Middle East and North African Studies

Program Type: Cluster and Certificate

The PhD cluster and certificate in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) offer rigorous, interdisciplinary approaches to the study and understanding of the world region stretching roughly from Morocco in the West to Iran and Central Asia in the East, the Mediterranean in the North and into Saharan Africa and the Sudan in the South.  Faculty members also have interests in the sizeable Arab and Muslim diaspora populations in Europe and the United States.

The faculty is drawn from the disciplines of anthropology, art history, history, literature, political science, religion, and RTVF/media studies, among others, and is comprised of scholars who study and write about this region from a variety of perspectives, with a particular focus on the 20th and 21st centuries.  The MENA faculty draws both on Northwestern’s recognized strengths in diaspora studies and Islam in trans-Saharan Africa and its emergent ones in media studies and North African studies.  Faculty frequently take comparative approaches (both cross-regional and cross-disciplinary) to the area.

As much as it organizes itself around a region, however, the Program takes a new approach to the Area Studies model itself and encourages fresh perspectives on the established tradition of Middle East studies.  The cluster and certificate curricula keep in continued and productive tension the idea that MENA is a coherent world region as well as the history and politics of the area studies designation.  The MENA Program leads students in an inquiry into the cultural, political, and economic conditions of globalization, including media, migration, digital cultures, cultural production, law, and religion/secularism, as they inflect the region and its relationships both internally and externally.

While the MENA cluster and certificate focus on a relatively coherent world region, and graduate students must attain fluency in the languages, histories, literatures and sociocultural specificity of the region, its faculty also recognize that world regions are inherently porous and marked by patterns of migration and cultural exchange.  This is particularly true in the MENA region.  Thus, MENA will interact with the new Asian Studies initiative and the developing Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, as well as the Program in African Studies. 

Also, because MENA is an interdisciplinary program, students will all be simultaneously engaged in developing the protocols, methodologies, and scholarly traditions in their home disciplines and become familiar with those of others.

See MENA Cluster and Certificate Requirements for specific courses and procedures needed to complete this program.

Programs and Events

There are many different ways for faculty and students to participate in the intellectual life of the MENA graduate program. Events, such as our MENA colloquia and speakers, are open to all members of the community. Graduate-level cluster seminars are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff of Northwestern to learn more about our research and activities by participating in our public events.

How to Apply

Prospective PhD students interested in participating in this cluster and/or obtaining a certificate should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Current graduate students interested in participating in these programs should contact Professor Brian Edwards: mena-director@northwestern.edu.

Whom to Contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the MENA website for more information.

Brian Edwards
Crown Professor in Middle East Studies; Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies
Email: mena-director@northwestern.edu