Why Learn About the Middle East & North Africa?

The MENA faculty trains students in the latest critical approaches to social, cultural, political, and economic forces in the region, and provide an understanding of their histories and global interconnections.  Our trademark is an embrace of comparative approaches—which for us means both cross-regional and cross-disciplinary approaches—to this large and diverse area of the world. Our signature event is the New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies series which highlights the work of young and up-coming scholars whose work is not only compelling for what it tells us about its particular area of study, but for implementing or developing new methodologies for scholarly work in area studies.

By majoring or minoring in MENA Studies, undergraduates gain practical knowledge in the languages, histories, and politics of a crucial part of the world. But they also develop skills and talents in thinking about complex problems, whether those problems be the wonderfully rich complexities of Arabic grammar or the geopolitics of a world region with centuries of intertwined histories and societies.

Graduates can turn these skills to a variety of professional opportunities, and our alumni go on to enter careers in a range of fields including law, government, human rights, international development, academia, journalism, and cultural organizations.  Our students develop invaluable language skills in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish; they study and research abroad; and most importantly they connect deeply with a part of the world that is endlessly interesting and rewarding to those who approach it with an open perspective. Read more about our Undergraduate Program.

Graduate students from any of the PhD programs at Northwestern may pursue a Certificate in MENA Studies to allow them to develop their knowledge of the field and to learn from the perspectives of their peers and professors working in other disciplines.  PhD students pursuing the Graduate Certificate in MENA earn credentials that allow them to enhance their own professional opportunities as they prepare for academic careers. Read more about our Graduate Program.

Students at both undergraduate and graduate levels have a wide range of options at their disposal, both in individual course selection and in the combination of interests that they choose to pursue.  Course topics include international politics, mass media, migration, digital cultures, arts and literature, law, and religious movements. The MENA faculty also draws both on Northwestern’s recognized strengths in diaspora studies and Islam in trans-Saharan Africa, and our emergent strengths in media studies, cultural production, and North African studies.

We welcome students at all levels into our courses. Except for advanced language courses, few of our courses have pre-requisites.  Please feel free to contact the MENA Director to discuss whether a MENA major or minor might be right for you.

Interested in what career options a major or minor in MENA might offer you?  Visit here to learn about related skills and industries.