BA in Middle East & North Africa Studies

Middle East & North Africa Studies is a major offered by the Pardee School of Global Studies to students enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The interdisciplinary major in Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Studies provides a coherent grounding in the history, cultures, artistic production, and one or more of the languages of the MENA region. (MENA is defined for this purpose as comprising the Arabic-, Hebrew-, Persian-, and Turkish-speaking areas of the world.) MENA Studies capitalizes on BU’s unusually strong offerings in four Middle Eastern languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish) and many aspects of Middle Eastern and North African culture and politics. It is designed to be flexible, easily tailored to each student’s particular interests and learning goals, whether those focus on a certain country in the region or a particular transnational issue. MENA Studies works well on its own, in combination with a minor, or as a double major with International Relations or a disciplinary major.

Graduating MENA Studies majors are well prepared for graduate study and for careers in government, local and international non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Majors study one or more MENA languages for a total of at least six semesters; they also develop competence in both humanities and social sciences, and the mini-seminar CAS ME 101 helps them integrate these disciplinary approaches and understand the utility and limits of each. Every student builds a “MENA Portfolio” tracking his or her coursework, language learning milestones, study abroad experiences, and reflections. Seniors may present their research projects at an annual majors’ conference. Discussions with MENA faculty and fellow students help majors understand the disciplinary and other biases most prevalent in the region and how they are often replicated among scholars who study it. Majors thus have a continuous opportunity to explore, deepen, and perhaps revise their own pre-existing beliefs and ideas about this contested region.


Majors are required to take 11 courses with a grade of “C” or higher: one broad introduction to the region chosen from List A, at least three humanities courses chosen from List B, at least three social sciences courses chosen from List C, and four electives: these may include any from the three lists not used to fulfill the above requirements; language courses from List D as specified below; any other courses on the MENA region (including “topics” courses) offered throughout the University; and/or senior honors work. Majors must fulfill the language requirement as specified below. Also required is a one-credit mini-seminar, CAS ME 101, Issues in Middle East & North Africa Studies. By petition with advisor’s consent, students may also count relevant courses from Consortium schools and non-BU study abroad programs. At least three of the 11 courses counted for the major must be at or above the 400 level. At least 7 of the 11 courses for the major must be taken at Boston University (or BU-sponsored Study Abroad programs).

CAS ME 101 Issues in Middle East & North Africa Studies

A one-credit mini-seminar to be offered each spring, required of all MENA Studies majors. The class meets one hour weekly to integrate and reflect on the approaches to ME Studies that students encounter in their other coursework. Students begin keeping MENA Studies portfolio.

Unless otherwise noted, all courses listed below are 4 credit hours.

List A: Broad Introduction to the Region

One course from List A:

  • CAS AH 220 Islamic Art and Architecture
  • CAS AN 317 Power and Society in the Middle East
  • CAS AN 319 Anthropology of Muslim Cultures and Politics
  • CAS HI 382/IR 328 Turko-Persia in the Twentieth Century
  • CAS HI 387 Introduction to the Middle East
  • CAS IR/GE 382 Understanding the Middle East
  • CAS XL 223 Introduction to Comparative Literature: Middle Eastern Literature (in English translation)

List B: Humanities

Three courses from List B:

  • CAS AH 220 Islamic Art and Architecture
  • CAS AH 313 Imperial Reflections: Early Modern Islamic Art and Architecture
  • CAS AH 314 After Genghis Khan: Art and Architecture in Central Asia and Iran
  • CAS AH 317 From Morocco to Timbuktu: Art and Architecture at the Saharan Crossroads
  • CAS AH 428 Seminar: Islamic Art
  • CAS AH 540 Europe and the Islamic World: Medieval and Early-Modern Cultural Exchange
  • CAS AH 541 Courtly Commissions: Ottoman Art and Architecture
  • CAS LF 456 The Postcolonial Novel
  • CAS LH 250 Masterpieces of Modern Hebrew Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LH 283 Israeli Culture Through Film (in English translation)
  • CAS LH 330 Israeli Popular Music
  • CAS LH 350 Hebrew Narrative: Biblical and Modern
  • CAS LH 351 Styles and Meaning of Hebrew Poetry: Modern Hebrew Poetry
  • CAS LH 453 Israeli Culture Through Film
  • CAS LT 281 Istanbul at the Crossroads
  • CAS LY 281 Contemporary Arab Literature: Subversion, Censorship, Exile (in English translation)
  • CAS LY 284 Arabs Write War: Poetry, Prose, and Drama Since 1948 (in English translation)
  • CAS LY 350 Introduction to Arabic Literature
  • CAS LY 441 1001 Nights in the World Literary Imagination
  • CAS LY 470 Topics in Arabic Literature
  • CAS LY 471 Topics in Arab Culture and Arabic Language
  • CAS LZ 380 Persian (Farsi) Epic and Romance (in English translation)
  • CAS LZ 381 Rumi and Persian Sufi Poetry (in English translation)
  • CAS RN 104 Religions of the World: Western
  • CAS RN 201 The Hebrew Bible
  • CAS RN 212 Christianity
  • CAS RN 214 Islam
  • CAS RN 216 Judaism
  • CAS RN 220 Holy City: Jerusalem in Time, Space, and Imagination
  • CAS RN 301 Varieties of Early Christianity
  • CAS RN 316 Modern Islam
  • CAS RN 323 Classical Jewish Thought
  • CAS RN 331 Zionism and the State of Israel
  • CAS RN 334 Dead Sea Scrolls
  • CAS RN 340 The Quran
  • CAS RN 341 Islamic Mysticism: Sufism
  • CAS RN 345 Islamic Law
  • CAS RN 434 Representations of Muhammad
  • CAS RN 435 Women, Gender, and Islam
  • CAS XL 223 Introduction to Comparative Literature: Middle Eastern Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS XL 342 Travel Writing and the Muslim World
  • CAS XL 386 Africa on Screen

