Duke's global centers & initiatives

Duke University Middle East Studies Center

Mission Statement

The Duke University Middle East Studies Center is a hub for research, education, and outreach that serves as a forum at the local, national and international levels. We prepare tomorrow’s leaders by equipping them with knowledge about Middle Eastern languages, cultures, and societies. Our center is distinguished by its trans-regional approach to the Middle East. We approach the Middle East as a unit extending from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Our approach emphasizes interdisciplinarity, comparativity, and connectivity.

Summary of 2019-2020 Programs

In Spring 2021, DUMESC helped launch the Middle East Graduate Student Seminar, a workshop designed for students to enhance their professional knowledge related to working in the fields of higher education, business, or the nonprofit sector. The semester included talks by Milad Odabaei, postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University (February 26, 2021) and Professor Hanan Toukan from Bard College (April 9, 2021) on their own career trajectories.

The Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies supported faculty at Duke in incorporating virtual collaboration with colleagues and their classes at universities in the Middle East. Due to unprecedented constraints on international travel, these courses have been a method to continue student access to international opportunities. Curriculum development grants were provided to the following faculty members to introduce a collaborative global module into a course:

  • Mona Hassan (Religious Studies), to internationalize two courses: “Islam, Art, and Society” (REL 786/Art History 786) and “Cross-Cultural Encounters” (REL 772S/History 772S).
  • Omid Safi (Asian and Middle East Studies), to globalize “History and Culture of Iran” (AMES 123) to expand the course to incorporate more online materials and connect with the Iranian-American populations in the diaspora. These include program building connections with Professor Sajjad Rizvi at the University of Exeter’s Islamic Studies program as well as the Sufism Institute at Uskudar University of Istanbul.

In partnership with the Duke Libraries, DUMESC hosted a series of events to help bring to light rare manuscripts in the collection for the use of students, faculty, scholars, K-12 teachers, and the public, drawing on scholarly experts in the materials who helped interpret and explain their significance. These included Professor Berin Golonu from Buffalo University who discussed Duke Libraries’ collection of Ottoman Turkish Postcards (September 18, 2020); Sato Moughalian, author of Feast of Ashes, on archival research conducted to reconstruct the art of her grandfather David Ohannessian and his exile to post-World War I Palestine from Ottoman Anatolia (January 22, 2021); and Professor Dima Ayoub from Middlebury College who spoke about a project that uses digital tools and a data set to discover and track the differences that occur in Arabic texts and their translations.

To meet the ongoing and evolving demands of online teaching, the Consortium promoted the development of online teaching resources developed for intermediate and advanced Arabic by Professor Maha Houssami and for beginning and intermediate Turkish by Professor Didem Havlioglu. Small grants helped develop digital teaching modules that featured live dialogue and incorporated authentic texts in the teaching of vocabulary and grammar and helping develop skills in reading and listening in the target language. These teaching tools are publicly available for use in other classroom contexts.

DUMESC, in conjunction with the Asian and Middle East Studies Department, supported the Honors Thesis Writing Senior Seminar. Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship student Michelle Rodriguez wrote a thesis on Cyber Security and Cyber Warfare in the Middle East with a specific focus on the relationship between Iran and the U.S. Double majoring in Public Policy and Arabic she will commission after graduation in May 2021 to serve as a U.S. Army officer.

Also, aiding in the preparation of teaching materials, the Consortium helped support the development of the Routledge Handbook of Turkish Literature prepared by Erdag Goknar and Didem Havlioglu through a small research grant and sponsored a conference bringing together contributors to the Palgrave Handbook of Islam in Africa edited by Fallou Ngom, Mustapha Kurfi, and Toyin Falola.

2019-2020 Notable Programs


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