Indiana University Bloomington
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Welcome to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC) at Indiana University, Bloomington. The founding father of this department is Dr. Wadie Elias Jwaideh, a native of Iraq, who joined the faculty at IU in 1960 and served as chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, as it was called at that time, with exemplary dedication for over two decades. We are thus justifiably proud of belonging to one of the oldest and most venerable departments of its kind in the nation. Our distinguished and world-renowned faculty teach diverse courses on the languages, literatures, religions, history, and cultures of the Arab world and the Middle East. Many of our undergraduate majors go on to pursue graduate degrees in Middle Eastern studies and related fields or obtain professional degrees in law and business, among other areas of specialization. Graduates of the masters and doctoral programs enter careers in academia, foreign service, public and business administration.

The signature strengths of the department remain in the classical and medieval periods of Islam—in classical Arabic literature and language, Islamic studies, Islamic philosophical and religious thought, and intellectual history. The thriving Arabic language program with its focus on modern standard Arabic and courses offered in the department on the history and politics of the modern Middle East add a vital and critical modern dimension to the traditional departmental areas of strength. Recently, our temporal reach has extended to include the ancient Near East as well. The successful application for a Title VI grant in 2010 has allowed for the establishment of the Center for the Study of the Middle East (CSME), and made coveted FLAS grants available to us, which now enable us to recruit some of the best and brightest graduate students in the nation. All of these recent developments are among the most auspicious indices pointing to the expansion and reinvigoration of the department.

This exceptional growth trajectory for NELC continues unabated, despite the difficult financial climate. In Fall 2013, our enrollments in Arabic language classes are very healthy—almost 200 students are currently enrolled in all levels of Arabic up to the fourth year, as well as in courses on Arabic grammar and multimedia Arabic. We have over 75 undergraduate NELC majors and 71 graduate students in the Masters and PhD programs. These numbers are a testament to the overall strength of the department. Our full-time faculty is also growing in numbers—in the last five years we have hired two senior professors in Islamic Studies and Egyptology; and three new tenure-track faculty members in Arabic pedagogy, Israeli Studies, and medieval Jewish history. We also launched our joint MPA/MA degree with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Spring 2013. We plan to set up similar programs with The Center for Constitutional Democracy at the Maurer School of Law, the Kelley School of Business, the School of Education, and other units in the near future. Such interdisciplinary joint-degree programs will offer our students enhanced academic and professional options in the near future and create important academic synergies on campus.

The study of the Middle East and of Islam has never been more important and what we do together as a team of specialists on the Middle East has never been more relevant. The scholarly expertise of our faculty members is in great demand; a number of them are also public intellectuals who are often called upon to serve as consultants to governmental and non-governmental agencies, both at home and abroad. Our undergraduate majors and graduate students win prestigious scholarships and awards every year for their academic excellence. Our graduate students are also very active in presenting their research at various conferences and symposia. The department is also exceptionally fortunate in having a gifted and dedicated staff who keep the departmental office running seamlessly.

I invite you to roam our website and familiarize yourself with what we do and what we are all about. Visit us if you are in the vicinity—and consider becoming a part of what we do.

Professor Asma Afsaruddin, Chair


  • The Arabic Placement Test will be given Wednesday, August 20, 2014 from 9 am- 12 pm. The oral component will be administered between 1- 5pm. Location to be announced.
  • Orientation for incoming graduate students will be held on Tuesday, August 19 starting at 9 am. Location to be announced. For more information on both, please contact; 855-5993.
  • Congratulations to NELC alumnus Dr. Nasr el-Hujelan who has been selected by the College Alumni Board to receive a 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award! He received his PhD from NELC in 2008 in modern Arabic literature with a minor in Folklore. Dr. al-Hujelan is currently Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture and Information in Saudi Arabia.  Previously he was Director of Academic Advising and the Dean of Libraries at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The award was conferred during the College's Annual Recognition Banquet on Friday, April 4, 2014. 

Upcoming Events

NELC is proud to host a conversation with the recipient of the 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award Dr. Naser al-Hujelan (NELC PhD 2008), currently Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs in Saudi Arabia. Dr. al-Hujelan will be speaking on "Current Events in Saudi Arabia" and will be joined by fellow IU alumna, Dr. Maha al-Anzi, King Saud University. The event will take place on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 5:00 PM in State Room West, at the Indiana Memorial Union and is free and open to the public. A light reception will follow the lecture. Please see flyer here for details.

Later in the month, NELC will be hosting distinguished scholar Dr. Sebastian Günther, Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany, for its twelfth annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture. The lecture is titled, “The Quest for Enlightenment in Classical Islam: Ibn Tufayl's Hayy ibn Yaqzan,” and will be held on Wednesday, April 16, 2013 at 7:15 PM in the President's Room in the University Club, at the Indiana Memorial Union. Please visit here for additional details.


Read the 2014 NELC Newsletter

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