Hebrew influences on western occultism of the High Middle Ages, and flowering of the Renaissance magical tradition. The course challenges and reshapes some of our basic understandings about Medieval society. It problematizes modern division between science, magic and religion to illustrate how occult beliefs were part of wider religious experiences. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 229 Colloquium: A World Before Race?: Ethnicity, Culture and Difference in the Middle Ages (4 Credits)

Twenty-first century scholars argue that race is a constructed social identity that began to coalesce around the seventeenth century. But were they right? In this course, we will look to the Middle Ages to challenge the consensus that racial constructions were a byproduct of modernity. Does race function differently between the world of Latin Christendom and that of the dar al-Islam? What are the advantages and dangers of using the prism of race to analyze ethnic, cultural and religious differences in this medieval period? What does studying race in the Middle Ages teach us about contemporary conceptions of race? Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

HST 237/ MES 237 Colloquium: Mobility and Migration in the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 237 and HST 237. The history of the modern Middle East is a story of border-crossing as well as border-making. From 19th century immigrants from the Ottoman Empire to the Americas, to today's migrant laborers in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf, the region has been forged by those who move within and beyond national borders. How have forces of gender, class, and ethnicity shaped these journeys? This course examines the gendered processes of movement and migration--voluntary and involuntary--that have shaped the modern Middle East from the 19th century to the present. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 244/ MES 244 Colloquium:Thinking Revolution: Histories of Revolt in the Modern Middle East (4 Credits)

Offered as MES 244 and HST 244. How could we theorize revolution from the MENA region? How might we connect older histories and vocabularies of social change to recent events in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia? In the first part of this course, students engage prominent theories of revolution generated within EuroAmerican and MENA contexts. Next, we consider diverse theories of social change generated within key moments in the history of the modern Middle East, from Ottoman constitution in 1876 to postcolonial revolts in Oman, Yemen, and Algeria. Finally, we consider the 2011 Arab spring within this longer history of social change in the region. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I (5 Credits)

The first half of a two-semester sequence introducing modern Hebrew language and culture, with a focus on equal development of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Learning is amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. No previous knowledge of modern Hebrew is necessary. This course is available to Mount Holyoke College students through a simultaneous video-conferencing option. Enrollment limited to 18.

Fall

JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II (5 Credits)

The second half of a two-semester sequence introducing modern Hebrew language and culture, with a focus on equal development of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. By the end of the year, students are able to comprehend short and adapted literary and journalistic texts, describe themselves and their environment, and express their thoughts and opinions. Learning is amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. Prerequisite: JUD 101 or equivalent. This course is available to Mount Holyoke College students through a simultaneous video-conferencing option. Enrollment limited to 18. {F}

Spring

JUD 235/ MES 235 Perspectives on the Arab-Israel Conflict (4 Credits)

Same as MES 235. What is in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians? What has prevented a resolution to the conflict, and why does it continue to arouse such passions? Situating contemporary controversies in their historical contexts, explores key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, security, debates about Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the impact of religious claims, and the role of regional and international players and activists. Includes analysis of competing models for conflict resolution. No prerequisites. Open to students at all levels. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 288 History of Israel (4 Credits)

Looking to make better sense of today's headlines? A historical survey of the State of Israel, from the 19th-century origins of Zionism to the present. Competing interpretations of Israel's political and cultural history through analysis of primary sources, literature and film, and debates over how history is written and by whom. Places discussions about Zionism and Israel within the broader histories of Judaism, Palestine, Europe and the Middle East. Open to students at all levels. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MUS 249/ REL 249 Colloquium: Islamic Popular Music (4 Credits)

Offered as MUS 249 and REL 249. Music is a complex issue in many Islamic societies. There are tensions between those who believe that music has no place in Islam and try to prohibit it, those for whom it is a central component of mystical devotion, and those who tolerate it, albeit within well-defined parameters. The debate intensifies in the case of popular music, a core part of the self-identification of young people everywhere. Despite this, there is an amazing variety of vibrant popular music throughout the Islamic world. This course explores the religious debates over music and the rich musical tradition (including religious music) in Islam. Enrollment limited to 35. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 110hl Colloquium: Topics in Thematic Studies in Religion- Jerasalem and the Holy Land (4 Credits)

This course will examine the religious and historical legacy of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will explore the ways Jerusalem and the Holy Land have been sanctified in scripture, art, architecture, literature, poetry, and film. It will also explore how rulers tapped into this sanctity and significance to promote their own legitimacy and agendas. In this respect, the course emphasizes Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a common, shared heritage to the three monotheistic traditions, yet how it has inspired religious and political conflict in the past and today. Enrollment limited to 20. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 145 Introduction to the Islamic Traditions (4 Credits)

