Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

University of California, Berkeley


The Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) studies the languages, literature, and cultures of the ancient, medieval, and the modern Middle East. The department offers specialized training in archaeology, art history, Assyriology, Egyptology, Iranian studies, Judaic studies, Islamic studies, comparative Semitics, and Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian languages and literature. Students can explore the interconnected worlds of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and their neighbors, as well as the modern literature and diverse cultures and societies of the modern Middle East. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a discovery experience that is innovative, collaborative, transdisciplinary, and features digital research.

Undergraduate Programs

The Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) B.A. program offers two specializations: 1) Languages and Literature and 2) Middle Eastern Worlds. Students in the Languages and Literature specialization can pursue a major in the modern languages of: 

  • Arabic 
  • Hebrew 
  • Persian 

The Middle Eastern Worlds specialization is the study of the material, intellectual, religious histories, and cultures of the region from ancient to modern times. Students can pursue a major in:

  • Middle Eastern Ancient Worlds
  • Middle Eastern Modern Worlds

In addition to the major program, the department offers a minor in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC), as well as minors in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. For more information about the major and minor programs, please visit the pages below:

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (Major and Minor)
Arabic (Minor)
Hebrew (Minor)
Persian (Minor)
Turkish (Minor)

Graduate Programs

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures: Master's and Ph.D. (with concentrations in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian Languages and Literatures, Middle Eastern Archaeology, Art History, Cuneiform, Hebrew Bible, Biblical and Judaic Studies, Old Iranian Studies, Egyptology and Islamic Studies)


The Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures libraries are essential parts of the department. These non-circulating libraries are important for research for both graduate and undergraduate students in the department. The libraries house reference materials relating to the various disciplines within MELC, as well as more general monographs and serials, and serve as seminar classrooms. 

The Hebrew/Semitics Library and the Islamic Studies Library both contain basic reference materials, including dictionaries and encyclopedias, and some of the most important texts in their fields. Access is generally limited to graduate students in the department. Both libraries are non-circulating. 

The Baer-Keller Library of Egyptology is a non-circulating collection of approximately 9,000 volumes maintained by the Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Department primarily for the use of UC Berkeley students and faculty pursuing a serious study of ancient Egyptian culture, Coptology, and Papyrology. Egyptology students and professionals from other institutions are also welcome. Interested individuals should apply to the Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Department. The core of the library collection comes from bequests to the Department of Near Eastern Studies by Professors Klaus Baer (1987) and Cathleen (Candy) Keller (2008). Professor Baer was an Associate Professor of Egyptology and History at UC Berkeley before becoming a Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Professor Keller was an Associate Professor of Egyptology at UC Berkeley for many years.

Cooperative arrangements between the University and the nearby Graduate Theological Union enable students in the department to use the extensive library holdings of the Union and supplement their programs with selected courses in Palestinian archaeology, Biblical studies, and Semitic epigraphy and philology.

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Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC)




Contact Information

Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

250 Social Sciences Building

Phone: 510-642-3757

Fax: 510-643-8430


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Department Chair

Christine Philliou


Undergraduate Student Services Advisor

Rania Shah, MA

250 Social Sciences Building

Phone: 510-642-3758


Graduate Student Services Advisor

Deanna Kiser-Go, PhD

250 Social Sciences Building

Phone: 510-642-4915


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