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Our Program

The Middle East (which, for our purposes, includes North Africa and the Horn of Africa) is both the cradle of various religions, cultures, and traditions of knowledge and a region of encounters and conflicts that reflects present global issues. Each of these issues is complex and has its own deep history. Looking from the point of view of a single academic discipline concerned with the Middle East, you can consider only some aspects of every issue.

To obtain a fuller picture, you have to learn to access methods and knowledge of disciplines other than your own. You first have to learn how these disciplines ask questions, what questions they ask, and how they go about answering these questions. Then you learn how to integrate their questions, methods, and results into your own discipline. Finally, you learn how to ask and answer questions with the help of more than one discipline.

This approach is at the center of the Master's program "Interdisciplinary Studies of the Middle East". The Freie Universität has a unique blend of disciplines studying the Middle East: Arabic Studies, Iranian Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Semitic Studies, and Turkic Studies*. These have an emphasis on history and cultural studies, but are embedded in an even richer environment in Berlin and beyond.

To apply to the program you need a first university degree and about 60 credit points in courses relevant to ISME. We explicitly welcome applicants who have acquired prerequisites outside of their first degree or as part of a professional career. The program conveys the necessary toolbox for an interdisciplinary approach and allows students to choose their own focus and compose their individual course of studies.

This choice of focus also extends to your career once you graduate. You can learn about present research on the Middle East and how to contribute your skills to the academic field or take an internship to learn how to apply these skills to the professional field.

*Please note that it is not yet clear whether courses in Turkic Studies will be offered in the winter semester 2021/2022.

Program structure

The master's program is divided into three areas, each composed of several modules which, in turn, comprise two courses – a fourth area being reserved for your master’s thesis:

Number of semesters in the program

Core area

50 credit points

Consolidation area

30 credit points

Complementary area

15 credit points

1st semester

30 credit points

Module

Studying the Middle East

(15 credit points) 

Module

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Middle East 

(15 credit points)

one of the following modules

Reading the Middle East

(15 credit points)

-or-

Reading the Middle East through its languages

(15 credit points)

   

2nd semester

30 credit points

 

two of the following modules

Histories and Societies of the Middle East

(15 credit points)

-or-

Traditions of Texts and Knowledge in the Middle East

(15 credit points)

-or-

Literatures of the Middle East in their Social Dimensions

(15 credit points)

-or-

Languages of the Middle East

(15 credit points) 

 

3rd semester

30 credit points

     

one of the following modules

Internship

(15 credit points)

-or-

Research perspectives

(15 credit points)

-or-

Elective modules totalling 15 credit points 

4th semester

30 credit points

Module

Communicating research in Interdisciplinary Studies

(5 credit points)

Master's thesis

(25 credit points)    

120 credit points      

Frequently asked questions

The program always starts in the winter semester.

The program's language of instruction is English. This means that all courses are taught in English, all assignments are to be submitted in English, and all examinations are conducted in English.

No, as part of the Department of History and Cultural Studies, the program focusses on cultural aspects of the Middle East. As a student in this program, you engage with languages and literatures from and scholarship about the Middle East and you learn about and apply interdisciplinary methods suited to the diversity of languages, literatures, societies, religions, and cultures of this region.

In the first semester, you take at least four courses from three modules:

  1. Studying the Middle East with a lecture series by all six disciplines contributing to our program AND a methodology course taught by faculty from at least two contributing disciplines,
  2. one advanced seminar in the module Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Middle East,
  3. one elective course from the module Reading the Middle East (all readings in English) OR the module Reading the Middle East through Its Languages.

These courses introduce you to various aspects of studying the Middle East as a region and as a space of cultural production. They approach the subject from a cross-disciplinary and transregional perspective. They focus on the comparative analysis of historical, social, and cultural formations and address topics such as culture, language, knowledge, literature, identity, gender, human rights, and nationalism. 

Yes, the following three modules of the core area are compulsory:

  1. Studying the Middle East (15 credit points)
  2. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Middle East (15 credit points) 
  3. Communicating Research in Interdisciplinary Studies (5 credit points) 

In addition, to complete the core area you choose one of the following two modules:

Reading the Middle East (15 credit points) OR Reading the Middle East through its Languages (15 credit points)

No, in the core area you can choose between two modules:

  1. Reading the Middle East, which discusses key texts, central concepts and fields of researching the Near and Middle East (e.g. Orientalism, world/global literatures, Islam in Europe, postcolonialism, nationalism) in their historical development and from a transregional and cross-disciplinary perspective. 
  2. Reading the Middle East through its Languages, which develops interdisciplinary terms and concepts from the fields of cultural studies and humanities by means of various forms of original language sources (oral and written) from the field of Arabic, Persian, Syriac-Aramaic, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian culture and literature. 

Yes, if you are proficient in more than one language (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Syriac-Aramaic, Turkish – at least level B1 CERF), you can take courses with readings from more than one original language. The module Reading the Middle East through its Languages consists of two elective courses. 

Yes, you can participate in as many different courses as you like under the condition that there are free spots in the course and that the lecturer agrees to your participation. Note, however, that only two of the following modules are included in the final grade:

a) Histories and Societies of the Middle East (15 credit points)

b) Traditions of Texts and Knowledge in the Middle East (15 credit points)

c) Languages of the Middle East (15 credit points)

d) Literatures of the Middle East in their Social Dimensions (15 credit points)

Yes, the complementary area allows you to earn credits from an internship of at least 9 weeks. 

Yes, the complementary area allows you to choose modules (totalling 15 credit points) from the entire course catalog of Freie Universität Berlin, provided that there are free spots in the course and that the lecturer agrees to your participation.

No, there are no contingents for ISME students in other faculties. The complementary area allows you to choose modules (totalling 15 credit points) from the entire course catalog of Freie Universität Berlin, provided that there are free spots in the course and that the lecturer agrees to your participation.

Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Syriac-Aramaic, and Turkish are taught as part of bachelor's programs in German. Therefore, German language proficiency is required to participate in these courses. 

The master's program Interdisciplinary Studies of the Middle East is building on existing language skills and consolidates these skills through reading courses. 

At the moment, there are no advanced language courses designed for this program. The master's program Interdisciplinary Studies of the Middle East builds on existing language skills and consolidates this proficiency through reading courses. 

There are, however, some advanced Arabic language courses within the bachelor's program Arabic Studies that are offered in Arabic. 

Yes, you can take master's courses that are offered in German, especially for the module Reading the Middle East through its Languages as well as in the consolidation and complementary areas, provided that there are free spots in the course and that the lecturer agrees to your participation.

Note, however, that to take courses taught entirely in German you must have German language proficiency.

Ask the academic advisors about transferring credits from other master's programs. Please note that credits taken into account for admission to our program cannot be transferred. 

At the moment, a semester abroad is not a fixed component of our program, but students are encouraged to study or complete an internship abroad, preferably in their third semester. Please note, however, that students have to organize their stay abroad independently.

The office of the International Student Mobility of Freie Universität Berlin is an important resource for students interested in studying abroad. 

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