Undergraduate Courses - Fall 2019

Introduction to the Middle East
A sweep through Middle Eastern history, globally contextualized. Weeks 1-6 treat the rise of Islam, the Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, 19th-century reforms, European imperialism, and incipient globalization in the region. Weeks 7-12 focus on state-society relations, political ideologies, and foreign actors in the 20th and 21st centuries. You will come away with a basic grasp of the region's past and present and its mix of idiosyncrasies and global links.
Instructors: Michael Allan Cook
Muslims and the Qur'an
A broad-ranging introduction to pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Islam in light of how Muslims have approached their foundational religious text, the Qur'an. Topics include: Muhammad and the emergence of Islam; theology, law and ethics; war and peace; mysticism; women and gender; and modern debates on Islamic reform. We shall examine the varied contexts in which Muslims have interpreted their sacred text, their agreements and disagreements on what it means and, more broadly, their often competing understandings of Islam and of what it is to be a Muslim.
Instructors: Muhammad Qasim Zaman
Political and Economic Development of the Middle East
This course offers an opportunity to study the political economy of the Middle East. This semester we focus on oil-exporting monarchical countries in the Gulf/Arabian Peninsula, which are under rapid transformation today. We discuss issues such as the reasons for the durability of monarchism in this region; the unsustainability of their oil-based economies; challenges facing the attempt to make a transition to a post-oil economy (both in terms of income and the source of energy - in light of the rise of renewables and the global climate change regime); the youth unemployment problem and challenges facing the creation and localization of jobs.
Instructors: Makio Yamada
Seminar in Research Methods
Introduces NES majors to the sources, tools, and methods used in Near Eastern Studies, and to central questions and debates that have informed the region's study in varying disciplines (history, comparative literature, religious studies, political science, and anthropology). Also covers the nuts and bolts of academic research and writing: how to design a research project, find and make sense of relevant primary and secondary sources, develop an argument, and write a compelling scholarly paper. Includes guest lectures and visits to Firestone Library.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Muslims, Jews and Christians in North Africa: Interactions, Conflicts and Memory
This has been as one of the main events of the modern times in North Africa: from the 1950s onwards, the Jewish local communities and the European settlers started to leave Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. We will study the various interactions between Muslims, Jews and Christians in this part of the Islamic world. How did Europeans transform North African Islam and local societies? We will as well explore the reasons why the local Jews and Europeans left en masse after the colonial period and how North African Muslims, Jews and former European settlers developed either a strong memory of a shared past or a mutual distrust even today.
Instructors: M'hamed Oualdi
Blood, Sex, and Oil: The Caucasus
The Caucasus has served as a contested borderland from time immemorial and has fascinated outsiders for nearly as long. It is today a tense and explosive region. This course surveys the history of both the north and south Caucasus. It begins with an overview of the region's geography, peoples, and religions. It then examines in more detail the history of the Caucasus from the Russian conquest to the present day. Topics covered include ethnic and religious coexistence and conflict, imperial rule, imagery and identity, literature, Sovietization, the formation of national identities, and pipeline politics.
Instructors: Michael Anthony Reynolds
Modern Iran
Why is Iran so often in the headlines? Why is what happens in Iran matters so much to the rest of the world? In this course, we try to find some answers to questions about Iranian politics, culture, recent history and society. The class covers Iran's long twentieth century, from the rise of the constitutional revolution to the Islamic revolution of 1979 and its aftermath.
Instructors: Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi
The World of the Cairo Geniza
The importance of the Cairo Geniza, a cache of texts discovered in the attic of a medieval Egyptian synagogue, goes beyond Jewish history, crossing the breadth of the medieval world and offering an intimate view of commerce, slavery, heresy and seafaring; of what people wore, ate, rode, believed and did all day; of who married whom and why; of a Shi'ite state ruling over Sunnis, Christians and Jews; and of a society that remains the best documented of its period. Students in the course will read unpublished primary sources to gain an insider's glimpse of what we can know and can't know in premodern history.
Instructors: Marina Rustow
Global Feminisms: Feminist Movements in the Middle East and Beyond
This course explores how feminist thought & activism circulates globally by examining a variety of feminist movements in the Middle East & North Africa. Beginning with modern feminist thought and activism in mid-19th century Syria & Egypt, we'll trace feminist movements in various contemporary contexts, from Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Tunisia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon & Egypt in the 20th century, to women's participation in the Arab Spring and transnational Islamic movements in the 21st century. We'll map the local and geopolitical discourses that have shaped regional feminisms, and ask how local feminisms are transnational or global.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Imperialism and Reform in the Middle East and the Balkans
The major Near Eastern diplomatic crises and the main developments in internal Near Eastern history. The focus will be upon the possible connections between diplomatic crises and the process of modernization. Oral reports and a short paper.
Instructors: Mehmed Sükrü Hanioglu

CLA 405 / NES 405


This course offers an introduction to Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylon. The first half of the course introduces students to the basic concepts of Akkadian (old Babylonian) grammar and the cuneiform script. In the second half students consolidate their knowledge of the language by reading selections from classic Babylonian texts, such as the famous law code of King Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

