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Middle Eastern studies is a name given to a number of academic programs associated with the study of the culture, politics, economy, and geography of the Middle East, an area that is generally interpreted to cover a range of nations extending from North Africa in the west to the Chinesemarker frontier, including Israelmarker, Lebanonmarker, Palestine, Jordanmarker, Egyptmarker, Iraqmarker, Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Pakistanmarker, Syriamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker and multiple other nations. It is considered a form of area studies, taking an interdisciplinary approach to the study of a region.

Although some academic programs combine Middle Eastern Studies with Islamic Studies, based on the preponderance of Muslims in the region, others maintain these areas of study as separate disciplines.

Contentious Issues

In 1978 Edward Said, a Palestinian Americanmarker professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, published his book Orientalism, in which he accused earlier scholars of a "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture", claiming the bias amounted to a justification for imperialism. While other academics challenged Said's conclusions, the book soon became a standard text of literary theory and cultural studies.

American-Israeli historian Martin Kramer in his 2001 book Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America ( download) accused Middle Eastern studies programs of ignoring the mounting threat of Islamic terrorism. In a Wall Street Journal article published in 2001, Kramer claimed that Middle Eastern studies courses, as they stood, were "part of the problem, not its remedy". In a Foreign Affairs review of the book, F. Gregory Gause said his analysis was, in part, "serious and substantive" but "far too often his valid points are overshadowed by academic score-settling and major inconsistencies."

In 2002, Americanmarker writer Daniel Pipes established an organisation called Campus Watch to combat what he perceived to be serious problems within the discipline, including "analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students". He encouraged students to advise the organisation of problems at their campuses. In turn critics within the discipline such as John Esposito accused him of "McCarthyism".

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