The Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) is a nexus for the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and North Africa at Harvard University and a vibrant community that encourages your participation. Whether you choose to pursue an AM or a PhD, you will have the opportunity to attend and engage in nearly a hundred events a year, including workshops, seminars, and talks with academics, policy analysts, and journalists. The CMES Tunisia Office is an exceptional resource that facilitates research and language study in the region.
AM Program in Regional Studies–Middle East
As a student in the AM program in Regional Studies–Middle East at the CMES, you will be immersed in the history, politics, languages, and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. You will develop your academic interests with guidance from faculty members and program advisors. This rigorous but flexible program attracts a diverse student population from the United States and around the world. The master’s program at CMES prioritizes academic depth and linguistic expertise as foundational for both continuing academic study and professional career pathways.
AM students are eligible to apply for CMES funding to support conference travel and summer research.
A master’s thesis is encouraged but not required. Recent master’s theses include “Modernity and Cultural Invasion: Ali Khamenei, the United States, and the Software Movement,” “Earthquakes and Epidemics: The Impact of Natural Disasters on the ʿAbbāsid Revolution,” and “Constitutionalism in Modern Iraq, 1839-1958.”
Many graduates of the program continue on to further graduate study. Others pursue careers in government service, law, business, journalism, and non-governmental work.
The Center’s PhD program offers you the opportunity to focus on one of three joint tracks in Middle Eastern studies: history, anthropology, and history of art and architecture. In each track, you will work closely with the world-renowned faculty of our joint departments. In addition, you will be encouraged to engage with experts outside your specific discipline and to master at least one Middle Eastern research language.
All admitted PhD students are provided with a generous financial package. CMES students are eligible to apply for funding to support conference travel and summer research.
Recent PhD dissertations include “Leaking Empires: The Struggle over Information in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1870-1952,” “Sedimented Encounters: Dams, Conservation, and Politics in Turkey,” and “Silks Withdrawn: A Re-Contextualization of the Medieval Fragments from Rayy.”
Recent PhD graduates have secured faculty positions at a range of institutions including Rutgers University, University of Toronto, and Boğaziçi University. Other recent alumni are pursuing careers as museum curators and in administrative roles in higher education.
Please review GSAS admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program-specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the program in Middle Eastern Studies.
A writing sample is required for PhD applicants and should be a standalone research essay or an excerpt from a longer piece of work and between 15 and 25 pages. If submitting an expert from a longer work, please provide an introductory paragraph placing the excerpt in context of the work as a whole. The writing sample should demonstrate your research skills (especially the use of primary sources), writing ability, and command of languages relevant to your proposed course of study.
Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose should be a two-page document that presents both your general academic trajectory and specific research interests. It may include relevant life experiences (e.g., study or work abroad, acquisition of languages at home or in other non-academic settings). The statement should also refer to the Harvard faculty and programs that would fit with your research interests and career goals.
Prior language training in a Middle Eastern language is advantageous but is not a prerequisite.