The Islamic religious tradition from its beginnings in seventh century Arabia through the present day, with particular emphasis on the formative period (A.D. 600–1000) and on modern efforts at reinterpretation. Topics include Muhammad and the Qur’an, prophetic tradition, sacred Law, ritual, sectarianism, mysticism, dogmatic theology and popular practices. Emphasis on the ways Muslims in different times and places have constructed and reconstructed the tradition for themselves. The course concludes with examples of modern Islamic thought (modernism, feminism and militancy). {H}

Fall, Spring, Annually

REL 246 Muslims, Modernity and Islam (4 Credits)

Major themes addressed by Muslim thinkers since the 19th century, such as Islamic reform and revival, the encounters with colonialism and imperialism, nationalism and other modern ideologies; and Islamic discussions of modernity, liberalism, democracy, feminism, sexuality, and militancy. Reading of primary sources in translation. {H}

Fall, Spring, Annually

REL 247 The Qur’an (4 Credits)

The Qur’an, according to the majority of Muslims, is God’s word revealed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years (610-632 C.E.). This course introduces students to Islam’s scriptural text: its content, form, structure and history. It also situates the Qur’an in the larger frame of the genre of Scripture: What does it mean for a text to be revealed? Study of the Qur’an as a seventh-century product, as well as the history of reception of this text. Analysis of its varying impact on the formulation of Islamic salvation history, law and legal theory, theology, ritual, intellectual trends, and art and popular culture. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

REL 248jh Topics in Modern Islam-Jihad (4 Credits)

The persistence of the ideology of jihad in modern Islam drives revivalists and apologists to disagree over the meaning of “jihad” and whether it should be understood to necessitate violence or as an interpersonal spiritual struggle. This course examines the most important modern debates about Jihad and how each position engages and appeals to the foundational Islamic sources (e.g. Qur’an, Muhammad, Sharia/Islamic Law) and Islamic history for legitimacy. It also explores the factors that make the rhetoric used by modern jihadists popular among certain Muslim constituencies, inspiring them to wage holy war against “infidels” as well as fellow Muslims. Course may be repeated for credit with a different topic. Enrollment limited to 35. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 305mc Seminar: Advanced Topics in Religion-The Muslim World and the Crusades: Then and Now (4 Credits)

This course explores the historical, religious, political, social and cultural impacts of the Crusades on the Muslim World from the late eleventh century until today. Special attention is given to the variety of Muslim reactions to and encounters with the Franks, including hostile and friendly relations. The course also considers the effect of the Crusades on the course of Islamic history and religious thought and its enduring legacy by examining texts, films, novels, poetry, etc. The broader objective is to understand how and why specific historical narratives generate powerful religious discourses that shape the current political, social and cultural realities. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 345sl Seminar: Topics in Islamic Thought-Muslims and Shari'a law (4 Credits)

This seminar explores the complexity and history of Shariʿa Law in Islam. It examines the formation of a variety of schools of Shariʿa from very early Islamic history until today and the way Muslim jurists have maintained the relevance of Shariʿa to their respective societies and times. It covers the theory and application, purpose, sources (e.g., Qurʾan, Muhammad, customs), hermeneutical tools (e.g., reason, public good, doubt) and the Shariʿa laws themselves. The course also discusses the interaction of Shariʿa with other legal systems, especially in the context of today where Shariʿa is restricted to a small realm (primarily family and personal law). Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission only. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 225 Colloquium: Muslim Women in Film (4 Credits)

This course provides the student with the academic writing skills necessary to successfully undertake writing assignments in the upper-division Spanish courses. The course focuses on expository and argumentative writing, but some attention is devoted to writing narratives and descriptions. Grammar is reviewed within the context of the writing assignments. Fulfills the writing requirement for the major. Prerequisite: SPN 220 or sufficient proficiency in Spanish. Enrollment limited to 18. Priority given to majors, minors and second-year students planning to study abroad. {A}{F}{L}

Fall

SPN 230mj Topics in Latin American and Peninsular Culture and Society-Maghribi Jewish Women: Cordoba, Casablanca, Tel Aviv (4 Credits)

