Concentration Requirements


The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers a liberal arts major designed to give students competence in a Near Eastern language and a broad knowledge of the literatures, civilizations, politics, and history of the ancient, medieval, and modern Near East (comprising Afghanistan, the Arab countries, Central Asia, Iran, Israel, Muslim Africa, South Asia, and Turkey). Accordingly, a plan of study is built around departmental and cognate courses in history, literature, religion, law, anthropology, politics, economics, and public policy, combined with the study of one or more Near Eastern languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish), determined by the student's interest. In addition to serving as the focal point of a broad liberal arts education, the Near Eastern studies major can be the basis for graduate or professional study. The department's many small classes and seminars allow extensive student/teacher interaction and equip students to take up careers in business, finance, economics, international affairs, government, diplomacy, journalism and public policy.

Departmental Plan of Study

Departmental concentrators achieve a broad understanding of the varieties of regions, cultures, and religions of the Near East in the more distant past as well as in the modern period, and gain the tools of the multiple disciplines employed by scholars of Near Eastern Studies. The department’s curricular guidelines help ensure that students reach these objectives while also giving them significant flexibility to forge their own educational paths in the department.

For the Classes of 2018 and earlier:  Students are strongly encouraged to fulfill the requirements below; please consult the 2015-2016 Undergraduate Announcement for the former requirements. Classes of 2019 and beyond:  Students take eight courses in Near Eastern Studies; up to three of these courses may be from cognate departments, upon the approval of the Department Representative.  All students are required to take NES 300 (Seminar in Research Methods).  Students who plan to be abroad when the course is offered are encouraged to take the course before they leave campus.  Juniors who are abroad when the course is offered may take the course in the Senior year.  The remaining seven courses must satisfy the following requirements:

1. Historical Periods: Students are required to take at least one course that focuses on the pre-modern Near East and one course that focuses on the modern Near East.

2. Regions: Students are required to take at least one course on two of the following six sub-regions:

     a. Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia

     b. The Levant, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula

     c. Ottoman Empire/Turkey

     d. Iran

     e. Muslim South and Central Asia

     f. Diasporic communities

3. Disciplines: Students are required to take at least one course in two of the following four disciplines:

     a. history

     b. literature

     c. social sciences

     d. religion

A single course may satisfy more than one requirement (e.g., a course focusing on 20th century Turkish literature may count as modern, Ottoman Empire/Turkey, and literature.)  Students who wish to undertake a plan of study that does not meet these guidelines must apply for a waiver from the Undergraduate Committee.  Waivers will be granted only in exceptional cases.

Advanced Placement

Advanced placement is available in all of the languages offered by the department. Students seeking advanced placement in Arabic, Persian, or Turkish should consult the departmental representative to arrange for testing with the appropriate language instructor. A student with a Hebrew Subject Test score of 760 or a high score on the departmental Hebrew placement examination given during freshman orientation week will be considered to have satisfied the A.B. foreign language requirement and to be eligible for placement in a 300-level course.


A student who has completed at least one course in the department is eligible to concentrate in Near Eastern studies. This course may be a language class or a course or seminar offered in any of the disciplines covered by the department.

Early Concentration

Students who meet the prerequisite for entrance into the department may be admitted and begin their program of concentration in the second term of sophomore year. 

Language Requirements

The departmental language requirement is four terms (i.e., through 107 level) of Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish. Students are advised to begin their language training as early as possible. Students are encouraged, albeit not required, to continue language study at the advanced level and to utilize their chosen Near Eastern language for senior thesis research. Language courses beyond the second year count as departmentals, as does elementary and intermediate study of a second Near Eastern language. The necessary language training for the A.B. degree can be acquired through a combination of language study at Princeton, intensive summer language study, and year abroad programs. The department will work out with each undergraduate concentrator a language training schedule appropriate to his or her planned course of study.

Independent Work

Juniors submit a proposal (including an outline and an annotated bibliography) for their Junior Independent Work in the fall semester and a completed Junior Paper in the spring semester. The choice of Junior Paper and Senior Thesis topics must be approved by the student's adviser.

Senior Departmental Examination

The comprehensive examination in the department consists of an oral examination based on the senior thesis and related topics.

Study Abroad

The department encourages students to consider a semester or year abroad for language and area study in the Middle East. The department also makes every effort to facilitate student participation in any of a number of excellent intensive summer language study programs in the U.S. and the Middle East. The Program in Near Eastern Studies offers support for students who wish to take advantage of such study opportunities.

Further option

Certificate in Language and Culture

 Options for Non-majors

For non-concentrators the Department of Near Eastern Studies offers a range of courses that are relevant to the study of history, politics, religion, comparative literature, linguistics, and anthropology. Most undergraduate courses require no knowledge of a foreign language, and the department's survey courses present comprehensive portraits of past and present Near Eastern civilizations.