History of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies

Professor Oded Borowski arrived at Emory University in 1977 to establish the Hebrew program. Housed first in the Department of Spanish, Hebrew later merged with other language programs to create the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. With the addition of Professor Mahmoud Al-Batal in Arabic and then Professor Ken Frieden in Jewish Languages and Literatures, the Division of Arabic, Hebrew, and Judaic Languages and Literatures was formed.

Calloway BuildingIn 1988, the Department of Modern Languages and Classics divided into separate departments along divisional lines. Professor Borowski now became chair of the new Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Languages. Enrollments in courses in Arabic and Hebrew languages and literatures and Middle Eastern culture and history grew through the energetic efforts of the Department's faculty, who offered overload courses on a regular basis to meet student demand. As a result, the number of faculty increased; Professors Benjamin Hary and Devin Stewart joined the Department at this time.

In 1992, as a result of a national search, the Department hired Professor Gordon D. Newby to be the new chair, and added additional tenure-track lines, including Professor Kristen Brustad in Arabic. With growing student demand for Persian language courses, the Department hired Professor Frank Lewis in 1995. In 1996, the Department changed its name to Middle Eastern Studies. It continued to grow with the addition of new faculty, including Professor Shalom Goldman in Middle Eastern Studies and Hebrew and Judaic literature.

In 2000, the United States Department of Education designated the Department a Title VI Undergraduate National Resource Center for the Middle East. With the Title VI grant, the Department expanded its offerings in Arabic, Hebrew and Persian languages. In 2001, South Asian Studies merged with Middle Eastern Studies to form the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies (MESAS). The merger added Hindi and Sanksrit to the Department roster of languages taught. In 2003, MESAS joined with the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Georgia State University to form the Georgia Middle East Studies Consortium, a Title VI Undergraduate Resource Center serving the South Eastern Region.

Thoughout this time, MESAS continued to add faculty, including Roxani Margariti in Middle Eastern Studies, Ofra Yeglin in Hebrew language and literature, Hossein Samei in Persian. At present, MESAS includes twenty three faculty members. It offers instruction in Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Persian, and Tibetan, five of the eighteen languages taught in Emory College. MESAS also offers a wide variety of courses in Middle Eastern Studies, South Asian Studies, Judaism, Islam, and related areas.