This course examines constructions and representations of Maghribi Jewish women from the western Mediterranean to Israel. The first part of the course focuses on Jewish women in Andalusi and Maghribi texts. Students are invited to think critically about concepts such as "tolerance," "convivencia," and "dhimma," as well as what it means to be a woman and a religious minority in Muslim-majority communities. The second half of the course examines representations and realities of Jewish women of Moroccan descent in Israeli society. This part centers on questions of immigration, class, demography, gender, diaspora and identity. Enrollment limited to 19. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 250sm Topics in Iberian Cultural History-Sex and the Medieval City (4 Credits)

This course examines the medieval understanding of sex and the woman’s body within an urban context. We read medieval texts on love, medicine and women’s sexuality by Iberian and North African scholars. We investigate the ways in which medieval Iberian medical traditions have viewed women’s bodies and defined their health and illness. We also address women’s role as practitioners of medicine, and how such a role was affected by the gradual emergence of “modern” medical institutions such as the hospital and the medical profession. Prerequisite: SPN 220 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 19. {F}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 255 Colloquium: Muslim Women in Film (4 Credits)

Focusing on films by and about Muslim women from Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, this transdisciplinary course will explore one question: What do Muslim women want? Students will watch and study critically films in Farsi, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, and different Arabic dialects. Class discussion and assignments will be primarily in Spanish. Enrollment limited to 25. {A}{F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 332iw Seminar: Topics in the Middle Ages Today-Islam in the West (4 Credits)

This transdisciplinary course examines the intimate, complex and longstanding relationship between Islam and the West in the context of the Iberian Peninsula from the Middle Ages until the present. Discussions focus on religious, historical, philosophical and political narratives about the place of Islam and Muslims in the West. Students are also invited to think critically about “convivencia,” “clash of civilizations,” “multiculturalism” and other theories that seek to make sense of the relationship between Islam and the West. Enrollment limited to 14. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 335 Seminar: Minorities in North Africa and the Middle East (4 Credits)

Focusing on religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities, this course explores questions about belonging, rights, justice and their relevance for the study of North Africa and the Middle East. It draws from different disciplines including history, philosophy, religion, anthropology, sociology, literature, and politics to think about majority-minority relations and the making of citizens. Prerequisite: SPN255 or equivalent, and permission of the instructor. Prerequisite: SPN 255 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permissions required. {F}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SWG 288 Immigration and Sexuality in France and Europe (4 Credits)

Taught in English. This course analyzes the politics of sexuality in immigration debates in France and Europe, from the 1920s to the present. Students examine both cultural productions and social science texts: memoirs, psychoanalytical literature, activist statements, sociological studies, films, fashion, performance art, music videos, and dance forms. France has historically been the leading European host country for immigrants, a multiplicity of origins reflected in its current demographic make-up. Topics include: the hyper-sexualization of black, brown, and Muslim bodies, France as a Mediterranean culture, immigrant loneliness in Europe, intermarriage and demographic change, the veil and niqab, as well as sexual nationalism and homo-nationalism. May be taken concurrently with FRN 288, which is taught in French, for FRN credit. Enrollment limited to 35. {H}{L}{S}

Fall

Additional Programmatic Information

Director: Prof. Susanna Ferguson

The honors program consists of a yearlong intensive research project typically resulting in a thesis. The core of the program is a thesis paper, a complete draft of which is due on the first day of the second semester. Students will spend the spring semester revising their papers and will submit the final version by April 1.  The deadline for submitting honors proposals for the 2023-24 academic year is April 12, 2023.

Eligibility Requirements

Students who have at least a 3.3 grade-point average (GPA) in courses outside of the major and 3.5 GPA in courses within the Middle East Studies major are eligible for the honors program.

Students must have successfully completed six courses in their major prior to being accepted to the honors program; under normal circumstances, these six courses will have been completed in the Middle East Studies Program at Smith College.

 Students must complete the application form and receive departmental approval to be admitted to the honors program.

On the application form, students will be asked to identify three courses taken that are related to their specific honors project.

How to Apply

See the class deans website about applying for departmental honors. Please review the departmental honors webpage for information about general guidelines for students considering an honors thesis. In order to begin the application process, the student will need to request a Calculation of GPA form by emailing honors@smith.edu. A personalized listing of all courses and grades that are eligible for calculation will be sent as a PDF by email to enable the student to determine the grade point averages both inside and outside the major. The student should also identify an advisor for the honors thesis from the MES and affiliated faculty.

Eligible students are encouraged to apply in the spring of their junior year, but fall applications are allowed as long as they are received before the end of the first week of classes. January graduates are on a different schedule.

Students may register for departmental honors when choosing courses in April if their applications have been approved. The spring deadline to submit completed applications, with departmental endorsement, is the last day of final exams. Applications to enter the departmental honors program from current second-semester juniors will be considered only after the grades for this current semester have been calculated into the GPAs.

