Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Regulations for all Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Majors and Concentrators
Introduction to MESAAS
Majors and concentrators begin their work with an introductory course that emphasizes a particular area (the Middle East, South Asia, or Africa). For instance, students interested in the Middle East would take ASCM V2003 Introduction to Islamic civilization, or ASCM V2008 Contemporary Islamic civilizations. Students keen on learning more about South Asia would take ASCM V2357 Introduction to Indian civilization, HSME W3810 [History of] South Asia I, or HSME W3811 South Asia II. The introductory course generally recommended for students interested in Africa is MDES W2030 Major debates in the study of Africa.
Required Core Courses
All majors must take two additional core courses. The first is a small seminar in which they explore some of the classic texts of the region, either AHUM V3399 Major texts: Middle East and South Asia (for those focusing on the Middle East and South Asia) or AFCV C1020 African civilization (for those focusing on Africa).
With this background, students are ready to take, generally in the junior or senior year, MDES W3000 Theory and culture: Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. This course examines critical approaches to the study of language, culture, and politics and encourages students to reflect on their own work from many different perspectives.
Fifteen additional points (generally five courses) are chosen in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies. These may include six points of coursework from other departments, subject the director of undergraduate studies' approval. Although students may have a particular interest (e.g., Arab political thought, Urdu literature, Armenian history, Iranian cinema, or contemporary West Africa), they are encouraged to gain exposure to the fullest range of courses and approaches offered by the faculty, and to familiarize themselves with other regions beyond their core area.
In Fulfillment of the Language Requirement (for Majors)
Enrollment in language courses is in some cases determined by placement exams. For more information, see Languages on the department's website and if necessary consult the relevant Coordinator listed on that page. The website includes separate pages for each language, describing the program of instruction, courses for heritage speakers, summer language programs, and more. Language courses must be taken for a letter grade. Pass/D/Fail or Registration credit (R) is not permitted. Those seeking to waive a language requirement must take a proficiency test.
Students who enter with language proficiency at only the second-year level must complete one additional year of language study and one additional MESAAS course. When students enter with language proficiency at the third year level (or in cases where only two years of a particular language are offered in MESAAS) they must substitute 3 additional MESAAS courses.
Newly declared majors and concentrators should meet with the director of undergraduate studies in order to plan a program of study. The goal is to strike a balance between courses that help a student achieve depth in a particular area/discipline and those that foster a wider perspective.
Although students are encouraged to approach faculty in the department based on their specific interests, the director of undergraduate studies functions as an ad hoc adviser for all entering students, addressing issues of course requirements, credit, approval for courses in other departments or schools, study abroad, and, eventually, honors requirements (including the senior thesis). Please do not hesitate to contact the director of undergraduate studies to set up an appointment.
Courses in which the grade of D has been received do not count toward the major or concentration requirements, nor do those taken Pass/D/Fail except for the first course taken toward the major or concentration.
Honors Program/Senior Thesis
Students may also wish to write a thesis. While not required for graduation, the thesis enables a student to be considered for departmental honors. It is advisable to begin planning for your thesis during your junior year. Interested students should attend the relevant information sessions and identify a potential faculty adviser.
All students who wish to write a thesis must enroll in MDES W3960 Honors thesis seminar, a full year course consisting of a 1-point segment in the Fall semester and a 3-point segment in the Spring semester. Students work closely with their peers in a supportive environment to produce a substantial piece of research (in the range of 40 pages). The primary intellectual guidance is provided by the faculty adviser, whereas the director of undergraduate studies and the honors seminar teaching assistant oversee the general development of the project. Every year in April, MESAAS hosts a senior colloquium in which students present their research. For more information on the honors program, see Frequently Asked Questions on the department's website.
For additional guidelines, see Departmental Honors as outlined in the Academic Honors, Prizes, and Fellowships section of the Columbia College Bulletin.
For a Major in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Students should obtain a Major Declaration form from their advising dean and bring it to the director of undergraduate studies for approval. The director of undergraduate studies meets with students as necessary in order to establish and approve their individual programs of study. The requirements for the major are as follows:
Students should obtain a Major Declaration form (available in the online major declaration system or from your adviser) and bring it to the director of undergraduate studies for approval. The director of undergraduate studies meets with students as necessary in order to establish and approve their individual programs of study. The requirements for the major are as follows:
- A one-term introductory culture course, to be approved by the director of undergraduate studies
- AHUM V3399 or AFCV C1020
- MDES W3000
- Two years of a language regularly taught in the department, or substitutional
courses for students who test out of this requirement with the approval of the director of undergraduate studies
- 15 points of course work, which may include up to six points from other departments, selected in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies
For a Concentration in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
The requirements are identical with those for the major, except that there is no departmental language requirement. Fifteen points in department courses, selected with the approval of the director of undergraduate studies. These may not include elementary or intermediate language courses. Not more than two courses out of the general 15 points may be devoted to language study.
For a Major in African Studies
Students who have declared a major in African Studies prior to Spring 2014 must follow the requirements below.
The African Studies major requires 12 courses and a semester in Africa as follows:
- MDES W2030 Major debates in the study of Africa
- Four semesters (2 years) of study of an African language: Arabic, Pulaar, Swahili, Wolof and Zulu are currently offered
- Four Africa-related courses from one of the following departments: Anthropology, Art History and Archaeology, Comparative Literature and Society, Economics, English and Comparative Literature, French and Romance Philology, History, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Music, Political Science or Women's and Gender Studies
- Two Africa-related courses from another department in the list above
- One semester of study or supervised research in Africa: a current list of programs approved by the Office of Global Programs is available at http://www.ogp.columbia.edu/programs/africa/index.html
For a Concentration in African Studies
Students who have declared a concentration in African Studies prior to Spring 2014 must follow the requirements below.
The African Studies concentration requires 7 courses as follows:
- MDES W2030 Major debates in the study of Africa
- Three Africa-related courses from the departments listed for the major
- One Africa-related course from another department listed for the major
- Two semesters (1 year) of study of an African language
- One semester of study or research in Africa is strongly encouraged
Students who will declare a major or concentration in Spring 2014 and beyond, and are mainly interested in the study of Africa should declare a major or concentration in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, and follow a program of courses that focus on Africa.