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Courses - Spring 2020


Professor Title School Course Number Time
Salamandra Approaches to Middle Eastern Studies Graduate Center MES 71000 GC: Th, 6:30-8:30
Göner Nationalism and Outsiders in the Middle East Graduate Center MES 75900 GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Taleghani Dissent, Exile, and Revolution in Literature and Film of the Middle East and North Africa Graduate Center MES 76900 GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Alessandrini Capstone Seminar Graduate Center MES 79001 GC: T, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Akasoy Speical Topics in Archaeology: Alexander to Mohammed Graduate Center MES 73500 GC: W, 4:15-6:15
Davis Palestine under the Mandate Graduate Center MES 73900 GC: M, 6:30-8:30
Akasoy Arabian Nights Graduate Center MES 78000 GC: W, 2:00-4:00

MES 71000: Approaches to Middle Eastern Studies (Salamandra)

This masters-level seminar introduces students to major themes, concepts, and methods in modern Middle East Studies. It covers a range of disciplines, including anthropology, comparative literature, ethnomusicology, film and media studies, sociology, and urban studies. It traces the development of the field, its changing concerns, and often contentious politics. Through sessions guided by CUNY faculty, students discover the sources, methods, and debates that inform contemporary academic expertise on the Middle East. Students are encouraged to hone their disciplinary, thematic, and geographic interests—and meet potential professors and advisors—in preparation for course selection and thesis direction.


MES 75900: Nationalism and Outsiders in the Middle East (Prof. Göner)

This course provides a historical and conceptual overview of nationalism in the Middle East with a focus on the experiences of outsiders, as well as global economic and political relations that shape different nationalism(s) in the region. It aims to provide students with both an overview of the development of nationalism in the Middle East in general and a more detailed knowledge of the construction of the nation-states within several countries in particular. We will start the course with an exploration of the theoretical literature on nationalism and nation-states. We will then critically examine these concepts through an in-depth focus on case studies from the Middle East. Throughout we will keep our focus on the central role of outsiders in defining the nation and nationalism, as well as the global actors and processes that shape the constructions of nationalism in the region. Doing so we will develop a conceptual framework that can account for the complex relations between key local, national, and international actors, as well as political, economic and cultural processes that can account for the complex constructions of nationalisms in the region.​

MES 76900: Dissent, Exile and Revolution in Literature and Film of the Middle East and North Africa (Prof. Taleghani)

While mainstream US media outlets tended to treat the Arab Uprisings as isolated and ahistorical events, fueled solely by youth and social media culture, citizens and scholars of the region are well aware of the long history of people’s resistance and dissent against colonial and authoritarian regimes. This course examines literature and other forms of cultural production as complex sites of aesthetic and creative contestation against the politics of imperialism, authoritarianism, and exile. Framing our discussion of works of literature and films from Syria, Egypt, Libya, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and other countries of the region, we will consider and debate theoretical writings on dissent, resistance, and exile including Ranciere, Ivie, Said, Harlow, Abu Lughod, Abani among others). Primary texts may include Abdelaziz’s The Queue, Habibi’s The Pessoptimist, Sirees’ The Silence and the Roar,  Antoon’s The Book of Collateral Damage among  others.​

MES 79001: Capstone Seminar (Prof. Alessandrini)

This 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: Special Topics in Archeology: Alexander to Mohammed (Prof. Akasoy)

Classical Greek culture is often seen as an exclusively Western European heritage, its legacy as one of the West’s defining features. This course, taught in English translation, offers an introduction to the profound impact of Greek civilization in the Middle East and Asia and the cultural, political and economic dynamics behind this development, focusing on Alexander the Great as a historical figure and as a legend. We will begin with the conquests of Alexander the Great and his successor states and explore Hellenistic settlements in Central Asia and the Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhara as an early example. We will then focus on examples from the medieval Middle East such as Greek art in the Umayyad ‘desert castles’, the translation of Greek philosophy and science into Arabic and subsequent development in both areas, the Alexander legend in the Qur’an and in Arabic and Persian biographies. Primary sources include visual as well as textual material. Recurrent themes in the scholarship we will be discussing include connected history, cultural exchanges and encounters, the transmission of knowledge, and issues of cultural heritage. One of the aims of this class is to explore possibilities for alternative narratives beyond the binaries of East and West.

MES 73900: Palestine Under the Mandate (Prof. Davis)

This course examines how and with what consequences British interests at the time of the First World War identified and pursued control over Palestine as an imperial objective, the subsequent forms such projections took, the crises which followed and their eventual consequences. Particular themes will be explored through analytical discussions of assigned historiographic materials, chiefly recent primary research-based journal literature.

MES 78000: Arabian Nights (Prof. Akasoy)

This course offers an introduction to the history and literary features of the Arabian Nights as well as to its literary, visual and cinematic adaptations. For the purposes of this course, the Arabian Nights will be treated as an open corpus which continues to expand and transform in a variety of cultural contexts and formats. We will be reading stories from the Arabian Nights in different English translations and discuss a variety of academic publications, but also take into consideration modern creative interpretations, including examples from literature, the visual and cinematic arts, and theater. These comparative exercises will shed light on the continuing appeal of the Arabian Nights and assist us in contextualizing specific developments of the Nights within their respective historical environments. We will start by tracking the development of the text, beginning with the earliest stories and compilations in India and Persia, continuing with the first Arabic compilation in Iraq and expansions in Syria in the medieval period, proceeding with the introduction to western Europe by way of Galland’s early eighteenth-century French translation in the context of Orientalism, and concluding with the Arabian Nights as a global phenomenon. We will discuss the institutional, intellectual and cultural circumstances which allowed for this transmission as well as account for different interpretations as well as literary works inspired by the Nights. After exploring formal elements of the Arabian Nights (such as the relationship between frame tale and embedded story, the significance of poetry, the classification of the Arabian Nights as fairy tales, and the element of performance and story-telling), we will focus on major themes in the Arabian Nights and their adaptations in modern literature (such as morality, religion, magic, and power). We will discuss the appeal of the character of Shahrazad, paying attention to psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations and conclude with a discussion of the Arabian Nights in illustrations, in film and on stage and the impact of different media on the manner the stories are told.

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.