First-semester seniors must submit completed applications, with departmental endorsement, no later than the end of the first week of classes in the fall semester.

Requirements to Fulfill the Honors Program

Students admitted to the honors program will register for a yearlong, 8-credit honors course (MES 430D, 4 credits in the fall and 4 credits in the spring).

Students in honors must successfully complete all the requirements for the major in Middle East Studies. The two semesters of MES 430D may be counted as two courses toward the 11 courses required for honors students.

Students in honors are expected to participate in Collaborations by making a public presentation of their thesis.

Oral Examination

Following submission of the final paper, students will take an oral examination administered by two members of the Middle East Studies faculty. This exam will be based on the thesis and on the field in which it was written. The field is defined by the student themselves, who at the time of the exam will identify three courses which they believe bear upon the topic of the thesis.

Honors Project Description

An honors applicant must submit to the Middle East Studies Program a thesis proposal consisting of 500 to 1,000 words (two to four pages). Typically, the proposal is submitted during the spring semester of a student’s junior year. Specific deadlines will be posted on the MES website. The proposal should contain the following information:

  • a description of the broader scholarly issue to be investigated;

  • the specific question or hypothesis to be treated;

  • an explanation of the approach to be taken and evidence of experience using this approach;

  • documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis (e.g., previous course work related to the thesis topic, quantitative skills, foreign language ability, etc.).

Additional Course Information

Fall Semester 2023

Note: This listing is not official.  For the official list of course offerings for this semester, consult the schedule in Workday, or the online course search.

ARA 100 Elementary Arabic I
John O. Weinert
2 Sections:
100-01: MWF 8:00-9:15;
100-02: MWF 9:25-10:40

ARA 200 Intermediate Arabic I
May George
MWF 10:50-12:05

ARA 300 Advanced Arabic I
May George
MWF 9:25-10:40

MES 208 Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East
Susanna Ferguson
TTh 1:20-2:35

MES 213 Colloquium: Sex and Power in the Modern Middle East
Susanna Ferguson
TTh 10:50-12:05

MES 240 Colloquium: Encounters with Unjust Authority: Political Fiction of the Arab World
Steven Heydemann
TTh 9:25-10:40

MES 290 Colloquium: Islam and Capitalism
Sohaib Khan
TTh 2:45-4:00

Cross listed courses

FRN 230 Topics in French Studies - Banlieue Lit
Mehammed Mack
M 3:05-4:20; W 2:45-4:00

GOV 248 Arab-Israeli Dispute 
Bozena C. Welborne
MW 10:50-12:05

HST 224 History of the Middle Ages
Joshua Birk
MWF 10:50-12:05

JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I
Joanna Caravita
MWF 9:25-10:40

REL 145 Introduction to the Islamic Traditions
Suleiman Ali Mourad
TTh 9:25-10:40

REL 305 Seminar: Muslim World and the Crusades
Suleiman Ali Mourad
F 9:25-12:05

SPN 250 Sex and the Medieval City
Ibtissam Bouachrine
TTh 1:20-2:35

Spring Semester 2023 (Spring 2024 TBD)  

Note: This listing is not official.  For the official list of course offerings for this semester, consult the schedule in Workday, or the online course search.

ARA 101 Elementary Arabic II
Two sections: M. Hassan; J. Weinert
M 3:05; WF 2:45-4:00; MWF 8:00-9:15

ARA 201 Intermediate Arabic II
M. George
MWF 9:25-10:40

ARA 301 Advanced Arabic II
J. Weinert
MWF 10:50-12:05

ARA 401 4th Year Arabic II
M. George
MWF 10:50-12:05

MES 230 Society and Development in the Middle East
S. Heydemann
TTh 9:25-10:40

MES 225 Egypt: Mother of the World
A. Giordani
TTh 10:50-12:05

MES 380 Authoritarianism in the Arab World
Steven Heydemann
TTh 1:20-4:00

MES 322 Arab Revolutions
A. Giordani
TTh 1:20-4:00

Cross listed courses

ANT 214 Anthropology of Displacement, Migration and Transnationalism
C. Sajadian

FRN 251 Islam de France
M. Mack

GOV 224 Globalization From an Islamic Perspective
B. Welborne

GOV 248 The Arab-Israeli Dispute
B. Welborne

HST 229  A World Before Race?
J. Birk

JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II
Joanna Caravita

REL 110 Topics in Thematic Studies in Religion: The Holy Land 
S. Mourad

REL 246 Muslims, Modernity and Islam
S. Mourad

Language Courses

  • ARA 100 Elementary Arabic I
  • ARA 101 Elementary Arabic II
  • ARA 200 Intermediate Arabic I 
  • ARA 201 Intermediate Arabic II 
  • ARA 300 Advanced Arabic I 
  • ARA 301 Advanced Arabic II
  • JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I 
  • JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II 