LIST C: Social Sciences

Three courses from List C:

  • CAS AN 307 Turkey and Middle East in Comparative Perspective
  • CAS AN 317 Power and Society in the Middle East
  • CAS AN 319 Anthropology of Muslim Cultures and Politics
  • CAS AN 320 Women in the Muslim World
  • CAS AN 525 Ritual and Political Identity
  • CAS AR 209 The Near Eastern Bronze Age
  • CAS AR 221 Archaeology of the Islamic World
  • CAS AR 341 Archaeology of Mesopotamia
  • CAS AR 342 Archaeology of the Holy Land
  • CAS AR 343 Anatolian Archaeology
  • CAS AR 532 Studies in Archaeology of the Near and Middle East
  • CAS HI 354E/RN 346E History and Religion: North African Issues (Rabat Language and Liberal Arts Program)
  • CAS HI 378 Armenia from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
  • CAS HI 379 Modern Armenian History and Literature
  • CAS HI 381/IR 397 History of Modern Iran, 1900–Present
  • CAS HI 382/IR 328 Turko-Persia in the Twentieth Century
  • CAS HI 385/IR 329 History of Premodern Iran
  • CAS HI 387 Introduction to the Middle East
  • CAS HI 389 Americans and the Middle East
  • CAS HI 392 The History of Israel: an Introduction
  • CAS HI 393 Topics in the History of Israel
  • CAS HI 484 Revolutionary Change in North Africa and the Middle East
  • CAS HI 485 Selected Problems in the Modern Middle East
  • CAS HI 486 Islamic History
  • CAS HI 591/IR 591 The Making of the Modern Middle East
  • CAS HI 592 The Birth of a State: Israel 1945-1955
  • CAS HI 593 Youth on the Agenda: Roles and Images of Young People in the Jewish Nation
  • CAS HI 594 The Armenian Genocide
  • CAS HI 595 Morocco: History on the Cusp of Three Continents
  • CAS HI 596/AH 539/AN 548/RN 563 Muslim Societies: An Interdisciplinary History
  • CAS IR 325/HI 229 The Great Powers and the Eastern Mediterranean
  • CAS IR 382/GE 382 Understanding the Middle East
  • CAS IR 383/PO 376 Understanding Modern North Africa
  • CAS IR 503/PO 503 The U.S. in the Middle East
  • CAS IR 504/PO 577 Seminar: The Persian Gulf/Arabian Peninsula
  • CAS IR 507 Islam and Politics
  • CAS IR 508 Islamic Political Movements and U.S. Policy
  • CAS IR 509/ PO 556 Islam in Middle East Politics
  • CAS IR 511 The Middle East Today
  • CAS IR 558/PO 540 Turkey and the European Union: The History and Contemporary Aspects of Turkey’s European Path
  • CAS IR 561/PO 589/RN 561 Religion and International Relations
  • CAS IR 587 Political Economy of the Middle East
  • CAS PO 570 Politics and Society in North Africa and the Middle East
  • KHC HI 101 War for the Greater Middle East

List D: Middle Eastern Language Courses (requirement and language courses as electives)

At least six semesters of middle eastern (ME) language courses are required, unless the student enters with background in a ME language (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish). All majors must demonstrate fourth-semester proficiency (by completing L_ 212 or higher) in one ME language, as well as taking at least two ME language courses past 212 or in a different language. Students who are certified bilingual in one ME language must complete two semesters of courses in a different ME language or languages.

Courses at the CAS 212 level or higher in the student’s first ME language, and at the 112 level or higher in a second or subsequent ME language, may also be counted as electives for the major.


  • CAS LY 111–112, 211–212, 303–304, and 403–404 First- through eighth-semester Arabic
  • CAS LY 572 Arabic Translation and Interpreting


  • CAS LH 111–112 and 211–212 First- through fourth-semester Hebrew
  • CAS LH 311 Advanced Modern Hebrew: Voices in Israeli Society
  • CAS LH 312 Advanced Modern Hebrew: Biblical Voices in Modern Israel


  • CAS LZ 111–112 and 211–212, LZ 303 First- through fifth-semester Persian


  • CAS LT 111–112, 211–212, and 303 First- through fifth-semester Turkish


Majors take four electives chosen from any of the courses in lists A–C, senior honors, or Middle Eastern language courses as specified directly above.


Honors in the MENA Studies major may be earned by completing two semesters of independent senior honors work and presenting an original research paper (thesis) in written and oral form to a committee of faculty readers. The committee will consider both the thesis and the result of the oral examination to determine whether the student will receive honors in the major. A grade of B+ or better in each semester is also required to receive honors. While it will normally require two on-campus semesters of research and writing, in special cases a one-semester honors project can grow out of research begun during a semester of study abroad or service learning in the MENA region. Students doing honors work will present their work at an annual symposium to which all Middle East faculty and fellow majors will be invited.

Study Abroad

BU sponsors four study abroad programs in the MENA region: Rabat, Morocco; Haifa, Israel; Istanbul, Turkey; and an exchange program at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. It is strongly recommended that students take advantage of one of these programs or pursue another appropriate course of study in the region.