Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies extends commitment to Tunisia office


Sunrise in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, January 2020. Photo by Hacı Osman “Ozzy” Gündüz

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Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) announced today that it will continue to provide a wide range of research opportunities and programming through its Tunisia Office for a further six years, supported by a $2 million gift from Harvard alumnus Hazem Ben-Gacem ’92. The office, which opened its doors in Tunis in January 2017 with the support of an initial gift from Ben-Gacem, provides students and scholars with a bridge to renowned Tunisian archival facilities, serves as an incubator for analysis of the evolving social, cultural, legal, and political movements in the region, and offers an intellectual hub for scholars of, and from, Tunisia, the Maghreb, the Mediterranean, and the wider Middle East region.

The Tunisia Office offers a platform for Harvard University students and faculty to learn about and engage with Tunisia and the broader Middle East and to further their scholarly work on the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, the Arabic language, and the many civilizations that have crossed North Africa for centuries. Since its founding, the office has hosted approximately 100 Harvard University students and faculty.

“Broadening the contexts in which teaching, learning, and research happen at Harvard is a crucial element of the University’s engagement around the world. I am confident that, building on the strong foundation it has put in place over the last few years, the Tunisia Office of CMES will continue to provide valuable resources for Harvard students and scholars and to furnish exciting opportunities for collaboration with local partners that will shape important work across fields and disciplines,” said Harvard Vice Provost of International Affairs Mark Elliott. “We are truly grateful for the very generous support of Hazem Ben-Gacem, which makes all this possible for the Harvard community.”

Programs available at the Tunisia Office include Harvard Tunisia Scholarships for Harvard graduate and undergraduate research, funding for Harvard faculty sabbatical research, an Arabic language summer program for Harvard graduate and undergraduate students, a three-week Wintersession course for Harvard students, and an array of topical workshops, conferences, and lectures.

Recent special initiatives at the Tunisia Office include Rediscovering Tunisia’s Interwar Literary Milieu, a digital humanities project in collaboration with the National Documentation Center, the National Archives of Tunisia, and the National Library of Tunisia; and “#After Lockdown: Very Short Stories about Enduring a Global Pandemic,” an animated film that premiered as part of Worldwide Week at Harvard 2020 and presents personal narratives collected by the Tunisia Office and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece during the summer of 2020.

Founded in 1954, CMES supports research and teaching on a broad range of topics related to the Middle East and North Africa. Generations of scholars have graduated from its degree programs, bringing a deepened understanding of the Middle East to careers that include academia, government, business, journalism, and law.