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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies



The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies offers PhD students the opportunity to pursue research which spans our broad range of expertise. Our researchers are engaged in internationally recognised work in the history, literature, linguistics, social anthropology, sociology, politics and contemporary culture of the Middle East, North Africa, China, Japan and the two Koreas. In addition the work of several staff crosses traditional boundaries, both geographical and subject based.

We welcome applications from qualified applicants who wish to undertake a three-year course consisting of individual supervisions and guided research, resulting in a thesis of up to 80,000 words. The degree will be granted on the basis of this thesis and an oral examination (viva voce).

There is full information about the course and how to apply on the Postgraduate Admissions pages. You will be expected to achieve a continuation mark of at least 67% in your current Masters degree and satisfy any pre-existing requirements also set by the Degree Committee, for example the English language requirement.

EU and International students can find information about their country's equivalent continuation requirements from the Postgraduate Admissions International Qualifications page.

Before you apply, it is essential that you contact your prospective supervisor to discuss your proposed research. A full list of supervisors for Middle Eastern, East Asian and South Asian Studies, showing their research interests is found below. Please see our Research pages for more information about the kind of work carried out in the Faculty.

We encourage you to discuss your draft PhD research proposal with a prospective supervisor. We recommend writing a proposal that is fewer than 3,000 words in length. You may then submit this as one of the documents in your application.

You may also wish to look at the list of our current PhD students, including their thesis topics.

The following information is correct for entry in the 2023/24 academic year. Applications for this year open on 14 September 2023 and close in May 2024.  If you wish to be considered for funding the deadline for submitting your application is 5 December 2023.


Supervisors - Middle Eastern Studies

HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal University Associate Professor in Middle Eastern Studies, Assistant Director, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies

Dr Anderson is open to receiving applications for MPhil and PhD projects from students with a training in social anthropology, who want to work on projects that contribute to current debates in anthropology, particularly in relation to the anthropology of Islam, ethics or commerce; or the anthropology of Syria.

Applicants for PhD study should have some prior academic training in anthropology, which is also usually offered as part of the MPhil by advanced study programme.

Research interests: Social anthropology, relating to Islam, and the sociality of trade. Trading networks connecting China to markets in West Asia and Arabic-speaking countries

University Associate Professor in the Eastern Islamic Lands and Persian-Speaking World

Dr Ashraf welcomes inquiries from prospective MPhil and PhD students who are interested in projects relating to the history of Iran and the Persian-speaking world, from the early modern to modern periods broadly defined.

Research interests: Comparative empires; the ‘Persianate world’; imperial and state formation; political culture; Persian historiography; history, memory, and the politics of knowledge.

Professor in the History and Culture of the Maghrib

Professor Bennison is happy to supervise graduate students in work relating to the pre-modern history of the Maghrib and Islamic cultural history, including the Medieval Islamic West

Research interests: The medieval Islamic West; 18th-19th century Muslim religio-political discourse and state structures especially in the Maghrib; Islamic cultural history

University Associate Professor in Hebrew
Research interests: Ancient Hebrew philology and linguistics, Ancient Hebrew periodization, exegesis

Regius Professor of Hebrew

Professor Khan is happy to supervise projects relating to any area of his research.

Research interests: Semitic philological and linguistic studies, particularly of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic. Also endangered dialects of Neo-Aramaic and the history of Judaeo-Arabic, including modern spoken varieties.

Professor of Classical Arabic Studies

Professor Marsham is happy to supervise graduate students in work relating to pre-modern Islamic History.

Research interests: Islamic History; Late Antiquity; Political Culture in Early Islam; Empire and State Formation; Arabic Historiography; Comparative and Transregional History

Assistant Professor in Modern Arabic Studies

Dr Monier is open to supervising research on the following topics:

The politics of the modern Arab World.

State-Society relations in Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.

Nationalism and state-building.

Identity politics and sectarianism.


Regional power, geopolitics and Arab diplomacy.

Arabic media.

Research interests: Citizenship and state-building; conceptual and political history; societal cohesion and security; geopolitics; diplomacy and development; religion and international relations.

Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic

Professor Montgomery is currently on sabbatical

Research interests: History of ideas in classical Islam; classical Arabic literature; literary translation.

University Associate Professor in Modern Arabic Literature and Culture

Dr Olszok is happy to supervise students who wish to work in fields of Arabic literature in which she has expertise.

Research interests: Modern and Contemporary Arabic Literature; Comparative Literature; Animal and Eco-critical Studies.

Kennedy Leigh Professor of Modern Hebrew Studies

Prof Peleg welcomes inquiries from potential MPhil and PhD students with research interests relevant to his interests in modern Hebrew literary history, Israeli cinema and Israeli culture more generally, primarily the creation of a native Hebrew culture in Palestine/Eretz Israel at the beginning of the twentieth century and its legacy.

Research interests: Modern Hebrew literary history; Israeli cinema and culture; the creation and legacy of a native Hebrew culture at the beginning of the 20th century

Ali Reza & Mohamed Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies

Prof van Ruymbeke welcomes approaches from potential graduate students with research interests relevant to hers. She requests that prospective students email her to discuss their proposed projects before sending in their applications.

Dr Christine van Ruymbeke talks about postgraduate studies in Persian Literature

Research interests: Classical Persian Literature, Modern Persian poetry, Poetics and Rhetorics, Science and poetry, Nezami Ganjavi, Persian Animal Fables as Mirror for Princes, Kalila wa Dimna, Anvar-i Sohayli, ‘Iyar-e Danesh, Khamriyya, Eskandar, Politics and poetry, Comparative literature, Persia’ s presence in the European world, Codicology, Persian manuscripts and paintings, Botanical representations in classical Persian paintings, Iranian cinema, Rewritings

Supervisors - East Asian Studies

Keidanren Professor of Japanese Studies

Having supervised graduate students in a range of fields, including premodern and modern Japanese history, premodern literature as well as Buddhism, Professor Adolphson would welcome enquiries from motivated graduate students and young scholars from across the world.

