Duke's global centers & initiatives

Duke University Middle East Studies Center

Mission Statement

The Duke Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC) is a hub for research, policy, education, and outreach about the Middle East. The Center support Middle East language courses, area studies courses, library collections, outreach to K-12 and community college instructors, scholarly and cultural programming, graduate fellowships, and faculty research. The Center also hosts and organizes scholarly and cultural events on Middle East subjects, year-round. Additionally, the Center is part of the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. As a recipient of a Title VI Middle East Studies grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Consortium is a National Resource Center.

Summary of 2021-2022 Programs

Last summer, The Duke Middle East Studies Center co-organized an Islamicate Digital Humanities: TEI XML for Arabic Script Texts workshop with Hugh Cayless (Duke Libraries) and Adam Mestyan (History Department). The goal of these two virtual sessions was to teach methods of digital markup of Arabic script in Textual Encoding Initiative models for graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and researchers who work with right-to-left Arabic-script texts. Applicants joined in from Europe, Japan, and the United States to gain knowledge and learn about resources available at Duke.

DUMESC organized and hosted a two-day conference: Body, Medicine, and Feminism: The Life & Work of Nawal El Saadawi. This included a keynote talk, two panels, and wrap-up session. This international conference can be viewed by visiting these links: Keynote & Panel 1 and Panel 2. Nawal El-Saadawi died last year but touched many lives at Duke when living in Durham for four years. This conference was designed to consider the role of body and medicine in Dr. El Saadawi’s oeuvre along with discussions of her work and feminist thought. The conference attracted over a hundred people and sparked lively interactions over two days. There is a conversation about a special issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies devoted to medicine and feminist practice in the Middle East, with the journal’s Third Space section devoted to the memory of Dr. El Saadawi.  

In addition, DUMESC was responsible for hosting The Consortium’s 19th annual graduate student conference, Space and Place: Religion, Politics, and Power in the Middle East which was held on March 5-6, 2022. We had nine speakers present from around the globe. The advertisement can be found here 

Our engagement with students and faculty has also remained strong during the 2021-2022 AY. The Duke-UNC Graduate Certificate in Middle East Studies was awarded to the following students:  

  • Jake Silver: Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology (Duke)
  • David Orenstein: Ph.D. Candidate, Religious Studies (Duke) 
  • Sinan Goknur: Ph.D. Candidate, Art History (Duke)
  • Daanish Faruqi: Ph.D. Candidate, History (Duke)
  • Iris Gilad: Ph.D. Candidate, Art History (Duke)
  • Jayln McNeal: M.A. Candidate, Political Science (UNC)
  • Shreya Parikh: Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology (UNC)

DUMESC has accepted two students into the program last semester, one is a second-year ThD Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Duke whose dissertation research will focus on the Bible in Zionism and Palestinian liberation theology. The other student is a first year PhD in Literature whose research will likely focus on Lebanese and Algerian literature from 1950-2000.  

DUMESC counts 30 graduate students across campus engaged in Middle East Studies. Since the Spring 2021 Semester, DUMESC assisted with the formation of the Duke Middle East Graduate Seminar (MESGS). The MESGS works under a faculty advisory committee that rotates and current members include: Rebecca Stein (Anthropology), Frances Hasso (GSFS), and Mona Hassan (Religion). The working group organizes a series of talks and paper workshops for faculty and graduate students at Duke whose interest and research addresses the Middle East and North Africa. The intent is to foster student engagement while building a strong interdisciplinary intellectual community at Duke. The graduate students work closely with the committee and Program Coordinator at DUMESC. The Center provides a support structure through funding and other business needs to strengthen overall success of the working group.  

DUMESC also provided funding support for two graduate students accepted into the Religions and Public Life fellowship at Kenan Institute for Ethics.  

 At the undergraduate level, the Geopolitics and Culture Focus Cluster has consistently worked to create a cohort of students with in depth knowledge and skills about the diverse array of cultures, societies, and histories of the Middle East. The student who have graduated from this cluster have formed a key group of undergraduate students who have organized to raise consciousness about the Middle East. They have gone on to do exceptional research in the field, but also to major in Middle East related fields. 

DUMESC helps support the student group Jasur and their undergraduate journal Jasur Magazine whose leadership includes a number of students who graduated from the Geopolitics and Culture Focus Cluster.  

With support from a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Center was pleased to offer grants to faculty and staff at Duke University.  

 Sean Swanick, the Middle East and Islamic Studies Librarian, was awarded travel funds visit book vendors in Turkey. These vendors have set aside materials for Duke University Libraries (DUL) which he will explore to ensure they meet our growing collecting needs. In Istanbul, where most of his time will be spent, he will visit with Seyfettin Unlu, an independent vendor whom we have worked with in the past; Librakons, Zero Kitabevi, The ISIS Press, Labiba Kitapevi, and Libra Kitabevi. In Izmir, Mr. Swanick will visit History Revealed, Remzi Kitabevi, and Inkilap as well as meet with colleagues at Ege University. 

Maha Houssami (Lecturer of Arabic Language in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies) will join four Duke Arabic program students who were qualified to participate in the 6th International Universities Debating Championship in Istanbul, Turkey from June 17-22. She will help assist the team as a trainer and external observer.  

2021-2022 Notable Programs


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