The Program in Jewish Studies at Smith College partners with the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts to offer Smith students a full complement of courses to bring them to advanced proficiency in modern Hebrew. Normally, students who have completed JUD-102 at Smith College will enter UMASS Hebrew 230 in the fall and follow it with Hebrew 240 in the spring. Smith students will not have to travel to UMASS if they enroll in this course. They will be able to participate in the class through videoconference at Smith. For more information on the Hebrew program, or if you have a question about language placement please contact Joanna Caravita.

Advanced study in Hebrew is offered at UMass or through Special Studies at Smith.  
Please consult the website of the Program in Jewish Studies for a full list of summer Hebrew language programs. 

Middle East Studies Courses

  • MES 100 Introduction to Middle East Studies 
  • MES 203 Introduction to Middle East Comparative Politics 
  • MES 208 Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East 
  • MES 213 ​Sex and Power in the Middle East 
  • MES 217 ​International Relations and Regional Order in the Middle East 
  • MES 220 The Arab Spring 
  • MES 230 Society and Development in the Middle East 
  • MES 235 Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
  • MES 240 Encounters with Unjust Authority: Political Fiction of the Arab World 
  • MES 380 Seminar: Authoritarianism in the Middle East 

 

MES 400 Special Studies 
Admission by permission of the Program in Middle East Studies, normally for junior and senior minors in Middle East studies, and for qualified juniors and seniors from other departments. Offered both semesters each year. Credits: 1-4 
Normally offered each academic year 

MES 430D Honors Project 
Credits: 4 
Normally offered each academic year

Faculty

Justin Cammy

Jewish Studies

Professor of Jewish Studies and of World Literatures

Justin Cammy

May George

Middle East Studies

Lecturer in Middle East Studies and the Five College Initiative

May George

Steven Heydemann

Middle East Studies

Janet Wright Ketcham 1953 Professor in Middle East Studies; Director of Program in Middle East Studies

Steve Heydemann

Gregory White

Government

Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government; Chair of Environmental Science and Policy

Gregory White

Opportunities & Resources

As a dynamic and interdisciplinary field, Middle East Studies offers a host of opportunities for further exploration, including funding for studying abroad, conducting research, andfaculty-student collaborations.

The Program in Middle East Studies encourages students to study in the Middle East or North Africa as a way to complement their course work at Smith, deepen their facility in language and immerse themselves in the cultures of the region. All Smith students who wish to study abroad during the fall, spring or academic year must follow the regulations and deadlines set by the Office for International Study. Normally, students only are permitted to study at a Smith-approved program abroad. The full list of Smith-approved programs is available on the website of the Office for International Study.

Smith-Approved Programs in the Middle East and North Africa

Jordan

Read about “The Best Cities to Study Arabic in the Middle East.”

CET Amman: Intensive Language

Terms: Fall, Spring
Location: Amman
Language of Instruction: English, Arabic
Prerequisites: One year of college level Arabic (Smith requirement). All students are required to take both modern standard and colloquial Jordanian Arabic while in Amman.
Program Highlights: In this intensive language program, classes extend well beyond Intensive MSA. in addition to intensive language study, students select two content-based electives—language classes taught in Arabic that focus on the history, politics, and culture of the Arab World. Advanced students have the possibility of attending a few lectures on the host campus—a rare chance to experience university learning just as a local student would. Students take a full load of Arabic language classes, live with a local roommate, meet with an Arabic language partner, and attend co-curricular language activities.

CIEE in Jordan
Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
Location: Amman
Language of Instruction: English
Prerequisites: One year of college-level Arabic (Smith requirement). All students are required to take both modern standard and colloquial Jordanian Arabic while in Amman.
Program Highlights: Students begin the semester with a course of colloquial Jordanian Arabic, supplemented by excursions and lectures on regional topics. After the initial orientation period, students begin their course in Arabic language and two area studies courses in such fields as anthropology, archaeology, culture, economics, history, literature, politics and religion. Students have the option of living in an apartment with other CIEE program participants, or with a Jordanian family.

