Middle East Studies Association of North America

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Middle East Studies Association of North America
Abbreviation MESA
Formation 1966
Type learned society
Location Tucson, Arizona
Fred Donner
Website mesana.org

Middle East Studies Association of North America (often referred to as MESA) is a learned society, and according to its website, "a non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programs, publications and services that enhance education, further intellectual exchange, recognize professional distinction, and defend academic freedom."[1] Some conservative and pro-Israel commentators have labelled the organization "left-wing."[2]


MESA was founded in 1966 with 50 original members, including Bernard Lewis, Malcolm Kerr, Samih Farsoun, and other scholars. According to its website, its current membership exceeds 2,600 and it "serves as an umbrella organization for more than sixty institutional members and thirty-nine affiliated organizations." It is a constituent society of the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Council of Area Studies Associations, and a member of the National Humanities Alliance.

In 2007, a rival organization, Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa was established by Bernard Lewis and others.

Current activities[edit]

Current President is Fred Donner, University of Chicago.

It is the publisher of The International Journal of Middle East Studies journal.

Since 1991 MESA has awarded the Albert Hourani Book Award to "the very best in Middle East studies scholarship". The prize is named after Albert Hourani, "to recognize his long and distinguished career as teacher and mentor".

Many academics associated with MESA, including its recent presidents John Esposito and Juan Cole, have been criticized by Martin Kramer. Martin Kramer has in turn been criticized by Joel Beinin,[3] Zachary Lockman [4] and Joseph Massad.[5]


In 2007, one of MESAs founders, Bernard Lewis, founded a rival organization, ASMEA (Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa), asserting the MESA "has been politicized to a degree without precedent. This has affected not only the basic studies of language, literature and history, but also has affected other disciplines, notably economics, politics and social science. Given the importance of these regions, there is an acute need for objective and accurate scholarship and debate, unhampered by entrenched interests and allegiances."[6]

Mark T. Clark, president of ASMEA and professor of political science at California State University at San Bernardino, described MESA as “kind of a closed circle” of people with similar political views.[6]

Franck Salameh (Boston College), who is also a member of ASMEA,[7] charged MESA and its leadership with "group-think," in favor of a "reductionist Arabist paradigm of Middle Eastern history" that attributes all of the "pathologies of the Middle East" to "Western colonialist enterprise."[8]

Former presidents[edit]


  1. ^ "Middle East Studies Association". Mesa.wns.ccit.arizona.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  2. ^ "Behind the Battles Over Middle East Studies". Merip.org. January 2004. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  3. ^ "Joel Beinin". Stanford.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  4. ^ By Author. "Interventions | Middle East Research and Information Project". Merip.org. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  5. ^ Joseph Massad, "Policing the Academy," Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April 2003.
  6. ^ a b "A Different View of the Middle East". insidehighered.com. November 2, 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  7. ^ "ASMEA - Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa —". Asmeascholars.org. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  8. ^ "Seeking True Diversity in Middle East Studies". Frontpagemag.com. January 16. Retrieved S2012-09-22. 

External links[edit]