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A Guide for Prospective Students

 

Near Eastern Studies Graduate Studies

A guide for prospective graduate students

Near Eastern Studies Most Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the following links for further information:

1.) Required Near Eastern Studies Departmental Fact Sheet
2.) General information on Graduate Studies at Princeton
3.) The Graduate School's Application and Guide to Graduate Admission, or write to:

Office of Graduate Admission
Princeton University
Graduate Admission Office
One Clio Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
Phone 609-258-3034
Fax 609-258-7262
 
If you want to make informal inquiries to the Department of Near Eastern Studies, write Jim LaRegina at laregina@princeton.edu,
or write to:

Prof. Michael A. Cook 
Director of Graduate Studies
Near Eastern Studies Department
mcook@princeton.edu


If you want to make informal inquiries to the Program in Near Eastern Studies about academics or procedural issues, write Jim LaRegina at laregina@princeton.edu;
 
If you want to make informal inquiries to the Program in Near Eastern Studies about funding opportunities, Jim LaRegina at laregina@princeton.edu,
or write to: 

Prof. M. Şükrü Hanioğlu
Director
Program in Near Eastern Studies
hanioglu@princeton.edu

 

Preface

If you are considering graduate work in Near Eastern Studies, this site should tell you most of what you need to know about the possibilities for such study at Princeton.

Princeton has considerable attractions to offer you. It has a large and well-known faculty, an unusually good library, five-year funding, and a pleasant small-town environment with New York only an hour away. These are not, however, the factors that should weigh most heavily with you if and when you come to choose between Princeton and the handful of other American universities offering comparable programs.

If you have been an undergraduate at an American institution, you have probably been exposed to a large and frequently changing cast of faculty. Graduate life is different: graduate students spend most of their years of study working closely with two or three faculty at most. Choosing them is more important than choosing the institution they happen to belong to.

The core of this particular site is accordingly the faculty profiles. You should read them all, since taken together they tell you a great deal about the character and resources of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. It is for this reason that we have included not just full-time faculty in the Near Eastern Studies Department, but also part-time faculty, emeriti, and faculty in other departments. You should, however, pay special attention to the profiles of the Department's full-time faculty. If there are two or three faculty members whose interests and approaches mesh with yours, apply for admission to the Department.

To apply, you should begin with the Graduate School Admissions Web page at http://www.princeton.edu/gradschool/admission/; instructions about the electronic application process (http://www.princeton.edu/gradschool/admission/applicants/applying/application/) and other information about admissions may be found there. Simply follow the instructions. We will read the materials you submit with care. Among other things, we shall be looking for evidence that you have already directed some time and effort to Near Eastern Studies at the undergraduate level. We also need to see that you have demonstrated the linguistic ability needed to acquire a Near Eastern Language.
 
As part of the admission process, we invite all short-listed applicants to visit Princeton for a weekend in late February, for interviews with faculty, seminars in which the applicants give brief presentations on some research topic of interest to them, and interaction with current graduate students. The visit affords an opportunity for better acquaintance, and may therefore be to the candidate's advantage. It is not, however, a necessary condition of admission. We offer partial reimbursement of travel expenses, and provide some meals and accommodation with current graduate students.


The Role of the Program

The Program in Near Eastern Studies admits students to a two-year course of study leading to a Master of Arts degree. This program is intended for students preparing for a non-academic career, for example in diplomacy, government service, business, or the media. The Program does not admit students to a Ph.D. program.


Ph.D. Study in the Department

Ph.D. study in the Department of Near Eastern Studies falls into two parts: before and after the General Examination, commonly known as "Generals". A student usually takes Generals about two years after admission, though in unusual circumstances this period can be as little as a year or as much as three years. Prior to taking Generals, a student takes courses. Click here for a formal listing of the Department's graduate courses, or here for a complete list of all Near Eastern Studies courses which are offered during the current semester. 
 
Most of the courses taken by graduate students will be graduate seminars offered by Departmental faculty, but students are encouraged to take courses related to their academic interests in other departments. For example, taking a course in European history or the wider study of religions can improve career prospects, and at the same time serve to introduce a student to state-of-the-art historical or religious studies methods. There are few rules dictating a student's choice of courses. Good course selection means holding a balance between obtaining a wide general competence in Near Eastern studies and focusing on a specialized interest which the successful student will eventually turn into a dissertation topic. Three or four graduate-level courses a semester is a normal load. Towards the end of each academic year every student must formally apply for readmission, and the student's record in course-work is then carefully considered by the Department.

Graduate students may also take undergraduate courses where appropriate. Most language instruction up to third-year level takes place in undergraduate courses. In addition, certain other undergraduate courses may be taken by graduate students with suitable supplementary requirements. There may be a separate precept for graduates, additional readings, or more substantial papers. Click here for examples of undergraduate courses recently taken by graduate students in this way.

Arrangements with New York University allow our graduate students to attend courses there for credit and the Department is normally able to reimburse the cost of travel.

The Department lays great emphasis on linguistic training. Before taking Generals, every student must demonstrate a research-level competence in a Near Eastern language (normally Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish) and knowledge of a second Near Eastern language up to second year level,  together with a reading knowledge of at least one major European language of scholarship. Students are encouraged to to take advantage of possibilities for developing their language skills by taking summer courses or spending a year in the Middle East or North Africa.

Generals represents the rite of passage from course-work to dissertation research. After taking Generals, the student embarks on a dissertation under the guidance of an adviser with knowledge of the field in question. The adviser is normally a member of the Department. It is not uncommon for a student to have two advisers; one, for example, might be a political scientist, and the other an area specialist, and in such cases an advisor is often in another department. Many students at this point in their careers spend a year in research abroad, before returning to Princeton to complete their research and writing.


