Oct 04, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Middle East Studies (BA)

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This major is an interdisciplinary degree with an emphasis on the pressing problems of globalization and the environment of the peoples, cultures, and societies of the Middle East. Its courses offer students interested in exploring the richness and complexity of the Middle East, broadly defined as extending from Morocco through Iran, a framework for developing both expertise and wide-ranging critical perspectives on the region’s past, present and future. The variety of courses allows students to build on their firm grounding in at least one of the region’s languages and pursue their research interests in their capstone projects. 

Learning Objectives for the Middle East Studies Major:
  1. Offer foundational knowledge of the geography, cultures and history of the Middle East and North Africa.
  2. Offer rigorous training in a range of social science and humanities approaches from history, economics, political science, geography, and international relations to literary and cultural criticism.
  3. Develop critical thinking skills that enable the student to place recent and current regional events in context.
  4. Enhance students’ ability to question non-scholarly accounts of the region’s past and present. 
  5. Deliver firm grounding in at least one of the region’s languages: fourth semester proficiency in Arabic, Hebrew or Persian.
  6. Train students to conduct informed research on the Middle East.

Nine total courses are required for the major. No more than two courses may be counted toward this major and another major. Students participating in USC Overseas Studies programs should contact the department to discuss course selection for the major. Students must meet with a faculty mentor from the department upon declaring a major in Middle East Studies.

I. Language

All MDES majors must demonstrate fourth semester competency in a Middle Eastern language. This can be achieved through placement, transfer credits from other institutions (subject to approval by the MDES Curriculum Committee), from study abroad, or through successfully completing the level IV Arabic (ARAB 252 ), Hebrew (HEBR 315 ) or Persian (IRAN 250 ) courses at USC. Students who place out of the requirement to take ARAB 252 , HEBR 315 , or IRAN 250  must take an additional elective course.

II. Required Course - Lower Division

All students must take one of the following two courses.

III. Required Courses - Upper Division

All students must take the following two courses.

VI. Elective Courses

Students must also take one upper-division course, chosen from the list below. Students who place out of the requirement to take ARAB 252 , HEBR 315  or IRAN 250  must take two elective courses.


Concentration I and II courses may not be double counted as elective courses. MDES 490x  and MDES 492  may only be taken by departmental approval.

Honors Program

Candidates for the BA in Middle East Studies may receive a designation on their transcripts of departmental honors. Admission to the honors program is required.

Prerequisites: 3.33 overall GPA; 3.5 GPA or better in courses in the major; a minimum grade of B+ in HIST 180 or MDES 201 ; completion of at least one upper-level MDES course (400 level) requiring a seminar paper, at the time of admission; and submission of an application form to the MDES undergraduate faculty adviser. Prior approval of the thesis adviser and/or department chair is required for any modification of these requirements.

Required for departmental honors: The student must maintain the GPA requirements stated above and successfully complete MDES 475  or the MDES 492  Honors Thesis. In semesters when MDES 475  and MDES 492  are not offered, students may, with department approval, substitute MDES 490  (independent study) as constituting an honors seminar equivalent.

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