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South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies


See the world through many lenses.

With the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (SAMES) major at Whitman College, you’ll take a deep dive into the history, politics, literature, art and religions of the region. It’s a flexible major that will allow you to make insightful connections between subjects, countries and cultures. Led by creative, innovative faculty, the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies program offers a holistic, challenging and global educational experience. If you’re considering a future in these influential parts of the world, the SAMES major can give you the cultural understanding to be successful.

3 Reasons to Study South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Whitman

Gain a Valuable Intellectual Toolbox

You’ll learn about these two important regions through a range of approaches: political, religious, artistic, historical and more. Along the way you’ll develop an amazing set of skills in analysis, research and writing that will help you no matter what career you decide to pursue.

Work With Fantastic Faculty

Professors in Whitman’s SAMES program genuinely care about helping students grow as thinkers and people. They are generous with their knowledge and their time—and provide many opportunities for students to learn, discuss and collaborate on research.

Set Yourself Up For A Culturally Rich Life

The SAMES major opens the door to a rewarding and ancient cultural heritage that will enrich your life. Understanding the traditions, culture and history of South Asia and the Middle East will also give you valuable knowledge and expertise as you pursue a career thinking about, living in or working with people from this key part of the world.

Interested in South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies?

We’d love to send you information, including more on academic majors and student life at our beautiful campus in Walla Walla, Washington.

Elle P., South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major

“I’m a firm believer that education should be holistic, challenging, and global, and the SAMES major checked all those boxes. I can take History, Religion, Politics, Art History, Film and Media Studies, etc., and they all count toward my major.”

Our Whitman Student Voices Blog

Courses in South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

See just a few of the fascinating courses you might take.

Buddha statue outdoors.
ARTH 143

Buddhist Art in Asia

This overview of Buddhist art and architecture begins with its origins in South Asia and traces its dissemination into East and Southeast Asia. As you explore Buddhist artistic traditions, you’ll discuss topics like the origin of the Buddha image, pilgrimage and modes of worship, Buddhist iconography, and the intersection of Buddhist religion and politics.

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Quran on a table.
REL 217

The Qur’an

In this course you’ll delve into the scripture of Islam. You’ll learn about the historical and literary context in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in seventh-century Arabia. And through close reading, you’ll survey the many messages, themes, and literary and poetic styles found within this sacred text

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HIST 220

Ottomania! History, Politics and Memory of the Ottoman Empire

Blending traditional study of history with a sprinkle of politics and pop culture, this course is an unconventional survey of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1918) from its inception to its eventual collapse. Learn the history of the Ottomans while tracing the phenomenon of Ottomania—the positive and negative memories of empire that continue to influence Turkish society, culture and politics today.

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Civil unrest in street.
HIST 322

History of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

What are the origins of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis? This course will examine that question from several perspectives, touching on topics like 19th century Zionism, the conditions of the late Ottoman Palestine and World War I diplomacy. We’ll also examine the peace process and take stock of the current status of the conflict.

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Woman and man.
FMS 345

The Middle East in Cinema and Media

Find out how the Arab, Persian, Turkish and Hebraic Middle East has been represented and represents itself in film and television. Guided by cultural studies and postcolonial theory, you’ll delve into issues of representation, religion, nationalism, gender and ethnic identities.

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ARTH 356

The Taj Mahal and Beyond: The Art and Architecture of Mughal India

Survey the art and architecture of the Mughal dynasty in South Asia, from the origins of the empire in the 16th century until British forces exiled the last Mughal ruler in the mid-19th century. Within the context of the politics, doctrine and practices of the time, you’ll examine manuscript and album paintings, palace and tomb architecture, jewelry, enameled weaponry, elaborate textiles and more.

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Students discussing a subject.

Amazing Experiences You Can Pursue

Work with faculty as a research assistant. Engage with sources and materials that you might not ever see in the classroom. Research assistants do valuable work like researching sources, writing literature reviews and creating annotated bibliographies. Learning alongside elite scholars will help you grow as a student and a professional.

Grow your language skills. Many Whitman SAMES majors do summer language immersion programs as part of their studies. During these programs, you’ll have the chance to do intensive study of a language relevant to your area of interest while immersing yourself in contemporary culture by living with a host family.

Gain real-world experience. Internships give you an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom, explore career fields, develop job skills, and expand your network. Whitman offers a variety of internship grants. Past SAMES majors have interned with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Japanese Consulate and more.

Your Questions Answered

In the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies program, you’ll use the insights of different disciplines like history, politics, religion, art history, and more to better understand and engage in discussions about issues in South Asia (the region between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean) and the Middle East (the region around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean). You’ll learn to identify and interpret important ideas, assumptions, and debates that are central to studying, living in or working in South Asia or the Middle East.

Studying South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies gives you a global perspective on world history and culture. You’ll gain insight into critical regions of the world while honing valuable cross-cultural skills. You’ll learn to analyze issues from a variety of viewpoints. And you’ll strengthen your research and writing skills with a focused senior thesis project and optional research experiences with faculty. It’s a exciting major that can take you places—in the world and in your career. 

South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies careers are wide-ranging and inspiring. With a strong foundation in liberal arts, you’ll be prepared for careers in areas like international business, foreign relations, education, government and more. South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies majors teach English abroad, work as translators, have positions at the U.S. Department of State, and work in foreign or stateside companies as administrators for international projects. The opportunities are endless.

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