The CMES Tunisia Office is the first overseas branch of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Established in Tunis in January 2017, the office offers an in-situ base for Harvard students and scholars conducting research on the Maghreb and the Middle East. The office’s mission is to host Harvard students in a site geographically located in the area they are studying, to build and strengthen connections and collaboration opportunities with Tunisian, North African, and Middle Eastern academia, and to facilitate research work for Harvard researchers within the Tunisian research institutions, libraries, and archives.
At the core of the office’s goals lies the ambition to offer an experience that goes beyond mere research and excursion facilitation. CMES programs in Tunisia are designed to spark the curiosity of students, to widen their perspective and enrich their social and emotional experience of the place. The main ambition of the office is to offer programs that help every student see, feel, and understand the reality of what he/she has been studying, in theory, thousands of miles away.
Hosting the Harvard Scholarly Community in the Region
CMES Tunisia's primary role is to support the Harvard scholarly community whose research interests lie in North Africa and the Middle East. The office offers programs to students and researchers in the social sciences and humanities with various research interests. During their time in Tunis, students have the opportunity to discover the region’s heritage, culture, society, politics, and language by experiencing the reality on the ground, establishing connections with peers in the region, and becoming familiar with the local academic institutions such as universities, libraries, and archives. Participants to the Summer Arabic Language Program in Tunis have the opportunity to attend an advanced course of Arabic. The reading materials for the course are chosen from modern and contemporary North African literature, poetry, or the press, specifically compiled to broaden the student’s knowledge of the region while improving their language skills. The office’s mission is also to facilitate academic research work for students and scholars who need resources located in the country’s libraries and archives and not available on the net and not accessible from abroad.
Creating and Strengthening Links with Tunisian Academia
CMES Tunisia also supports exchange with the local scholarly community; students and researchers from the region are encouraged to reply to relayed calls for papers and to participate in conferences and seminars taking place at Harvard University. The office may provide support to researchers who are selected as speakers at Harvard University’s events. The office’s activities include the organization of lectures, talks, seminars, and conferences that are open to the local scholarly community in Tunis. The office may also host events and meetings for other Harvard schools and faculty. Furthermore, CMES Tunisia offers a post-doctoral fellowship program within CMES at Harvard University.
Initiating Exchange and Insight
Students and researchers participating in CMES Tunisia’s programs may come from disciplines including history, anthropology, psychology, social sciences, economy, political science, art history, and law. The office is designed as a place for multidisciplinary exchange. What brings such a large array of fields together is a common interest in the region’s cultural and social diversity and a strong belief in dialogue, exchange, and complementarity in the academic community. The office's programs are also an opportunity for participants to meet and build strong links with students from other communities and Schools within Harvard University.