Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Gojko Barjamovic, Director of Undergraduate Studies 
 
The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations introduces students to the ancient and modern peoples, languages, cultures, and societies of the Near/Middle East. Loosely defined as stretching from Morocco in the west to Iran and Afghanistan in the east, the region is home some of the world’s major religions and civilizations. Its languages, religions, literatures, and great works of art have continued to shape our world, from the earliest permanent human settlements to today’s news headlines. 
 
The Department offers instruction in a range of thematic courses and languages – ancient and modern – including Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, Sumerian, Syriac, Turkish, and Yiddish.  
 
The concentration offers students a multi-faceted and inter-disciplinary perspective on Near Middle Eastern cultures and languages that have been so influential throughout the world. Undergraduate concentrators develop skills in one or more of the languages of the region on their way to choosing from a wide variety of directions of study. Concentrators choose one of four specific tracks: The Middle East in Antiquity, Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies (Islamic Studies), Jewish Studies, or Modern Middle Eastern Studies.  
 
Undergraduate students also have the option of applying for an A.B./A.M. degree. For further information, consult with the Office of Undergraduate Education. Finally, the Department offers secondary fields in the same four pathways listed above, as well as language citations in several Middle Eastern languages. 
 
The NELC concentration is of interest to students who are considering careers in academia, government and Foreign Service, law, journalism, education, business, and divinity, among others, as well as those who anticipate graduate study in Near Eastern or related fields. 
 
FOCUS 
One of the strengths of the concentration in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations is the individual attention each student receives in pursuing her or his interests within the broader arena of the Near/Middle Eastern Studies. Students choose one of four specific tracks for concentration: The Middle East in Antiquity, Jewish Studies, Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies (Islamic Studies), or Modern Middle Eastern Studies. The director of undergraduate studies assists each student to make an informed choice among these options, and assigns a faculty member to serve as the student's mentor/adviser, advising on courses and other work as the student progresses. There is no set way to meet the requirements, and students will benefit from the close guidance of their assigned adviser.  
 
THE FOUR CONCENTRATIONS IN NELC 
The Middle East in Antiquity explores the histories of the civilizations of ancient Western Asia and North Africa, which witnessed the first complex societies and the first major developments in social and political organization. The legacies of these ancient cultures, represented by Assyriology, Egyptology, Archeology, and several other fields, remain a critical force in subsequent Middle Eastern—and world—history today. The goal of this track is to give students background in the history and culture of the principal civilizations of the region in order to analyze and synthesize linguistic, textual, artistic, and archaeological evidence. 
 
Jewish Studies explores many facets of Jewish religion, law, literature, philosophy, and culture, and the histories of the Jews in the Middle East and beyond. To prepare students for independent study in one more areas of Jewish culture, the department offers courses at several levels in Hebrew and Yiddish. This track covers Jewish studies in ancient, medieval, and modern periods. 
 
Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies (Islamic Studies) focuses on the literary, philosophical and religious traditions of the Islamic world from the rise of Islam to the present day. The language-areas covered are Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu. The program in Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies is structured to allow students flexibility in their approach to the field, and students are encouraged to incorporate disciplinary perspectives currently available in the Harvard curriculum (for example, comparative literature, philosophy, politics, religious studies, and sociology). 
 
Modern Middle Eastern Studies explores the cultures, histories, and politics of modern Middle Eastern societies and diasporas. Such study involves a combination of courses in a variety of fields drawn especially from the humanities and social sciences. The requirements are designed with sufficient flexibility so that students may pursue the field as an introduction to the region as a whole, or as a more narrowly focused exploration of a particular country or theme, depending on their interests. 
 
REQUIREMENTS 
Basic Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits) 
  1. Required courses: 
    1. Four courses in a language of the Near/Middle East. The language will be chosen in consultation with the student's mentor/adviser to fit each student's particular focus. If students can show evidence at the beginning of their concentration that they already have two years' knowledge of their language, they will be asked to take the two years at a more advanced level or in another language relevant to their focus. Students are encouraged, in other courses for their concentration, to find ways to use their NELC language. 
    2. Five courses to be chosen in consultation with the student’s mentor/adviser, in addition to the tutorials listed below. These should represent a coherent intellectual program. None of these courses may be taken Pass/Fail, with the possible exception of a Freshman Seminar (graded SAT/UNS) already taken by the student, providing that this Seminar is accepted as relevant by the student’s departmental mentor/adviser and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: Near Eastern Civilizations 101 (one half-course). A group tutorial required of all concentrators, given in the spring term. It will comprise an introduction to the cultures, history, religion, literatures and politics of the Near/Middle East in ancient, classical, and modern times, and will also emphasize major themes and problems that cut across individual cultures and historical periods. The tutorial is team-taught by NELC and affiliated faculty members. The student chooses the track in NELC by the end of the Sophomore year. 
    2. Junior year: Junior year: In the fall of the Junior year, concentrators are assigned a departmental concentration adviser based on their concentration. To fulfil their concentration requirements, students meet with other department concentrators in a seminar every second week throughout their Junior year. With the help of their adviser, they define a research topic, compile a bibliography, and write a research paper under their adviser’s supervision during either the Fall or the Spring semester. The grade for the Junior year (98r) is given in the spring semester. 
    3. Senior year: Concentrators meet for the biweekly concentration seminar to present and discuss their own work and that of their peers, as they research, prepare and write their Senior Thesis under the guidance of their academic adviser. Concentrators opting out of the Senior Thesis submit a shorter research paper under the supervision of their departmental concentration adviser (see below) and still attend the biweekly seminar. 
  3. Thesis: Not required. 
  4. General Examination: Required. An oral examination based on the student’s work, to be arranged under the supervision of the student’s mentor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 14 courses (56 credits) 
  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements above. 
  2. Tutorials: Same as Basic Requirements except, in the senior year, a full year (2 courses) of Near Eastern Civilizations 99, focused on the writing of the senior thesis, is required. 
  3. Thesis: Required. For guidelines on writing the honors thesis, please consult the departmental publication, A Guide to the Senior Honors Thesis, available in the NELC office and on the website.
  4. General Examination: Required. This will be based on the student’s concentration courses and thesis, and will be arranged under the supervision of the student's mentor/adviser and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 
Joint Concentration 
Possibilities for joint concentrations exist and are welcome in NELC. The Department has formalized joint concentrations with the Departments of Government and History whose requirements are indicated below. For joint concentration with any other Departments, the student must make a case for it to both NELC and the other department or program concerned. Joint concentrators take four terms of a language, the sophomore and junior tutorials, and at least one other course in Near/Middle Eastern studies, in addition to a senior tutorial in two terms focused on the writing of a senior thesis that combines the two fields. 
 
Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in Near Eastern History: 14 courses (56 credits) 
  1. Near Eastern Language Courses (4 courses): Four courses of study of a Near Eastern language. 
  2. Additional Coursework (8 courses) 
    1. History 97. 
    2. NEC 101. 
    3. Both tutorials are offered in the spring term only; students may choose to take both during their sophomore spring, or to take one in the sophomore spring and the other in the junior spring. 
    4. One seminar focused on Near Eastern History or an equivalent type of research seminar in NELC that meets with the approval of the Undergraduate Office and culminating in a 20-page research paper involving primary source research. Must be completed by the end of the junior spring, in preparation for the senior thesis. 
    5. One course that focuses significantly on U.S. or European history. 
    6. One course in pre-modern Near Eastern History. 
    7. One course in modern Near Eastern History. 
    8. Two additional electives within Near Eastern History 
  3. Senior Thesis (2 courses): Students who wish to pursue a joint concentration in Near Eastern History must write a Senior Thesis, which also requires enrollment in one of two year-long Senior Thesis Seminars: either History 99 or Near Eastern Studies 99. Students may select either seminar. 
Please also note the following information: 
Two types of courses count automatically toward NELC/History concentration requirements: 
  1. Courses listed in the course catalogue's "History" section and approved courses in the catalogue's "Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations" section, as determined in consultation with the History DUS. 
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by full members of the History or NELC Department Faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should consult the Undergraduate Office, as they may need to file a petition requiring approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, or History 91r, with a member of the Department; History 91r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements. 
The joint concentration also regularly accepts credit from both Study Abroad and Advanced Standing toward concentration requirements. With the exception of certain Freshman Seminars taught by History or NELC faculty (see above), courses taken on Pass/Fail basis may not be counted for concentration credit. 
 
Joint concentration with other Departments: 9 courses 
  1. Required courses: Four courses in a language of the Near/Middle East, plus at least one other course in the Near/Middle East dealing with literature, religion, government, economics, or society, as approved by the student's NELC mentor/adviser and the NELC Director of Undergraduate Studies. 
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: NEC 101 (one half-course) required. 
    2. Junior year: NEC 98 or another course to be chosen with the guidance and approval of the student's NELC mentor/adviser and the NELC Director of Undergraduate Studies. 
    3. Senior year: NEC 99ab (two courses, one per each semester) or two terms of tutorial in the other concentration. Should be registered with the primary concentration, and have the approval of the allied concentration. 
  3. Thesis: Required. Thesis must be related to both fields. Both concentrations will participate in the grading of the thesis. 
  4. General Examination: Same as Requirements for Honors Eligibility; however, it will normally involve faculty from both concentration departments/programs. 
ADVISING 
Sophomores and other new concentrators meet first with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, with whom they discuss their interests and arrange to meet with a member of the faculty who will serve as mentor/adviser in the concentration. Junior and senior concentrators meet with their mentors on a regular basis. 
For up-to-date information on advising in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, please see the Advising Programs Office website
 
RESOURCES 
Harvard’s library resources in the various fields of Near Eastern Studies are virtually unparalleled. Widener Library, for example, has a large collection of materials in Akkadian, Arabic, Armenian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, Sumerian, Turkish and Yiddish with several reading rooms specifically assigned to fields studies in NELC. The reading room of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Andover-Harvard Library of the Harvard Divinity School also has excellent resources available to students. Students wishing to specialize in modern Near Eastern political or social studies should familiarize themselves with the resources and personnel of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (38 Kirkland Street). Those interested in Jewish studies should become familiar with the resources and personnel of the Center for Jewish Studies, located in the Semitic Museum, 2nd floor. The Harvard Semitic Museum, in which the Department is housed, has a superb collection of ancient and medieval manuscripts and artifacts representing many of the cultures of the Near East. As a University teaching museum, the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East is committed to providing access to these materials for study and teaching. For concentrators interested in the archaeology of the Near East, a variety of opportunities for archaeological work in the area available. 
 
HOW TO FIND OUT MORE 
Students interested in a concentration in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations should arrange to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Gojko Barjamovic (barjamovic@fas.harvard.edu). Students are also encouraged to obtain a copy of our undergraduate handbook, The Concentration in Near Eastern Studies at Harvard, which is available online
 
ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December
Concentrators
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
13
10
14
17
21
18
13
8
4
8
7
4
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations + another field
1
1
0
0
0
1
2
4
5
2
2
2
Another field + Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
4
2
2
2
1
2
3
4
7
7
10
8