SIT Jordan: Modernization and Social Change
Terms: Fall, Spring
Location: Amman
Language of Instruction: English
Prerequisites: One year of college-level Arabic (Smith requirement).
Program Highlights: Based in the capital city of Amman, students conduct academic fieldwork within Jordan. Students study modern standard Arabic and live in homestays in Amman for nine to 13 weeks. Educational excursions to ancient cities of Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash Aqaba and the desert castles. A one-week visit to Egypt, conditions permitting, offers students additional regional insights.

Morocco

SIT Morocco: Multiculturalism and Human Rights
Terms: Fall, Spring
Location: Rabat
Language of Instruction: English
Prerequisites: One year of Arabic language (Smith requirement)
Program Highlights: Program includes homestay; rural stay in the High Atlas Mountains; educational excursions in Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and the Zagora desert area; and four-week independent study project.

SIT Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity
Terms: Fall, Spring
Location: Rabat
Language of Instruction: English
Prerequisites: One year of Arabic language (Smith requirement)
Program Highlights: Program includes a homestay; rural stay in the High Atlas Mountains; educational excursions to Tangiers, Chefchaouen, Marrakech and Andalusia, Spain; courses included Moroccan Arabic, a migration studies seminar and a four-week independent study project.

Israel

Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
Location: Kibbutz Ketura, Arava Desert, Israel (40 minutes north of the Gulf of Aqaba)
Language of Instruction: English
Prerequisites: One year of college-level Arabic or Hebrew (Smith requirement)
Program Highlights: The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies encourages environmental cooperation between peoples. Students from Israel (both Jewish and Arab), the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and abroad study regional environmental issues in a way that works toward peace and sustainable development. Students live together, and all classes are held on the kibbutz. The program of study includes frequent field trips to environmental sites throughout Israel; visits by leading environmental activists and policy makers; leadership training; and independent research. The idea that nature knows no political borders is more than a belief at the Arava Institute; it is a fact, a curriculum and a way of life.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Rothberg School for Overseas Students
Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
Location: Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus
Language of Instruction: Hebrew, English
Prerequisites: One year of college-level modern Hebrew (Smith requirement).
Program Highlights: The Rothberg School offers specially designed courses for Americans and other international students. Classes are taught in English, and the program offers internship and volunteer opportunities as well as excursions, activities and independent study. Housing in residence halls with Israeli students. The Rothberg School has compressed the terms for foreign students to fit the U.S. calendar. To receive full credit, Smith students are required to complete the intensive Hebrew Ulpan in August. Students wishing to take courses at Hebrew University with Hebrew classmates (in Hebrew) will need to follow the Israel academic calendar, which has later end dates.

Tel Aviv University
Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
Location: Tel Aviv
Language of Instruction: Hebrew, English
Prerequisites: One year of college-level modern Hebrew (Smith requirement).
Program Highlights: Fall (October-January), spring (January-June), or full-year program. Mandatory intensive Hebrew language sessions offered before each semester. The fall Ulpan begins in late July/early August. The program offers specially designed classes for English-speaking students from all over the world. Orientation, excursions and weekend seminars are included in the program. Students live in residence halls with Israeli or international roommates.

Other Study Abroad Programs in the Middle East

Warning: The following programs are not on the list of Smith-approved study abroad destinations. They are here for informational purposes only.

In certain exceptional cases, the Office for International Study and the Committee on Study Abroad may entertain petitions for study at institutions that are not on the Smith-approved list of programs abroad. Participation in such programs requires a student petition and the formal approval of the Committee for Study Abroad and the Office of International Study. The CSA and OIS base their approval on a wide variety of factors, including (but not limited to) student safety, travel warnings, quality of the academic program, availability of student housing, level of administrative support at the institution abroad, and recommendations from peer institutions. Smith faculty of the Program in Middle East Studies are familiar with the following programs:

Egypt

CASA (Center for Arabic Study Abroad, Cairo)
AUC (The American University in Cairo)

Israel

Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) International School of Engineering

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

University of Haifa-International School

Lebanon

AUB (The American University of Beirut)

SINARC (Institute for Intensive Arabic Language and Culture at the Lebanese American University)

Oman

SIT Oman

Jerusalem/Abu Dis/Ramallah

Al-Quds University-Bard College Program

Turkey

CIEE, Koc University
Baylor University, Bogazici

United Arab Emirates (Sharjah)
CIEE, The American University of Sharjah

The Program in Middle East Studies strongly encourages students to study abroad, particularly in the Middle East or North Africa. Studying in the Middle East can be an important complement to your studies at Smith.

For more information about summer study and funding, please contact Steven Heydemann, director of Middle East Studies.

Funding

Funding for summer study is very limited and normally covers only a portion of the total cost of attending a summer program.

