Interdisciplinary, and committed to the undergraduate experience

About Us

In its coverage of the full sweep of Near Eastern/Middle Eastern literature and history, its interdisciplinary and comparative research, and its commitment to the undergraduate experience, the department is unique among its peers.

The Near East is an older term for the Middle East. As defined by the department, the “Near East” extends from Morocco (and medieval Spain), through Egypt, the Levant (Israel and Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan), Turkey, Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA).

Arts Quad in winter


Established during the mid-1960s as a small language and literature department with a focus on “Semitic studies,” the department has grown enormously in recent decades, thanks to institutional and alumni support.

The department offers undergraduates and graduate students the opportunity to study the languages, literatures, cultures, religions and Near Eastern history from ancient Sumer to the modern Middle East; and educates students and the wider academic community in cross-cultural, trans-historical and inter-religious understanding. The department enrolls over 1000 students each semester, mentoring over 20 majors, and operates a small and dynamic graduate program.

Aerial view of the Cornell Arts Quad

Give to the department

Your support enables the department to enhance the experience for undergraduate and graduate students and contribute to faculty excellence. Gifts can help fund lectures and conferences, faculty and student research, distinguished speakers, and other department priorities. We will greatly appreciate and immediately put into use any gift, no matter the amount.

Please consider a donation to the department endowment gifts fund. We place gifts made to this fund into an endowment account where they are invested in perpetuity. Income from the endowment is provided each year to the department for priorities.

exterior of White Hall in summer

Get department updates

We send out e-newsletters regularly during the academic school year. 

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Cuneiform tablet

Faculty statement on cuneiform tablet repatriation:

In July 2021, Cornell officials worked with the Ambassador from the Republic of Iraq to transfer a collection of over 5000 cuneiform tablets back to their country of origin. These tablets were the subject of conservation and research at Cornell since 1999. The faculty in the Department of Near Eastern Studies welcome this decision, as we stand against the illicit trafficking of cultural property and support the return of cultural artifacts to their home countries.

NES across campus

Students cross Ho Plaza between classes.

Affiliated programs at Cornell

We are connected through joint faculty members, cross-listed courses and collaborative events and projects to programs and departments across the college like: archaeology (CIAMS), classics, history, history of art & visual studies, Jewish studies, medieval studies, music, performing & media arts, and religious studies.

Students laying on a blanket enjoying the sunshine

Student Organizations

Cornell has a wonderfully varied number of student organizations, many of which relate to the Near/Middle East like the Arab Student Association or the Persian Students Organization.

See all student groups on campus.

Land acknowledgement

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters.