Middle Eastern Studies
Gain a better understanding of the academic discipline of Middle Eastern Studies, also known as Near Eastern Studies, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the region located to the east and south of the Mediterranean Sea, including the Arabian Peninsula and parts of North Africa, extending as far as Afghanistan in Central Asia. Middle Eastern Studies is part of a broader category of study known as area studies, which examines all geographic, political, or cultural regions. A more specialized field of study within Middle Eastern Studies is Islamic Studies, which in a secular context is the study of Islam, the predominant religion of most of the Middle East. Other specialized fields, such as Egyptology (the study of the civilization of ancient Egypt), focus on the region’s ancient cultures.
The interdisciplinary nature of area studies lends itself to a broad range of scholarly research interests, from politics and history to language and literature, to economics and religion. Students in the field may focus on a particular country, such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia; a group of countries, such as the Middle Eastern members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); or a specific topic across the region as a whole, such as the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2010–2011.
Up until the late twentieth century, Middle Eastern Studies in the West was part of a larger field of interest known as Orientalism, or the study of the Orient, with a heavy focus on Asian and Arab classical civilizations rather than the modern Middle East. Following the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, this approach to the study of the Middle East quickly became associated with a simplistic and skewed imperialist view of these cultures that was a result of Western imperialist endeavors in the region by Great Britain and France.