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About the MENA Program

rebecca-johnson-northwestern.jpgNote from the Director 

Greetings from Evanston and Northwestern's MENA Program!

Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern is a vibrant community of scholars committed to offering students and the community at large a rigorous understanding of the region that stretches from Morocco to Iran, and from the Mediterranean into the Sahara, while also maintaining a focus on the vital networks that join the region to the rest of the world. We like to say that we take the MENA region as a point of departure, rather than a destination. This viewpoint is especially crucial now, as our daily lives under a complex of unfolding global crises provide moments for reflection on interconnectedness. To say that the Middle East is a point of departure is to say that the experiences, analyses, and reflections of those living in and around the region contain timely lessons for the wider world. Our job, as scholars, is to learn them. 

Our award-winning faculty is drawn from the disciplines of anthropology, art history, classics, comparative literature, ethnomusicology, history, performance studies, political science, and religious studies. Our trademark is our embrace of comparative approaches and border-thinking, both across regional, national, disciplinary, and linguistic boundaries and within them. Attentive to the diverse populations that make up the MENA region and its diaspora, we believe in the importance of integrating a concern for minority experiences of all kinds into our scholarship and teaching. For more about our course topics, which include international politics, mass media, literary, visual and sound cultures, migration and asylum, and religious and political thought, see information about our class schedule.

By majoring or minoring in MENA Studies, undergraduates can go on to enter careers in a variety of fields including law, government, human rights, international development, academia, journalism, and cultural organizations. They develop invaluable language skills through the MENA Languages Program in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish; they study and research abroad; and most importantly they learn to think critically and creatively about a region that has been historically misunderstood. Graduate students from any of the PhD programs at the university 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. Students applying to Northwestern can apply to the Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship in MENA Studies.

On Mondays at noon, our community gathers for MENA Monday, a series featuring emerging and senior scholars, filmmakers, policy analysts, and Northwestern faculty. Events include lectures and moderated dialogues. Students, faculty from other universities, and community members are most welcome. On select Monday evenings throughout the academic year, we partner with the Evanston Public Library. Our engaging EPL events in downtown Evanston are often standing-room only, and they demonstrate MENA’s commitment to fostering dialogue, understanding, and tolerance concerning the MENA region. MENA also organizes Work in Progress sessions for faculty and graduate students by invitation, oversees graduate student colloquia, partners with the Block Museum of Art and other units on campus, and participates in area studies initiatives with organizations and academic units domestically and abroad. All of our campus events offer opportunities for exchange and community building, so please feel free to write (rebeccacjohnson@northwestern.edu) or introduce yourself at our events.

Join our mailing lists, like us on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and check our events page often. We look forward to seeing you!

Rebecca Johnson
Director, MENA Studies Program
Associate Professor of English & the Humanities

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