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Middle Eastern Studies


The Department of Middle Eastern Studies  offers instruction in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. There are also course offerings in related languages, including Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Syraiac, and Ugaritic.


Arabic has approximately 300 million native speakers across the Middle East and northern Africa, and is the liturgical language of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims. Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of the third highest number of states after English and French, and is one of the six working languages of the United Nations. A cradle of civilization, the Arab world saw major advances in philospohy, mathematics, and medicine, to name but a few.  

Read more about Arabic at UT, and if you are interested in learning more, try out the BBC's Guide to Arabic.

Middle Eastern Studies at UT is also the home of the Arabic Flagship Program. Check out this video about it!

And see student testimonials here:

The Flagship Program can include a capstone year studying in Morocco!


Hebrew is the native language of Israel and has approximately 9 million speakers, of which 5 million are native speakers. Approximately 220,000 fluent Hebrew-speakers live in the USA. Hebrew is considered the only successfully revived dead language. The first five books of the Torah, and most of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, is written in Biblical Hebrew, and as such is seen as a holy language in Judaism. 

Read more about Hebrew at UT.


Persian, or Farsi, is an official language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, with approximately 70 million native speakers. Though it uses an Arabic-based script, Persian is an Indo-European language. It is the language of one of the world's great literary traditions.

Read more about Persian at UT.


Turkish, an official language of Turkey and Cyprus, has approximately 75 million native speakers, and 13 million other fluent speakers. Turkey is the 16th largest economy in the world and is of growing importance politically and economically, and historical and archaeological finds within her borders make Turkey a cradle of human civilization.

Check out this video on learning Turkish at UT Austin, with Dr. Jeanette Okur:  

Information on the 2021 minor in Turkish, and other opportunities to study Turkish at UT, can be found here.
Read more about Turkish at UT, and if you are interested in learning more, try out the BBC's Guide to Turkish.

Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies is also an awarding center for FLAS fellowships to support language study. Here, Matthew Rabatin, Senior Program and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for European Studies, talks through the opportunities and requirements of FLAS in the context of European Studies (a European link would not be required for fellowships awarded through Middle Eastern Studies).

Department Scholarships

Course Offerings for Summer 2021

  • ISL 373 Rule of Law in the Middle East
    Rule of law has become one of the foundations of modern government. Its purpose is to limit the exercise of state power and to prevent its abuse. The phrase, “rule of law,” is used to communicate a set of intertwined ideas about strengthening the legal profession, fighting corruption, advancing the rights and professional participation of women, enhancing access to justice, and building a rule of law culture. Therefore, this course engages with questions about modern legal orders, good governance, corruption, and revolution. By implementing these ideas through well-thought-out programs, it is assumed that nation states can normalize a set of international standards for best practices of governance. With Dr. Samy Ayoub.
  • MES 310 Social Transformation: Love/Relationships
    This course examines the social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual perspectives toward the ideas and experience of love. Some portion of the course will emphasize on the nature of the mind, human consciousness, and the state of Presence. The course will also offer insights to understand how love and intimacy interact with rapid social, economic, and cultural change, and how the subsequent change transformed the social world and the meaning of love. With Dr. Mehdi Haghshenas.
  • MES 343 Sectarian Violence in the Middle East
    This course will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of "sectarianism" in the modern Middle East by using post-2003 Iraq, the Syrian Civil War, and the geopolitical rivalry between Saudi Arab and Iran as case studies. Students will learn the core theories, methods, and debates vis-a-vis sectarianism by analyzing and discussing scholarly texts concerning thematic topics such as race, ethnicity, religion, and national identity. With Dr. Joseph Kotinsly.
  • MES 342 Global Cultures in Cinema
    With their dedicated fans and enduring presence in the public sphere, cult films unfold important crossovers between media and culture in different regional contexts. This course will analyze global configurations of cult cinema, especially in the Middle East. We will ask how and why certain movies have generated emotional attachments in different sociocultural environments and from various scholarly viewpoints. Reviewing the foundational texts on the concept of cult in film criticism, sociology, psychology, and religion studies, we will examine several approaches to studying the applications and functions of cult films and film cults. We will specifically examine case studies from and through the Middle East in order to understand the resonance of cult media texts around the world. Moreover, we will investigate the communal identities displayed through the cultural expressions of cult fans in order to better understand people’s complex relationship with the political order and cultural power. As such, “Global Cult Cinema” will explore less examined, but significant, areas of international film canons and fandoms. The interdisciplinary nature of this course further enables us to investigate important constituents of audience reactions to the global and local media through the purposeful use of the theories on popular culture, fandom, stardom, and politics of national and transnational film reception. With Dr. Babak Tabarraee.


  • Texas Language Center

    University of Texas at Austin
    2505 University Ave, B7800
    BUR 572
    Austin, Texas 78712-1085