Faculty

At any given time the Department has around thirteen core faculty. This permits broader coverage of the field than is possible at most American universities. Please click on the menu tabs under People for the profiles of each of the core Departmental faculty, together with lecturers, emeriti, and associated faculty in other departments. Our emeriti often remain easily accessible to students.


The Library

The Princeton University Near East Collections contain some 370,000 books and manuscripts in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish, and constitute one of the major assemblages of Near Eastern research materials in the United States. Most extensive are the Arabic holdings with over 85,000 printed books and 15,000 manuscripts—a manuscript collection unmatched in any other U.S. library.
 
There are, in addition, approximately 51,500 Persian, 54,500 Turkish and Ottoman, and 68,500 modern and Rabbinic Hebrew printed books, together with some 2,000 Persian and 1,000 Ottoman manuscripts, and a small collection of Ottoman documents. All areas of classical Islamic civilization are well represented, with an emphasis on literary, historical, legal, and religious texts. The collections are also strong in contemporary Near Eastern publications. Current books and periodicals are acquired on a regular basis from all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, as are major newspapers. All told, the Library receives well in excess of 2,000 serial publications relating to the Near East in Near Eastern and Western languages.

The collections are at present housed in the Firestone Library. The Near East reading room is also located in Firestone.

There are, at the present time, nine staff members who work on Near Eastern material. Dr. James W. Weinberger is the Curator of the Near East Collections.


Some Practical Matters

Financial support. University fellowship support is normally given for five years to students who make satisfactory progress, thus sparing them the need to teach to make ends meet during this period. By the same token, students are expected to complete their dissertations within five years of admission; those who do not can continue their degree candidacy, but are not normally eligible for further stipends through the University.

Teaching opportunities. Students are encouraged to teach as part of their professional training. The number of openings for graduate instructors depends on undergraduate enrollment in Near Eastern Studies courses, and this is unpredictable. However, most students get at least one opportunity to teach during their time at Princeton. Newly admitted graduates are not employed as instructors but are encouraged to sit in on undergraduate courses in which they hope to teach at a later stage.

Advising. The adviser of all newly-admitted Department students is automatically the faculty member who is currently Director of Graduate Studies. Over the course of the first year or so of graduate study, as the student's interests become clearer, an appropriate faculty member takes over the role of adviser. The final choice of a dissertation adviser is made just prior to Generals, in the light of the student's research plans.


Other Activities in the Department and Program

The Department does not actively prevent a student living the life of a recluse, but it offers numerous alternatives, beginning with the Departmental Reception held each fall. A central event in the communal life of the Department and Program is the weekly brown-bag lunch. Currently this takes place each Monday during the teaching semester at noon. Speakers may be faculty (including emeriti) in the Department or Program, other Princeton faculty, visitors from elsewhere in this country or from abroad—particularly from the Near East. The brown-bag format provides the opportunity for a short talk and a lively discussion, often centering on matters of topical interest.

There are frequent lectures by outside speakers. Many of these are organized by the Department or Program; others take place at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, which is located a short walk from the Department, and elsewhere in the University.

The Department and Program have many visitors. Some are short-term. Others may stay as long as a semester or a year, and teach courses at graduate level while they are at Princeton. Either way, they are a resource which graduate students can and should make use of.

Affiliated Academic Units:

M. Münir Ertegün Foundation for Turkish Studies
The “M. Münir Ertegün Foundation for Turkish Studies,”funded by a substantial endowment provided by the late Ahmet Ertegün, is designed to foster and strengthen the Turkish Studies component of Near Eastern Studies offerings. Directed by Professor Şükrü Hanioğlu, it allows us among other activities to bring a specialist in various aspects of Turkish studies each year as a Visiting Professor, provides for the financing of an annual conference, and makes possible funding for for a number of graduate students in Turkish studies.

The Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia
The Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (TRI) is housed in the  Department of Near Eastern Studies . TRI sponsors research and the dissemination of ideas concerning the contemporary Arab and Muslim worlds, and its research fellows publish and organize activities, such as lectures and conferences, around an annual theme. The current academic year's theme (2013–2014) is centered on The Language of Politics and the Politics of Language, and the focus of TRI’s events and research will be the recent uprisings in this region.
 
The Princeton Geniza Project
In 1985, the Department inaugurated its Cairo Geniza Computer Project, under the direction of Emeritus Professor Mark R. Cohen. The Cairo Geniza contains thousands of letters, court records, marriage contracts, lists, and other documentary treasures, preserved for centuries in a large discard chamber in what is today known as the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo). Written in Hebrew or Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic in Hebrew letters), with a small number in Arabic language and script, the Geniza documents constitute an unmediated source for the reconstruction of what the late Professor S. D. Goitein called the "Mediterranean Society" of Jews, Muslims, and Christians of the high Middle Ages.

The project is creating a machine-readable full-text database of the documentary Geniza that can be searched using keywords for information on Jewish and general Mediterranean social and economic life in the 11th–13th centuries. Thus far over 4,000 texts have been entered into the database. Some of the documents are linked to images of actual manuscripts, which are housed in library collections around the world. The PGP is open to the public without subscription or registration at www.princeton.edu/~geniza.
 
The project is integrated at Princeton with the department's "S.D. Goitein Laboratory for Geniza Research." This contains a copy of the research archive (including photocopies and microfilms of Geniza documents) of the late doyen of Geniza research, after whom it is named. A number of graduate students in the department have exploited the Geniza as well as the Goitein archive for their research and have published books and articles based on the research they began at Princeton.