MES 72900: New Ethnographic Writings on the Middle East
Professor Christa Salamandra
Wednesday, 6:30-8:30, room TBA
This MA-level seminar introduces students to recent trends in ethnographic research and writing. Designed for students from various disciplinary backgrounds, the course also serves as an introduction to anthropological ethnography. Students will be required to read and discuss one book-length ethnography each week, and to produce book review essays in preparation for potential publication. Most assigned texts will have been published within the past five years. Themes explored in these works include human rights, medicine and health, media, popular culture, migration, gender, and sexuality. Methodological approaches include participantobservatory fieldwork, archival research and oral history.
MES 73000—History of the Modern Middle East
Professor Dina Le Gall
Thursday 6:30-8:30, room TBA
This course introduces students to major dynamics and issues in the history of the Middle East in the past two centuries and seeks to nurture critical historical thinking about the region. We will touch on a wide range of topics, from different forms of colonial intervention, to modernizing reforms and reforming elites, the move from empire to a new state order, the politics and culture of nationalism, post-colonial states and authoritarian regimes, Islamist mobilization, and recent neo-liberal politics. Proceeding in a roughly chronological order, we will weave thematic discussions related to women and gender, environmental history, urban history, history of consumption, etc. into that framework. All along, a central arching theme of the course will be modernity: what shape it took at different times and places, how it was perceived and experienced, what challenges and tensions it engendered, who were the beneficiaries and losers.
Class discussions will be guided by reading questions handed out in advance, one of which students will answer in writing before class. For example: To what extent was Ottoman reform founded upon emulation of the West? How was WWI a watershed in ME political culture? How were women and gender deployed in nationalist and modernizing projects of the inter-war period? What best explains the resilience of ME post-colonial authoritarian regimes? What has given Islamist movements (of different kinds) their purchase? Has globalization been primarily destabilizing in the ME and why? The final assignment for the course is a 6-8 pages argument-based analytical essay.
MES 75900--Islamophobia in America
Professor Mucahit Bilici
Wednesday, 6:30-8:30, room TBA
This course provides an overview of the contemporary phenomenon of Islamophobia—a problem of inequality that also goes under the name “anti-Muslim racism,” or simply fear of Islam and Muslims. How deep-seated is this problem? In what forms (gender, diet, politics, education, law, foreign policy, etc.) does Islamophobia manifest itself in the American context? And how do American Muslims respond? The course investigates Islamophobia, both as a phenomenon and as a critical term, with the aim of developing a working definition that neither applies the term excessively and anachronistically, nor reduces it to a copy of an anti-Black racism or Antisemitism. Equally important will be questions of the uses and abuses of Islamophobia by both anti-Muslim and Muslim actors in the contemporary culture wars. Finally, we will seek to understand the phenomenon of Islamophobia in conjunction with war and terrorism, immigration and American nationalism, and White Supremacy.
MES 76900--Prison, Writing, and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa
Professor Shareah Taleghani
Tuesdays 6:30 pm-8:30, room TBA
This course will examine works of “prison literature” or writing about prison produced in the Middle East and North Africa in the past six decades. The first part of the course will consider the debates about prison literature or prison writings as a genre, issues of state censorship and co-option of dissident literature, and the relationship between literature, narrative, and human rights discourse more generally. The second part of the course will focus on the aesthetics and forms of specific works of prison writing in order to elucidate how different authors reconstruct the experience of political detention and how such literary works replicate and complicate the narrative conventions of and construction of the detainee as a speaking subject in human rights reportage. Special attention will be paid to how authors represent detainees’ experiences of vulnerability and recognition, torture, the emotional geographies of prison life, and the act of writing as a form of resistance. In addition to selections of poetry and short stories, primary readings may include Sunallah Ibrahim’s That Smell, Fadhil al-Azzawi’s Cell Block-Five, Sinan Antoon’s I’jaam, Hiba Dabbagh’s Just Five Minutes, and Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell, and Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains among others. Secondary and critical readings may include works by Joseph Slaughter, Sidonie Smith and Kay Schaffer, Barbara Harlow, Judith Butler, Bryan Turner, Dylan Rodriguez, and Elaine Scarry among others.
MES 73500--The Quran: Literary Perspectives (Cross-listed with the PhD Program in Comparative Literature)
Professor Anna Akasoy
Thursday, 2:00-4:00, room TBA
As the scope of Comparative Literature departments is being diversified and globalized, the Qur’an is frequently included as a canonical text of world literature. There is no doubt that the Qur’an is a text of great, even singular importance in the Islamic tradition, but what does it mean to treat the Qur’an in the context of literature, especially comparative literature? Is a text which is considered inimitable in the Islamic tradition also incomparable? This course aims at bridging the gap between two different fields, one the study of the Qur’an in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, the other the study of literature. The course will provide students with an introduction to perspectives on the Qur’an in recent scholarship, but we will be primarily exploring the Qur’an and its literary dimensions in conversation with select examples of Middle Eastern, European and world literature. The course will focus on three topics: 1) Prophecy as a mode of literary production. We will be discussing theories of prophecy in medieval Islamic philosophy and for comparative purposes material from the Arabian Nights as well as Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War at the End of the World. 2) The Qur’an and poetry. The Qur’an itself states that Muhammad was not a poet, but his historical milieu was very much defined as a literary space in which poetry loomed large. In addition to samples of pre-Islamic and classical Arabic poetry, we will be exploring Rumi’s Masnavi, a key text of Sufism which is sometimes referred to as the Qur’an in Persian. We will also be discussing western European responses to Middle Eastern poetry (e.g., Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan). 3) The Qur’an and storytelling. This section will focus mostly on stories of prophets, notably Joseph. We will be discussing other forms of storytelling in medieval Islamic literature (the ‘stories of the prophets’) as well as Biblical storytelling and examples from modern Middle Eastern (e.g., Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz) and European literature (e.g., Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers). This course does not require any previous knowledge of the Qur’an, Arabic literature or Islamic history.
MES 78000--Race in the Middle East and North Africa (Cross-listed with the PhD Programs in Anthropology and History) (Instructors’ permission required)
Professors Mandana Limbert and Beth Baron
Thursday, 2:00-4:00, room TBA
This seminar explores how notions of race (jins or `unsur and similar terms in Turkish, Persian, and other Middle Eastern languages) have been examined, experienced, and deployed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In particular, and in dialogue with scholarship on the United States, the Americas, and the Atlantic, the course addresses practices, policies, and beliefs of hierarchy and power, “blood,” biology, and marriage, appearance and regulation, exclusion and inclusion. Rather than presuming either the stability of the notion of “race” or its “irrelevance” (as it is often argued) for the MENA region, this seminar highlights the specific, differing, and changing ways that race has been understood, used, and reproduced in the Middle East and North Africa; among Middle Easterners and North Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa; in confrontations and conversations with Europeans; and among diaspora populations in the United States.