The interdisciplinary major in Middle Eastern Studies (MES) provides an opportunity to study a region of historic and cultural importance whose current development is bound up with the political, economic, and cultural development of our own society. The Middle East encompasses the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel. This program is designed to allow students to study the culture and history of the region; its basic geographic, demographic, and ethnographic characteristics; recent political, economic, social, and cultural changes; and at least one of the major Middle Eastern languages of today.
The MES major is not to be confused with the major in Near Eastern Studies (NES). The NES major emphasizes language and literature and includes the study of the ancient Middle East. Students interested in those fields should contact the Near Eastern Studies Department in 250 Barrows Hall, 510-642-3757. Both MES and NES also offer minors.
For further information see the MES Requirements & Policies booklet:
Student Learning Goals
The faculty in Middle Eastern Studies have collectively articulated these learning goals so that all undergraduate majors and minors may better understand what they can and should learn in their coursework and how best to learn it. It is our hope that this statement of learning goals will not only make our students more aware of what is expected of them, but also more capable of utilizing the opportunities offered by the major to their full potential.
The goals outlined below distinguish knowledge (i.e. content) from skills (i.e. specific know-how) and describe what we would like all our undergraduates in the Middle Eastern Studies major to know and be able to do when they graduate from the program.
- General familiarity in Area Studies of the Middle East that includes the politics, history, and cultures of the geographic region encompassing the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel;
- Knowledge of the key political, economic, and social issues in the contemporary Middle East;
- Understanding of the basic tenets of Islam, its historical development, and its relationship to minority religions of the region;
- Deep understanding of one particular issue or topic within the field of MES;
- Proficiency in at least one modern Middle Eastern language: Arabic, Turkish, Persian, or Hebrew, other regional languages (Armenian, Berber, etc.) subject to petition;
- Familiarity with interdisciplinary methodologies, relatively in depth knowledge of one particular discipline’s approach to MES.
- The desired skill set for all MES graduates should include the following:
- Strong foreign language speaking and writing skills;
- Ability to recognize and use interdisciplinary approaches within the field of Area Studies;
- Training in qualitative and, where relevant, quantitative methods of data analysis and interpretation;
- Advanced critical thinking and evaluation skills;
- Ability to understand and articulate politically sensitive issues according to academic rules and practices;
- Excellent written and oral communication.
Learning Goals Appendix:
1 course from the following list
- Near Eastern Studies 10: Introduction to the Near East
- History 12: Introduction to the Middle East
- Middle Eastern Studies 10: Social Issues in Middle Eastern Studies
All students must be able to demonstrate a proficiency equivalent to four college-level semesters in a modern Middle Eastern language: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish. One semester must be in progress or completed prior to admission to the major. The remaining three semesters may be completed at any time before graduation. Equivalency can also be achieved through AP credit, examination and/or study abroad.
- Core Courses: three courses chosen from a list of eligible courses (those indicated as having 50% or more Middle East-related content) in three different departments. Consult the MES Requirements & Policies booklet for details.
- Concentration: four courses are selected to form a disciplinary concentration, requiring students to pursue advanced study of a selected topic in Middle Eastern Studies following a particular disciplinary approach. In order to ensure disciplinary depth, at least two of the four courses taken to fulfill the concentration requirement must be from the same department. The remaining two courses must be thematically related to the selected topic. The concentration must be designed in consultation with the MES Chair or co-Chair and pre-approved by an MES staff advisor in the IAS office. Students may choose their concentration courses from the list of Core Courses, and from any courses listed as having at least 50% Middle East-related content. Both course lists are found in the MES Requirements & Policies booklet. Students may also petition to count up to two courses listed as having 33% Middle East-related content toward their concentration (See Form: “MES Major Concentration Course Petition”).
- Methodology: one course, MES 102 (Scope and Methods of Research in Middle Eastern Studies)
- Senior Thesis: one course, MES 190 or MES H195 (see “Honors” below for more details). Each student is required to write a thesis. Students who enroll in MES 190 will participate in a tutorial with a Middle Eastern Studies faculty member to write a paper of 30-40 pages on a topic within the Middle Eastern area.
- Online Research: one course, MES 194 (Online Research and Digital Production for Middle Eastern Studies). This workshop is intended for Middle Eastern Studies majors undertaking senior thesis projects. It should be taken in the spring semester, while students are enrolled in MES 190/H195: “Senior Thesis in MES.” Students in this workshop will explore online research tools and web-building techniques with an aim to complement their theses with multimedia websites that disseminate their findings and demonstrate their capacity for research to a wider audience.
How To Declare
Applications are accepted during the fall and spring semesters from the third week of instruction until the last day of instruction (not the last day of finals). Applications are accepted during the summer from the last week in May until the beginning of the fall semester (not the beginning of classes).
To be eligible to declare students must:
- Have completed or currently be enrolled in one Middle East-related course at UC Berkeley;
- Have completed or currently be enrolled in one semester of a modern Middle Eastern language course; and
- Not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.
To get declared you must both:
- attend a Major Declaration Workshop (check the Teaching Program Calendar for dates), and
- meet with an advisor to submit the MES application materials
Bring a completed MES Application – including all materials and transcripts listed below – to the Workshop. Application materials may be submitted after attending the Major Declaration Workshop. However, students will not be officially declared until they have both attended a Workshop and submitted all declaration papers.
Senior students with a grade point average of at least 3.6 in courses for the major and 3.5 in all work completed at U.C. Berkeley are eligible to enroll in MES H195, the Honors Thesis. This course is taken in place of MES 190, and requires a longer research paper of 50-75 pages, to be completed under the direct supervision of a faculty thesis advisor appropriate to the student’s interest.
The MES major provides a broad-based liberal arts background as well as the intellectual skills appropriate for careers in either the public or private sector. Additionally, the major offers an excellent background for students planning postgraduate careers in social science disciplines and professional schools.
This description is for introductory purposes only. Students interested in completing a major or minor in MES should consult the MES Requirements & Policies booklet and/or the Center for Middle Eastern Studies website.