Research interests: Social structures, ideologies, mentalitée, religious institutions, legal history, historical documents and international trade in Medieval Japan

Professor of the Anthropology of China

Professor Chau is happy to supervise research students in the areas of Chinese religious and ritual life; social and cultural change in contemporary China; Chinese environmentalism; the local state; urban renewal; China and the overseas Chinese and other topics relating to social anthropology of contemporary China.

Research interests: Social and cultural transformations in contemporary China; Chinese religions, especially their social aspects; ritual theories; Indonesian Chinese returnees

University Associate Professor in the Study of Late Imperial China

I welcome proposals for graduate work in the areas of late-imperial Chinese literature, print culture, and Chinese religions.

Research interests: Chinese history, premodern Chinese literature, religious practice in China, print culture and history of the book, travel and pilgrimage, and popular culture. I am particularly interested in the interplay between literature and religion in late-imperial China (primarily during the Ming and Qing dynasties). I am also interested in the history of the book, travel and pilgrimage, popular culture, and religious practice.

University Associate Professor in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Dr Inwood is happy to supervise students in topics relating to her research on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, culture and media.

Research interests: Chinese contemporary genre fiction and poetry; popular, fan and folk cultures; internet culture and society; media studies; sociology of literature and culture

University Assistant Professor in Korean Studies
Research interests: History of modern Korea. The history of knowledge, especially the history of academia and alternative knowledge regimes. Historiography and historical memory. New religious movements.

On sabbatical: October, 2024 to September, 2025
Professor of East Asian History

Prof. Kushner is pleased to supervise graduate students interested in imperial and postwar Japanese history, 20th century Japan-Taiwan, as well as Sino-Japanese relations, the history of the Cold War in East Asia, and history of war crimes in East Asia.

Research interests: Modern East Asian history - including Japan, Taiwan, and China - in particular the wartime, postwar imperial dissolution of the Japanese Empire, and the Cold War in East Asia, as well as history of war crimes, memory politics and the pursuit of justice.

Professor of Early Modern Japanese Literature and Culture

Prof Moretti welcomes graduate students interested in Japanese premodern and early modern literature. She also strongly encourages projects that investigate early modern Japanese culture more broadly, including visual culture and woodblock prints; book history and/or textual scholarship in Japan; Japanese palaeography and calligraphy, and art.. She is also keen to supervise projects that work on issues of adaptation, canon-making, intervisuality, playfulness, humour, satire, metafiction, didactic prose, medicine in popular culture, and transmedia storytelling.


Research interests: Prof Laura Moretti's research focusses on early modern Japanese popular literature and culture. Prof Moretti's projects are inherently interdisiplinary, placed at the intersection of literature, art history, book history, textual scholarship, and palaeography. Working with both books and visual media, including woodblock prints and board games, and combining rigorous close reading of a wide range of archival materials with bold intellectual arguments, Prof Moretti's research challenges our understanding of literature and wishes to retrieve textual traditions that have been silenced after the encounter of Japanese literature with "modernity". Prof Moretti's research covers a wide span of time, moving from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century.

University Associate Professor in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations

Dr Nilsson-Wright is happy to supervise graduate students who wish to work on East Asian politics, international relations and diplomatic history, particularly with reference to Japan, North and South Korea and US relations with Northeast Asia.

Research interests: Cold War relationship between the USA & NE Asia, particularly Japan & the two Koreas; contemporary regional security issues, foreign policy & domestic politics

University Associate Professor in Modern Japanese Studies

Dr Steger welcomes inquiries from talented young scholars to work under her supervision. She is willing and able to supervise a wide range of topics related to Japanese contemporary society. Please contact her by e-mail prior to application and submit a draft research proposal (ask for guidelines).

Research interests: Japanese society, with emphasis on the cultural history and anthropology of daily life, including studies of sleep, gender, household waste (incl. plastics) and the impact of the 2011 tsunami.

Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization

Chinese thought; pre-imperial and early imperial cultural history; natural history; classical Chinese language.

Prof. Sterckx will be on research leave during the academic year 2024-25 and is unable to take new students or host visiting scholars during that period.

Research interests: Classical and literary Chinese language and philology; cultural history of pre-imperial and early imperial China; text and manuscript studies

Professor of Modern Chinese History

Prof van de Ven is happy to supervise graduate students in a range of topics relating to modern Chinese history. He is interested in the history of war, the history of the Chinese Communist Party, and economic and political history. 

Prof van de Ven is not currently taking any MPhil students.

Research interests: History of the Chinese Communist Party before 1949; the history of warfare in modern China; Chinese globalization in the 1850-1950 period

On sabbatical: January, 2024 to June, 2024
Kawashima University Associate Professor in Japanese Literature and Culture

*** Dr Young will be on sabbatical Lent and Easter 2024 and therefore not able to take one-year MPhil applicants intending to commence study in Oct 2023 ***

Dr Young is pleased to supervise graduate students interested in modern and contemporary Japanese and Okinawan literature, particularly where linked to themes and issues of imperialism, decolonisation, gender and sexuality, multilinguality, and translation.    

Research interests: Modern and contemporary Japanese literature; Okinawan studies; writing by minorities in Japan; postcolonial studies; feminist criticism; translation theory.

Supervisors - South Asian Studies

Professor of Sanskrit

Prof. Vergiani is happy to supervise graduate students on work relating to his research.

Research interests: History of linguistic ideas and the philosophy of language in ancient India, including the role of grammar in the history of Sanskrit

Key contact

Graduate Administrator