PhD Program in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies

The joint program in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies is designed for students interested in enriching their program of study for the PhD in Anthropology with firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its languages and an understanding of its cultural traditions. As a student in an interdisciplinary program you are a full member of the Department of Anthropology cohort, but also have an intellectual home at CMES and access to CMES faculty, facilities, and resources.

Students in the joint PhD Program in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies fulfill all the requirements for the PhD in Social Anthropology in addition to the language and area studies requirements established by the Committee on Middle Eastern Studies.

Language Requirements

Each student must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one of the following European languages: German, French, Italian, or Russian. This requirement may be fulfilled either by a departmental examination or by satisfactory completion of two years of language study. The student must also demonstrate a thorough knowledge of a modern Middle Eastern language: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish. Depending on the student’s specialization, another Middle Eastern or Islamic language (e.g., Kurdish, Urdu) may be substituted with the approval of the Committee on Joint PhD Programs. The expectation is that the student learn the languages necessary to teach and work in his or her chosen field.

Program of Study in Anthropology and MES

The graduate program in social anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies requires a minimum of sixteen half-courses, three of which are in Middle Eastern history, economics, religion, or political science, and twelve of which are in anthropology. The twelve required anthropology half-courses include the proseminar “History and Theory of Social Anthropology” (2650a and b); a half-course on the ethnography of one’s area of specialization is recommended but not required. A half-course in archaeology is recommended but not required. First-year students must attain at least a B+ in each half of the proseminar.

A list of current Middle East–related courses is available on this site at the beginning of each semester; the Anthropology Department course catalog is available on the Harvard Registrar’s website.

Social anthropology PhD candidates are required to take written and oral examinations toward the end of their third term of study. Candidates must pass these examinations before they may continue their PhD work. More details are available in the Department of Anthropology’s Program Guidelines for students.

Dissertation

The dissertation prospectus must be read and approved by a committee of three faculty members no later then the end of the third year. The dissertation will normally be based on fieldwork conducted in the Middle East, or in other areas of the world with close cultural ties to the region, and should demonstrate the student’s ability to use source material in one or more relevant Middle Eastern languages. Satisfactory progress of PhD candidates in the writing stage is determined on the basis of the writing schedule the student arranges with his or her advisor.

Timeline for Student Progress and Degree Completion

  • Coursework: One to three years.
  • Examinations: General exams must be passed by the end of the second year of study.
  • Dissertation Prospectus: Must be approved by the end of the third year.
  • Dissertation Defense and Approval: The candidate’s dissertation committee decides when the dissertation is ready for defense. The doctorate is awarded when the candidate passes a defense of the dissertation.
  • Graduation: The program is ideally completed in six years.

For more details on these guidelines, see the Middle Eastern Studies section of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) Student Handbook and the Department of Anthropology’s guidelines for PhD students in social anthropology. Admissions information can be found in the Applying to CMES section of this site and on the GSAS website.