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Courses - Fall 2019


Professor Title School Course Number Time
Bilici Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Graduate Center MES 75900 GC: T, 6:30-8:30
Haghighat Gender, Sexuality and Body Politics in the ME Graduate Center MES 74900 GC: Th, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Khalil MENA Literature and Human Rights: Children and War  Graduate Center MES 78600 GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Le Gall History of the Modern Middle East Graduate Center MES 73000 GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Haj History and Theory II  Graduate Center MES 78000 GC: W, 4:15-6:15
Limbert The Anthropology of the Middle East Graduate Center MES 72000 GC: F, 930-11:30

MES 72000: The Anthropology of the Middle East (Prof. Limbert)

Taking a historical anthropological approach, this course explores themes and theoretical concerns significant to the anthropology of the Middle East. We will attend to both classic concerns of the field (such as “local” religious practices, systems of political organization (“tribes”), and debates about gendered roles, hierarchies, and powers) and more contemporary topics such as bureaucracy, law, violence, art, mobility, and infrastructure. Throughout the course, we will be discussing how anthropologists approach texts and archives, history, memory, and temporality both methodologically and theoretically.


MES 73000: History of the Modern Middle East (Prof. Le Gall)

Seeking to nurture critical historical thinking about the modern and contemporary Middle East, this course introduces students to some of the major dynamics and problems in the history of the region in the past two centuries, and to a sample of critical historical literature about them. Topics to be examined include paradigmatic approaches to modern Middle Eastern history; Western encroachment and colonialism; bureaucratic reforms and reforming elites; the carving up of new states following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; Mandatory regimes and colonial modernity; the politics and culture of nationalism; post-colonial states and authoritarian regimes; and contending understandings of Islamist politics. We proceed in a roughly chronological order, weaving thematic discussions concerning women and gender, environmental history, urban history etc. into that framework. Class discussions will be guided by reading questions, one of which students will answer in writing in preparation for each class. The final assignment is a 6-8 page argument-based analytical essay on a selected question from a list I will provide.

MES 74900: Gender, Sexuality and Body Politics in the Middle East (Prof. Haghighat)

This course offers an overview of the key issues in the study of gender in the contemporary Middle East region. It goes deeper into the understanding of how conceptions of gender, sexuality and body politics are negotiated, positioned, and reproduced in a variety of social and political contexts in the Middle East region and to some degree in the Diasporas. Gendered understanding of the prevailing discourses, social practices, norms and trends in the Middle East societies and politics are being discussed.

MES 75900: Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies (Prof. Bilici)

This graduate course offers a sociological examination of Islam as a religion and explores what constitutes a Muslim society. Starting with classical sociological takes on Islam (Weber's writings on Islam) and Muslim attempts at thinking about Islam sociologically (Shariati's Sociology of Islam), the course will interrogate the meaning of "being Islamic" (Shahab Ahmad) and problematize the idea of "Muslim Society" as an object of analysis. After tackling these theoretical constructs, we will turn our attention to contemporary issues in both Muslim-majority and minority settings. Selected themes-- among them modernity, reform, ummah, gender, Islamism and nationalism-- will be discussed in the context of specific countries.

MES 78600: MENA Literature and Human Rights: Children and War (Prof. Khalil)

This course engages critical questions about human rights discourse from 1948-present with a focus on the status of the child. It falls into the broader discipline of literature and human rights, with a thematic interest in children and war. The course contains both a theoretical component and a literary corpus. An examination of critical positions on the legal status of the child in human rights discourse (Jacqueline Bhabha, Catherine Panter-Brick, Makau W. Mutua) will be coupled with discussions of state repression in the era of global wars (Achille Mbembe, Maureen Moynagh, with grounding in Michel Foucault), as well as the contradictions arising from international intervention. The geographical focus of literary texts is the Middle East and North Africa, with literature and film production from Morocco, Palestine, Libya, and Syria. Student will independently research and present to the class a current human rights topic. In the final paper students will write a research paper where they formulate a position and interpretation of one aspect of critical human rights theory.  

MES 78000: History and Theory II (cross-listed with HIST 72300) (Prof. Haj)

The question of the relationship of theory to history is laden with problems. The objective of the seminar is to explore more deeply the theoretical and analytical concerns that have haunted historians since History established itself as a discipline. The course is de facto thematically-organized as well as interdisciplinary, which by implication means that it will be drawing on different bodies of knowledge, including philosophy, political theory, anthropology, gender and legal studies with possibly some written narratives and accounts drawn from the field of history itself.
This course is a follow-up of the first History and Theory seminar and is a continuation rather than a repeat. While it might cover similar themes in more depth, it will not repeat the reading material covered in the first seminar.  The course is therefore open to students that have already taken the first and to all other students interested in the topic.
Tentatively, the reading list might possibly include:
Reinhart Koselleck, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories (2018).
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx.
Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
--------------------, On the Government of the Living.
Kerwin Lee Klein, From History to Theory, 2011.
David Scott, Refashioning Futures.
Colin Koopman, Genealogy as Critique.
Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History and Forgetting
Arnold Davidson, The Emergence of Sexuality.
 R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History.
Colin Dayan, History, Haiti, and the Gods.
Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence.

