Middle East Studies Association

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Middle East Studies Association
TypeLearned society
Eve Troutt Powell[1]

Middle East Studies Association (often referred to as MESA) is a learned society, and according to its website, "a non-profit 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.".[2]

Critics have accused MESA of politicization and being dominated by academics critical of Israel and of America. In 2007, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa was founded as an ideological counterweight to MESA.


MESA was founded in 1966 with 51 original members.[3] Its current membership exceeds 2,700 and it "serves as an umbrella organization for more than fifty institutional members and thirty-six affiliated organizations".[4] It is a constituent society of the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Council of Area Studies Associations, and a member of the National Humanities Alliance.[5]


The current president is Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania.[6]


The International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES) is a quarterly journal published by Cambridge University Press under the auspices of MESA. The editor is Joel Gordon of University of Arkansas.[7][8]

The Review of Middle East Studies (RoMES) is MESA’s journal of review. MESA policy has established the focus of RoMES as the state of the craft in all fields of Middle East studies. The Editor is Heather Ferguson and the journal is based at Claremont McKenna College.[9]

MESA has a very active Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) that has two wings: CAFMENA (Middle East and North Africa, established in 1990) and CAFNA (North America, established in 2005). Through CAF, MESA monitors infringements on academic freedom on the Middle East and North Africa worldwide.[10]


In 2007, Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami started Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) as a rival to MESA, as they saw MESA as "dominated by academics who have been critical of Israel and of America's role in the Middle East."[11][12]

In mid-March 2022, MESA voted by a margin of 787 to 167 to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to hold Israel to account for alleged human rights abuses against the Palestinians.[13][14] MESA's decision was criticised by the Academic Engagement Network, the AMCHA Initiative, and ASMEA.[13][15]


Albert Hourani Book Award

Since 1991 MESA has awarded the Albert Hourani Book Award to recognize "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".[16]

Malcolm Kerr Award

The MESA Dissertation Awards were established in 1982 to recognize exceptional achievement in research and writing for/of dissertations in Middle East studies. In 1984 the award was named for Malcolm H. Kerr to honor his significant contributions to Middle East studies. Awards are given in two categories: Social Sciences and Humanities.

Jere L. Bacharach Service Award

Since 1997 Jere L. Bacharach Service Award has recognized the contributions of individuals through their outstanding service to MESA or the profession. Service is defined broadly to include work in diverse areas, including but not limited to outreach, librarianship, and film.[17]

List of Recipients
Year Recipient Institution
1997 Ellen-Fairbanks D. Bodman

I. William Zartman

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Johns Hopkins University

1998 Richard L. Chambers University of Chicago
1999 George N. Atiyeh Library of Congress
2000 Louisa Moffitt Marist School
2001 Elizabeth W. Fernea University of Texas at Austin
2002 Jeanne Jeffers Mrad Center for Maghrib Studies in Tunisia
2004 Jere L. Bacharach University of Washington
2005 Ernest N. McCarus University of Michigan
2006 Howard A. Reed University of Connecticut
2008 Fred McGraw Donner University of Chicago
2009 Mary Ellen Lane Council of American Overseas Research Centers
2010 McGuire Gibson University of Chicago
2011 Bruce Craig

Michael C. Hudson

University of Chicago

National University of Singapore

2012 Erika H. Gilson Princeton University
2014 Günter Meyer University of Mainz
2015 Virginia H. Aksan McMaster University
2016 Ann Mosely Lesch American University in Cairo
2017 Bassam Haddad George Mason University
2018 James A. Miller
2019 Suad Joseph University of California, Davis
2020 James F. Goode, Dale F. Eickelmann

Former presidents[edit]

The following persons have been presidents of the association:[18]


  1. ^ "MESA Board of Directors". Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Middle East Studies Association". Retrieved 2 December 2014.
  3. ^ Anne Betteridge, ACLS Occasional Paper 28, 1993 http://archives.acls.org/op/op28betteridge.htm
  4. ^ "About". Middle East Studies Association.
  5. ^ "Members".
  6. ^ "MESA Board of Directors". Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  7. ^ "IJMES CUP". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  8. ^ "IJMES UARK". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  9. ^ "RoMES CUP". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  10. ^ "Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF)". arizona.edu. Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  11. ^ Karni, Annie (8 November 2007). "Group Formed To Improve Middle East Scholarship". The New York Sun. Archived from the original on 10 April 2022. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  12. ^ Akhavi, Khodi (20 November 2007). "New Middle East scholars group seen as close to White House". Electronic Intifada. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  13. ^ a b Flaherty, Colleen (24 March 2022). "Middle East Studies Scholars Approve BDS Resolution". Inside Higher Ed. Times Higher Education. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Middle East Studies Association academics back pro-Palestine BDS vote in blow to Israel World 3 min read". The New Arab. 23 March 2022. Archived from the original on 2 April 2022. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  15. ^ Romirowsky, Asaf; Joffe, Alex (26 March 2022). "MESA's Israel boycott encapsulates everything wrong with academia - opinion The point of the academic boycott of Israel is to twist official opinion in the manne". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Middle East Studies Association". Middle East Studies Association. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  17. ^ "Middle East Studies Association". Middle East Studies Association. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  18. ^ "Previous Boards". Middle East Studies Association.

External links[edit]