Summer Language Programs

Summer offers excellent opportunities to deepen your language skills.

Most of the programs on the list of Smith-approved study abroad programs (consult the website of the Office for International Study) also offer excellent summer programs in Middle Eastern language, politics, history or culture. Credits are transferable back to Smith.

During the summer, students may elect to attend programs that are not on the approved list. Such programs may not be eligible for summer funding due to ongoing State Department travel warnings. Transfer of credit from such institutions may require the approval of the program and/or the registrar.

Note that prices normally do not include the cost of airfare. In some cases, costs for housing are included, while in other cases it is not. Please consult the individual program websites for the most up-to-date information on dates, fees and program information.

Jerusalem

Center for Jerusalem Studies, Al-Quds University
Arabic, Jerusalem. A program of Al-Quds University. The CJS offers Intensive Arabic language from beginner through advanced levels, and also includes lectures and tours of Jerusalem from a Palestinian perspective.

Jordan

Read about "The Best Cities to Study Arabic in the Middle East."

CET Arabic, Irbid Jordan. CET Jordan students have their sights set on mastering Arabic. Students dive head first into language learning, taking courses in both formal and informal Arabic. Middle Eastern studies courses, language partners, local roommates and a language pledge ensure that students return home well versed in Arabic and its contexts. This program is for serious students with at least two terms of previous Arabic language study under their belt.

CIEE: Jordan Arabic, Amman Jordan. The summer Arabic Language study abroad program in Amman, Jordan, is for students who have a strong interest in developing a solid foundation in Modern Standard Arabic and seek to begin or accelerate their language proficiency through an intensive language program. In addition to rigorous course work in Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Jordanian Arabic, students participate in language club activities and program excursions designed to give them opportunities to apply their language skills and learn firsthand about Jordanian culture and society.

SIT Study Abroad Arabic, Amman Jordan. Students acquire not only basic vocabulary but also practical communication skills, including culturally appropriate gestures, necessary to communicate in a variety of everyday situations with native speakers.

Amideast Summer Intensive Arabic in Jordan. Intensive course work, combined with daily interactions with host families, helps students at all levels and to increase their Arabic proficiency in a short period of time. 

Egypt

The American University in Cairo (AUC), Arabic Language Intensive Program.  A summer program is offered in which students can receive 6 to 8 credit hours. Courses offered at the elementary, intermediate and advanced levels.

Lebanon

SINARC-Summer Institute for Intensive Arabic Language and Culture. Arabic, Beirut Lebanon. SINARC is hosted at the Lebanese American University (Beirut Campus). SINARC offers courses in Arabic language and culture at various levels of proficiency. Each level provides intensive classroom instruction. Cultural activities include weekly lectures on topics related to Arab and Lebanese politics, history, society and culture.

Oman

Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center's (SQCC) Summer Arabic Language and Media (SALAM). A fully funded intensive Arabic language scholarship program. This program will allow students to gain a deeper knowledge of Arabic, while becoming familiar with Omani history and culture.

Morocco

ALIF Program. Arabic, Fez Morocco. The Arabic Language Institute of Fez offers both Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Moroccan Arabic.

CIEE: Morocco. Arabic, Rabat Morocco. The summer Language and Culture study abroad program in Rabat, Morocco is appropriate for students who have a strong interest in developing their Arabic language skills and learning firsthand about contemporary Morocco. Through language courses and an innovative course that explores Morocco’s rich history and culture, students improve their Arabic skills while gaining greater insight into present-day Moroccan society.

SIT Study Abroad in Morocco. Arabic, Rabat Morocco. Following arrival, students are placed in one of three language levels—beginner, intermediate or advanced. All students receive a total of 90 hours of classroom instruction in Modern Standard Arabic, intensive language instruction in small group formats, have field exercises and enjoy weekly office hours with language instructors.

Israel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hebrew, Arabic. Jerusalem Israel. Each summer, the Rothberg International School offers intensive language courses in Hebrew and Arabic, in addition to a full program of courses in Middle East studies.

Tel Aviv University. Hebrew, Arabic. Tel Aviv Israel. TAU's summer programs offer undergraduates the opportunity to study language or to enroll in courses related to the contemporary Middle East. Classroom learning is supplemented by field trips, overnight trips, guest speakers, evening workshops. Tel Aviv University is located in the suburb of Ramat Aviv, a short distance for the cultural institutions, nightlife and beaches of Tel Aviv.

