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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Middle East Studies

Religious Studies Department
Division of Humanities and Fine Arts
Humanities & Social Sciences 4034
Telephone: (805) 893-2160


The Middle East Studies Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in which students can explore the myriad peoples, societies, languages, and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa from a variety of perspectives. The program brings under one roof studies on the languages, cultures, and history, politics and societies of the region in the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. The program also offers courses on the religious and cultural traditions of Islam, not only of the Middle East and North Africa, but also in other areas where these traditions have come to play a major role—South and Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and North America. The cultural, religious, and intellectual works generated there by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have been so durable, and so closely intertwined with one another, that our understanding of any one of them is fatally flawed if we try to study one in isolation from the other two. Likewise, Islam was born in the Middle East and evolved its core traditions there, but has long since taken root throughout the world and must be studied in a world context.

The program offers an undergraduate major but does not offer the M.A. or Ph.D. However, it can help graduate students to coordinate interdisciplinary study across departmental lines, and it also provides an enrichment of UCSB’s own resources through the lectures, colloquia, and seminars that it sponsors.

The UCSB Center for Middle East Studies

The program also collaborates with the UCSB Center for Middle East Studies (CMES), which offers a very active program of films, lectures, seminars, and symposiums. The CMES also encourages students in the major to study abroad at any of the UC Education Abroad Programs in the Middle East or in similar programs, and will assist interested students to identify study abroad opportunities.

The Undergraduate Middle East Studies Major

The B.A. in Middle East Studies aims to provide an educational experience satisfying in and for itself, while simultaneously developing the body of knowledge and skills necessary for graduate study or an area-based career in foreign relations, international development, business, or government. Obviously no undergraduate program can provide a deep expertise in the whole of this vast arena. Students should however expect to achieve a well-defined sense of the whole, as well as to acquire the basic linguistic and conceptual tools needed to approach the region with real understanding. To this end, the program gives students considerable flexibility in designing their course of studies, but it also demands coherence and rigor.

Middle East Studies Executive Committee

Sherene Seikaly, Ph.D. (Director of the Center for Middle East Studies, History)
Walid Afifi, Ph.D. (Communications)
Paul Amar, Ph,D. (Global Studies)
Bassam Bamieh, Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering)
Heather Badamo, Ph.D. (History of Art and Architecture)
Mona Damluji, Ph. D. (Film & Media Studies)
Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky, Ph.D. (Global Studies)
Cynthia Kaplan, Ph.D. (Political Science)
Laila Sherene Sakr, Ph. D. (Film & Media Studies)