Bachelor of Arts in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

The Middle East is as complex as it is diverse, as rich in history as it is relevant to our world today. A full appreciation of the many dimensions of this region requires a truly multidisciplinary approach — one that is guaranteed by our interdepartmental program.

As an Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) major or minor, you will explore the history, languages, religions and societies of the Middle East, as well as the ideas and ideals of Islam. Beyond political economy and political science, you’ll have the opportunity to study topics such as feminism, peacemaking, translation and the arts as they relate to this region. You will be encouraged to complement our broad approach with deeper explorations into your particular areas of interest. And you will gain proficiency in either Arabic or Hebrew.

Whether you major or minor in IMES, you’ll be well prepared for further study — including at Brandeis, which offers several related advanced degrees. You’ll also be ready for a career in diplomacy, government, advocacy, business and other international professions.

Why Brandeis?

Brandeis’ IMES program benefits from the university’s wealth of resources devoted to this region. These include the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Our program is truly interdisciplinary, drawing on faculty from these research centers and from the departments of politics, history, anthropology and economics.

You can also take advantage of vibrant Middle East-related events and activities at nearby institutions.

Academics and Research

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Course of Study

As an IMES major, you’ll take:

  • Islam: Civilization and Institutions

  • Two courses each on the classical and modern periods

  • Three electives

  • Four semesters of Hebrew or Arabic or its equivalent by exam

As a minor, you’ll take:

  • Islam: Civilization and Institutions

  • One course each on the classical and modern periods

  • Three electives

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Honors Research

If you’re especially passionate, motivated and disciplined, you might consider completing a senior honors thesis on a research topic of your choice. An experience as rewarding as it is challenging, writing a thesis enables you to deepen your knowledge about a particular area. If approved, you’ll work regularly with an advisor in the fall of your senior year and complete an oral defense the following spring. 

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Study Abroad

Choose from among the many great Brandeis-approved programs offered all over the Middle East, including in Morocco, Jordan and Israel. This is a great way to bolster your language skills, gain important cross-cultural perspectives and learn about the politics of the region.

Brandeis offers several travel and study grants, as does the U.S. Department of State.

Faculty Excellence

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Distinguished and Diverse Faculty

Our faculty, including distinguished visiting and nonresident scholars, are highly productive academicians and practitioners as well as award-winning teachers from across the university and beyond. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Eva Bellin of the Crown Center is a Princeton-trained expert on Arab politics and the editor of Comparative Politics. She has written extensively on authoritarian persistence in the Middle East, the political economy of development, the evolution of civil society and the politics of cultural change.

  • Jonathan Decter of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department is an expert on Jewish literature in the Islamic World during the medieval period. He publishes extensively on medieval Hebrew and Arabic literature and Jewish thought.

  • Carl Sharif El-Tobgui is director of the Arabic Language Program in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department. His expertise is in Islamic thought, with a special concentration on theology, law, and jurisprudence. He also has a deep love of Classical Arabic and Arabic grammar, as well as classical literature and poetry.

  • Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center, is a co-author Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East, the first-ever university textbook on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict to have been written by an Israeli, a Palestinian and an Egyptian.

  • Pascal Menoret of the Crown Center trained at the University of Paris, Princeton and Harvard as an ethnographer and historian. He is interested in youth, urbanism and religion in the Arabian Peninsula and is the author most recently of Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt.

  • Naghmeh Sohrabi, associate director for research at the Crown Center, is a Harvard-trained historian of Iran, and is currently researching a book on the experience of the 1979 revolution there.

Beyond the Classroom

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Events in Greater Boston

We want you to enrich your knowledge and experience by taking advantage of the amazing resources offered by nearby institutions. To encourage you to attend events, conferences and lectures at universities in the Greater Boston area, our program will reimburse your public transportation costs.

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Student Clubs

Brandeis offers a variety of student clubs and organizations. Of particular interest to IMES majors and minors are the Brandeis International Journal and the Brandeis Muslim Students Association. These and other groups offer you an opportunity to come together and share viewpoints and opinions with others who are interested in the region.

Graduate Study and Careers

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Diverse Career Opportunities

With solid training in language, history, political theory and praxis, and the ideals and practices of Islam, IMES graduates are well prepared to pursue graduate study at top-tier universities in the fields of history, politics, near eastern and Judaic studies, Middle East studies and religious studies. Graduates may also pursue careers in the non-profit sector, government, consulting, diplomacy, education, business, think tanks and more.