University of Haifa. Hebrew, Arabic, Haifa Israel. Classes meet four days per week, six hours each day, and students can expect several hours of homework each day. Intensive Hebrew is offered through an model immersion (ulpan), from elementary through advanced. In the Arabic program one additional day each week is devoted to a field trip to visit locations of interest in Arab-speaking communities in the northern parts of Israel.

Language Programs Based in the United States

Middlebury College Summer Arabic School, (Middlebury, VT)

Brandeis-Middlebury Hebrew Summer Language School (Middlebury, VT)

Brandeis Hebrew Language Summer Institute (Brandeis University, Waltham MA)

The Jewish Theological Seminary Intensive Hebrew Language Summer Program (NYC)

Other Summer Programs

Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Kibbutz Ketura, Negev Desert, Israel. The Sustainability Summer Program at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is an opportunity for college students to learn about the environmental challenges that are connected to human settlement in the Southern Arava and discuss and examine the social and political challenges of the region.

The Sams Fund is a restricted fund established by Betty Hamady Sams ’57 and James F. Sams to support the study of Arab history, culture, politics, religion and art at Smith College. The intent of the Sams Fund is to foster greater understanding among Americans and people of Arab countries.

Eligibility

Tenured and tenure-track faculty, lecturers, postdoctoral fellows and currently enrolled students of Smith College are eligible to apply for support within the guidelines noted below.

The Sams Fund does not support student language study. Students may request support for the study of Middle East languages through the Near East Studies Fund.

Activities Supported

Priority will be given to proposals seeking support for activities that contribute to the development of Middle East studies at Smith College, clearly advance the goals of the fund and show promise of lasting impact. Eligible activities include the following.

Scholarship

To facilitate scholarship focused on the history, culture, politics, religion, and art of the Middle East and North Africa.

Faculty-Student Collaborations

To support collaborative research and learning activities between faculty and students in eligible fields.

Curricular Development

To provide support and funding to create new, permanent courses or to revise existing ones. Proposals can include requests for summer stipends as well as course materials.

Co-curricular Activities

To support lectures, exhibitions and other scholarly events that foster a greater understanding of the Middle East and North Africa among the Smith community and the broader public. Priority will be given to programs or events that show promise of broad and lasting impact.

Award Details

Sams Fund awards are offered on a competitive basis according to the following guidelines.

  • Funding requests in support of scholarship will not typically exceed $2,000
  • Requests in support of faculty-student research collaborations may not exceed $500
  • Requests in support of curricular development may not exceed $1,000
  • Requests in support of co-curricular activities will not typically exceed $2,000

The Sams Fund welcomes applications that include co-funding of proposed activities. All awards, including requests for funding in support of travel and/or participation in professional meetings, must comply with Smith College expense and reimbursement policies.

Successful applicants may not receive more than one award from the Sams Fund in an academic year. Eligible faculty may only receive one Curriculum Development award every two years.

Application Procedures

Eligible faculty and students may apply by submitting a project proposal of not more than five pages describing the purpose of the project, the specific activities for which support is sought, the contribution of the project to the development of Middle East studies at Smith College and their intended impact, estimated duration of the project and the proposed budget.

Application Deadlines

Applications will be reviewed by the Middle East Studies Program Advisory Committee. Proposed activities may begin on notification of funding. Deadlines for applications are as follows:

Fall: September 22, 2023
Spring: February 19, 2024
Summer: May 2, 2024

Applications should be submitted to SamsFund@smith.edu.

Report On Activities

Grant recipients must submit a brief written report to the Middle East Studies Program Advisory Committee no later than 90 days following completion of the award period. Awardees who fail to submit a report will be ineligible for future funding.

Middle East Studies in Action

Fusayfsa’ (Mosaic)

A Journal Challenging Misconceptions Through Student Research and Engagement

The June 2023 issue of Fusayfsa’ is now available online! Explore this latest issue and past editions as well. First published in 2020, Fusayfsa’ (Mosaic) is a journal of the culture of North Africa founded and edited by Smith students in Middle East Studies. Read more in the 2021 Grécourt Gate article about the founder, Manal Fatima ‘23, and aims of Fusayfsa’ journal.

Fusayfa' June 2023 - journal cover. A hand drawn image of a woman, with red flowers in her hair, and a background of notes written on yellow paper.

Beyond the Middle East Studies Program

Chloe Rose ’22, who is majoring in Middle East studies and minoring in Arabic, highlights a range of opportunities that students can pursue.

Contact Middle East Studies

Hatfield Hall 102

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3510 Email: middleeaststudies@smith.edu

Administrative Assistant:

Lisa DeCarolis-Osepowicz

ldecarol@smith.edu

Individual appointments may be arranged directly with the faculty.