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Middle East Studies Association of North America (often referred to as MESA) is, 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]



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

Current President is Virginia H. Aksan, McMaster University.

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[2], Zachary Lockman [3] and Joseph Massad"[2]


Bernard Lewis founded a rival organization, 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."[3]

Mark T. Clark, professor of political science and director of the National Security Studies Program at California State University at San Bernardino, described MESA as “kind of a closed circle” of people with similar political views. [3]

Professor Franck Salameh of Boston College 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." [4]

Former Presidents

External links


  1. ^ MESA Website, accessed May 26, 2006
  2. ^ Joseph Massad, "Policing the Academy," Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April 2003.
  3. ^ a b A Different View of the Middle East :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, and Views and Jobs
  4. ^ FrontPage Magazine
  5. ^ [1]


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