Courses - Spring 2019


Professor Title School Course Number Time
Akasoy Slavery and Social Hierarchies in Islamic History Graduate Center MES 78000 GC: Th, 4:15-6:15
Alessandrini Capstone Graduate Center MES 79000 GC: T, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Can Approaches to the Study of the Middle East Graduate Center MES 71000 GC: T, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Carlson Theatre of the Middle East Graduate Center MES 78600 GC: Th, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Davis Imperialism and the Making of the Modern Middle East Graduate Center MES 73500 GC: M, 6:30-8:30
Haj Religion and Society Graduate Center MES 73900 GC: M, 6:30-8:30
Helie Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Societies Graduate Center MES 75900 GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Thompson Special Topics in the Archaeology of the Classical, Late Antique, and Islamic Worlds Graduate Center MES 78500 GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

MAMES Spring 2019 Course Descriptions

MES 71000: Approaches to the Study of the Middle East
This Master’s-level course examines the history of Middle East studies, including its institutional formation and political contexts, several of this field’s canonical texts, and some of the major ideas, theories, and themes that shape its study in the academy and beyond. It introduces students to prominent approaches to the modern Middle East within a range of disciplines, including anthropology, political science, history, media studies and journalism, and sociology. Students will engage with exemplary scholars and scholarship in these fields, broaden their perspective beyond their own disciplinary and/or geographic focus, explore research libraries and museums in and around New York City, and advance their research and writing skills.
MES 73900: Religion and Society (Prof. Haj)
In this class, religion is approached as a social and historical fact with political, legal and economic attributes and ramifications. As a historical social fact, religion (in general and Islam in particular) is compelled to undergo continuous redefinitions to accommodate change in circumstance and social setting. The objective of this seminar is to explore some of these changes in light of the dramatic changes and concerns engendered by modern structures, institutions and power. These changes are drawn out through familiar oppositional yet problematic categories like the secular and the religious, state sovereignty vs. religious authority, modern law vs. divine prescriptions among others. The course is comparative and interdisciplinary; it draws on different areas of study and bodies of knowledge including anthropology, political theory, philosophy and religious studies.
MES 75900: Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Societies (Prof. Helie)
This course examines constructions of gender roles and gender norms in various past and present Muslim contexts – including how notions of sexual morality have evolved, and how tensions between advocates and opponents of gender equality continue to manifest in community life, the legal arena or international relations. Focusing on groups with traditionally less access to power and decision-making (specifically, women and sexual minorities) the course explores obstacles faced by gender and sexual rights advocates, as well as some of the strategies designed by both state-actors and non-state actors to further gender equality claims.
While grounded in the MENA region, the course also stresses the interconnectivity of issues across boundaries, and seeks to incorporate recent case-studies drawn from South East Asia and Muslim diaspora communities in Europe or North America. The course explores a range of issues, and may include: efforts deployed across time and space to curtail women’s public participation; the status of women in early 20th century anti-colonial movements and as citizens in newly independent nations; resistance to discriminatory provisions in family law; the ‘freedom of religion/religious accommodation’ debates in Western liberal democracies; efforts to legitimize women as religious community leaders; or the promotion of LGBT people’s human rights.
MES 79001: Capstone Seminar (Prof. Alessandrini)
The capstone seminar is intended to enable students to integrate and synthesize the knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa that they have developed during their previous study into a culminating applied final project. Projects to be developed in the course of the seminar may include, but are not limited to: artistic and/or documentary videos; source or archival directories; annotated bibliographies; academic papers synthesizing secondary sources; artistic performances, whether live or recorded (or both); exhibitions/installations; literary or cultural criticism; feature-length journalism; reports on services; websites or computer applications. In pursuing their final projects, students will be encouraged to interact with the rich Middle Eastern and diasporic resources in and around New York City, including museums, collections, archives, research and policy institutes, neighborhood cultural programs and centers, religious institutions, political organizations, and media organizations and projects, as well as related cultural and intellectual events. Each student will present her/his project to the class, and students in the seminar will be responsible for providing feedback and suggestions for each project.
MES 73500: Slavery and Social Hierarchies in Islamic History (Prof. Akasoy) (Cross-listed with HIST 78110)
In this class, we will explore social, political, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of slavery in premodern Islamic history. Starting in the late antique Mediterranean, we will consider the emergence of a variety of forms of slavery in the Islamic Middle East, including military slavery, agricultural slavery and the phenomenon of female slaves at Muslim courts. We will end with the complex relationship between Islam and transatlantic slavery. We will consider a range of sources, including legal material and popular literature.

MES 78000: Imperialism in Modern Middle East (Prof. Davis) (Cross-listed with HIST 81100) 
This course surveys how interaction with increasingly influential foreign interests, and responses to them, both assimilative and resistant, shaped leading currents in Middle Eastern experience from the late eighteenth century onwards. Themes include imperialism in historical interpretation, perceptions and framings of the region, forms of political, economic, cultural and social change, and in Middle Eastern intra-regional, international and global relations. Each session will feature a discussion on a theme preceded by suggested readings from course texts, related published documents, and specialized scholarly journal articles assigned for discussion. Students will each complete a research essay chosen from a number of given titles and reading lists, a number of smaller critical exercises and a final examination.
MES 78600: Seminar in Comparative Drama: Theatre of the Middle East
(Prof. Carlson)
Although the Arab world is thought by many Westerners to possess little or no theatre, a complex and thriving international drama has in fact developed there since the middle of the nineteenth century, anticipated by medieval passion plays in Persia and by shadow and puppet plays from as early as the eleventh century.  Pre­state theatres were established by the 1930s in Israel, and a major theatre has developed in that nation since statehood. This course will provide a brief survey of theatre in this region since the middle ages, and will focus on the twentieth-century theatre of the major traditions in the area, in Egypt, Syria, and Israel. Major dramatists from these countries such as Tawfik al-Hakim, Sadallah Wannus, and Joshua Sobol will be read, along with representative dramas from other states in the region such as Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Kuwait. The course will consider how socio-political concerns, from colonialism to current conflicts, have operated on the theatre of this region, and such matters as levels of language and the use of history, religion, mythology, and folk material in this drama will also be considered. All material for the course will be read in English translation.  Two 8-10 page papers will be required.