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The Department of Near Eastern Studies has been a leader in the study of the Middle East since 1927 when it was founded as the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures. While traditionally the strength of the department has been in the medieval and pre-modern studies of the geographical area that includes the Arab lands, Iran, Israel, and Turkey, greater emphasis has been given more recently to the modern Muslim world in its entirety, including the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This development recognizes the many interconnections of the Muslim ecumene and enables NES to offer its students an interdisciplinary program of studies that breaks out of the artificial constraints imposed by the traditional geographical focus.
For graduate students interested in pursuing an academic career, the Department of Near Eastern Studies offers a program of study leading to the Ph.D. There is considerable flexibility in the individual course of study and in the choice of dissertation topic.
For students contemplating careers in government, business, or journalism, where a Ph.D. is not a requirement, the Program in Near Eastern Studies also offers a two-year degree curriculum leading to the M.A. as a final degree. This special program is governed by an Interdepartmental Committee. The Program Director oversees the student’s course selection, master’s thesis, and examinations.
Sample of written work. Applicants must complete the NES fact sheet in the application.
The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers training leading to doctoral degrees in the study of the Middle East and more broadly the Islamic World, from the rise of Islam to the present day. For a full account of the fields of specialization of current faculty please see the department website.
A student normally takes three or four courses each semester during the first two years of study; the minimum number of courses that a student is expected to complete each year is six. Of the six, at least three must be graduate seminars taught by members of the department, affiliated faculty, or visiting NES faculty. Normally, courses in European languages do not count among the six required courses each year. Normally, reading courses (700-level courses) count, but students must obtain prior approval from the director of graduate studies. For the purposes of reckoning a student’s course load, precepting in a departmental undergraduate course counts as the equivalent of a graduate seminar taken in the department.
Before taking the general examination, all students must demonstrate research-level competence in at least one Near Eastern language and knowledge equivalent to a minimum of two years of university study of a second Near Eastern language. In addition, all students must pass an examination in at least one European language of scholarship other than English; knowledge of two such languages is often needed for research. Students are urged to avail themselves of the possibilities for intensive summer language instruction in order to accelerate their language training.
The general examination is taken within a single examination period, normally at the end of the second or the beginning of the third year of study. It consists of four written parts: three three-hour-long examinations on broad fields of study chosen in consultation with the candidate’s adviser and the director of graduate studies, and an examination on research methods and the critical evaluation of sources for, and authorities on, some posed problem. This is followed by an oral examination. The examination committee normally consists of three members of the Princeton faculty. One of the fields may be taken in another department (for example, Religion, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, History, Sociology or Politics). A student who does not achieve a high pass on the general examination may be recommended for a terminal M.A. degree, provided all other requirements have been met.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes the language requirement and the first part of the general examination, and is recommended by the faculty. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.
A student proceeding to dissertation research who has completed all M.A. requirements and wishes to receive an M.A. upon passing the general examination must complete the advanced degree application process.
Every student must prepare a written outline about ten pages in length of his or her research plans within four months of taking generals. This prospectus should be submitted to an ad hoc committee consisting of the student’s adviser, the director of graduate studies, and a third faculty member nominated by the DGS after consultation with the adviser and the student. The student should then meet with the committee to discuss the prospectus.
A final public oral examination is held after each candidate’s dissertation has been read and approved by their dissertation faculty advisers and readers. The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
For a full statement of the department's regulations regarding Ph.D. students, see the current Graduate Student Handbook on the department website.
For students contemplating careers in government, business, or journalism, where a Ph.D. is not a requirement, the Program in Near Eastern Studies offers a two-year degree curriculum leading to the M.A. as a final degree. This special program is governed by an Interdepartmental Committee, and enables a limited number of students to take a multidisciplinary course of study under the guidance of the director of the program leading to the degree of Master of Arts in Near Eastern studies.
Students take appropriate language training and course work emphasizing the history, culture, politics, economy, and social structures of the Near East, which for purposes of this program is defined to include the entire Arab world, as well as Iran, Israel, and Turkey.
Students take four courses, including language courses, in each of the first three semesters of enrollment, and one course in the fourth semester, when they also write the M.A. thesis. The curriculum is adjustable to the individual needs of students who are considering careers in diplomacy, business, the media, or international public and private agencies related to the Near East.
Candidates for the M.A. in Near Eastern Studies will present a thesis by May 1 of the second year on a subject agreed upon with the student’s adviser. The thesis must be approved by the adviser and a second reader selected by the Program Director.
After submitting the thesis, students are required to complete an oral examination.
Muhammad Q. Zaman
Michael A. Cook
Michael A. Cook
M. Şükrü Hanioğlu
Bernard A. Haykel
Marina Rustow, also History
Muhammad Q. Zaman, also Religion
Michael A. Reynolds
Max D. Weiss, also History
Jonathan M. Gribetz, also Judaic Studies
Eve Krakowski, also Judaic Studies
Satyel K. Larson
M'hamed Oualdi, also History
Daniel J. Sheffield
Faris Al Ahmad
Gregory J. Bell
Molly Greene, History, Hellenic Studies
Amaney A. Jamal, Politics
Michael F. Laffan, History
Lital Levy, Comparative Literature
Shaun E. Marmon, Religion
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.