Asian & Middle Eastern Cultures

Page from the Shahnama, 16th Century Iran via Wikimedia Commons

Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective  research in Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarian:
Vani Natarajan
208C Lehman


East, South, and Southeast Asia

Middle East and Central Asia


If you are looking for secondary sources, check out these databases.

Bibliography of Asian Studies features citations to journal articles and book chapters on all subjects (primarily in the humanities and social sciences) pertaining to East, Southeast, and South Asia published from 1971 to the present.

Historical Abstracts provides citations to journal articles on all aspects of world history from 1450 to the present. Journals included date back to 1955. Selected books are also available in full text.

MLA International Bibliography features scholarly articles on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore from around the world. Sources include periodicals, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations and bibliographies. Coverage spans 1923 to the present.


Literary Sources in Full Text

Access entire works of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction online.

CHANT (Chinese Ancient Texts) comprises 6 full-text databases of full-text ancient Chinese written scripts and literature up to 589AD. Contents accessible include Oracular Inscriptions on Tortoise Shells and Bones;  Excavated Wood/Bamboo and Silk Scripts; Bronze Inscriptions;  the Entire Body of Extant Han and Pre-Han (pre-220 AD) Traditional Chinese Texts; Traditional Chinese Texts of Wei Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589 AD); the Entire Body of Extant Chinese Encyclopedias (Leishu), which is forthcoming. In chinese. 

South and Southeast Asian Literature: Classic and Postcolonial Writers in English, 1825 to Present features full-text works of poetry and fiction in English by writers of South and Southeast Asia, as well as South and Southeast Asian diasporic writers living in Africa, the UK, North America, and the Caribbean.




Start here for background research, or brush up on vocabulary and etymology.

CJKV Dictionary functions as a dictionary and database of Chinese, Japanese, Koeran, and Vietnamese characters and compounds related to cultural, political, and intellectual histories of East and Southeast Asia.

Digital Dictionaries of South Asia a project of the University of Chicago’s Digital South Asia Library, features both monolingual and multilingual dictionaries of major languages from all regions of South Asia. Included in the collection are dictionaries of the ancient languages, Pali and Sanskrit.

Encyclopaedia of Islam covers the religion, history, politics and culture of the Islamic world. The encyclopedia’s search engine includes two indices: one for proper names, and another for subjects.

Oxford Language Dictionaries: Chinese provides a fully searchable bilingual Mandarin-English and English-Mandarin dictionary online (with both radical and Pinyin search options), with supplementary resources in Chinese languages, history, culture, and colloquialisms.



Further Research

Digital South Asia Library a project of the Center for Research Libraries, is a global collaborative effort to make important and rare South Asian resources available to the international community. Its contents include reference resources, bibliographies and union lists, indexes, books and journals, statistics, image collections, maps and catalogs of maps.

Southeast Asia Digital Library, a project funded by the US Department of Education, brings together digital facsimiles of books and manuscripts, as well as multimedia materials and searchable indexes of additional Southeast Asian resources.

Southeast Asia Women’s Studies Bibliography a project of the UC Berkeley Library, features print and electronic resources related to the histories and contemporary experiences of Southeast Asian women.  Users may browse content categorized by country.


MERIP: Middle East Research and Information Project features analytical long-form articles on the Middle East, providing “news and perspectives…not available from mainstream news sources.” For enhanced access to MERIP back issues, see JSTOR as well.

Middle East Maps from the University of Texas at Austin Library, features historical and contemporary maps of the Middle East, many of them produced by the CIA. The collection includes images of maps from specific regions, along with topical maps.

Articles Continued

If you are looking for secondary sources, check out these databases.

Index Islamicus indexes material on Islam, the Middle East and the Muslim world from periodicals, conference proceedings, monographs, multi-authored works, book reviews, websites, and other sources. It features content in European languages, Turkish, Malay and Bahasa Indonesia.

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences, including many articles from Middle East Studies journals. Coverage spans the late 19th century to the present.

Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies features citations to articles and books of research, policy and scholarly discourse on the countries and peoples of the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.


News and Primary Sources

Consult this list for digitized text and image primary sources, including historical news sources.

Confidential Print: Middle East features papers from the British National Archive dating from 1839 to 1969. Regions covered include countries of the Arabian peninsula, the Levant, Iraq, Turkey and many of the former Ottoman territories in Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt and Sudan. Contents range from letters and telegrams to texts of treaties and monographs.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports features a searchable collection of articles from thousands of monitored broadcasts and print publications around the world, dating from 1941 to 1996. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service monitored, translated, and disseminated openly available news from media sources outside the US as an open source intelligence project of the CIA.

MideastWire offers concise daily briefs covering key political, cultural, economic and opinion pieces appearing in the media of Arabic speaking countries, Iran, and the Arab diaspora.  Users may search archival content dating back to 2005.


Reference Continued

Start here for background research, or brush up on vocabulary and etymology.

Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics features entries on all aspects of the spoken and written Arabic language, including dialectical variations, phonology, language and society, linguistic history, and geography.

Encyclopaedia Iranica covers Iranian culture, history, literatures, and languages, as well as Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.

Gulf/2000 Project an initiative of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, functions as a portal to background information, news, history, geography, and economic analyses of the eight Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates).




Find Articles



Finding Books

Browse the stacks using the call numbers for Middle East and Central Asian Studies:

DS41-DS330: History of the Middle East and Central Asia

PJ: Semitic Philology and Literature (covers Arabic, Hebrew, Levantine Languages)

PK: Indo-Iranian Philology and Literature (covers Persian)


CLIO : Online catalog of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and the Law Library.

To find primary sources in CLIO, use the keywords:

  • archives
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • narratives
  • memoirs
  • sources

Searches libraries worldwide.




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