INSTRUCTORS: Johannes Haubold

Office of the Registrar

HIS 267 / NES 267

The Modern Middle East

An introduction to the history of the Middle East from the late eighteenth century through the turn of the twenty-first, with an emphasis on the Arab East, Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

INSTRUCTORS: Max David Weiss

Office of the Registrar

HUM 247 / NES 247

Near Eastern Humanities I: From Antiquity to Islam

This course focuses on the Near East from antiquity to the early centuries of Islam, introducing the most important works of literature, politics, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and science from the region. We ask how, why, and to what ends the Near East sustained such a long period of high humanistic achievement, from Pharaonic Egypt to Islamic Iran, which in turn formed the basis of the high culture of the following millennium.

INSTRUCTORS: Johannes Haubold, Daniel Jensen Sheffield

Office of the Registrar



Elementary Arabic I
This class develops the basic structures and vocabulary for understanding, speaking, writing and reading Modern Standard Arabic, the shared formal variety of Arabic used throughout the Arab world. Students will also gain some familiarity with both Egyptian and Syrian colloquial dialects. Classroom activities are designed to foster communication and cultural competence through comprehension and grammar exercises, skits, conversation, and the use of a variety of audio-visual materials.
Instructors: Gregory J. Bell, Nancy A. Coffin, Thomas Henry Hefter
Intermediate Arabic I
This course builds on the skills developed in Elementary Arabic. Students in this course work to improve their proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing. We will focus primarily on Modern Standard Arabic in reading and writing, but Levantine and/or Egyptian dialect will be used in informal speaking and listening exercises.
Instructors: Faris Zwirahn
Intermediate Arabic II
Study of Arabic grammar and syntax, and use of the language in functional contexts. Reading of extra material from articles, newspapers, short stories. Discussions are held in Arabic to enhance students' speaking skills.
Instructors: Tarek Farag Elsayed
Advanced Arabic I
Development of speaking, listening, reading and writing at the upper-intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency. Course is taught primarily in Arabic.
Instructors: Thomas Henry Hefter
Media Arabic I
In this course, students will develop their skills in reading and listening to Arabic news media, including newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and satellite TV broadcasts (including BBC and al-Jazeera, among others). Attention will also be given to informal discussion of current news, and we will also take a brief look at political cartoons. Language of instruction will be primarily Arabic.
Instructors: Hannah Essien
Levantine Colloquial Arabic
An introduction to spoken Levantine dialect. Materials in the course are designed to promote functional usage of the language, stressing the vocabulary and grammar of conversation as used in daily life in the Levant, particularly Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
Instructors: Faris Zwirahn
Egyptian Colloquial Arabic
An introduction to the spoken dialects of Egypt, particularly of Cairo. Students in this course are assumed to have a functional, working knowledge of classical Arabic, and the course will focus on developing the ability to use conversational language in common, everyday situations.
Instructors: Tarek Farag Elsayed
Advanced Arabic Skills Workshop
Advanced readings in classical Arabic literature. Major emphasis on syntax and the accurate understanding of authentic material. Also some readings for overall understanding, with discussion in Arabic.
Instructors: Thomas Henry Hefter
Topics in Arabic Language and Culture: Reading Arab Authors from the Age of the Arab Renaissance
Through readings drawn from the era of Nahda, students will develop their skills in listening, speaking, writing and reading via the reading and discussion, in Arabic, of a variety of texts, including works on history, autobiography, politics, religion and the social sciences. Analytical and compositional skills will be honed, and students will be expected to prepare an individual final reading and writing project for the course.
Instructors: Tarek Farag Elsayed


Elementary Hebrew I
This course is designed for students with little or no previous exposure to modern Hebrew. Over the fall semester, students will become familiar with the Hebrew alphabet, and acquire rudimentary skills in reading, writing, speaking and comprehending modern Hebrew. By the end of the semester, students will be able to read short texts, construct normative sentences, and conduct simple conversations. In addition, a wide range of audiovisual materials will provide the students with an immersive environment, contextualize their knowledge of the language, and help them gain an understanding of life and culture in Israel.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich
Intermediate Hebrew I
This course is designed for students who have completed basic modern Hebrew language courses, and aims at further developing reading, writing, speaking and comprehending skills. Emphasis will be placed on grammar and syntax, on conversational skills, and on creative writing. By the end of the Fall term students will be able to read and analyze literary texts, respond to and discuss contemporary media contents (films, journal and newspaper articles, blogs), to give class presentations and write short essays.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich


Elementary Persian I
The focus of this elementary course is on sounds, letters and basic grammar of Persian language. The students will be exposed to the Persian culture through selected prose, daily news and class discussions.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Intermediate Persian I
PER 105 is designed to introduce students to intermediate level Persian. It stresses oral fluency, written expression, and reading comprehension. It will help the students to read texts of intermediate level difficulty communicate and converse in Persian in everyday situations write intermediate narrative style paragraphs coherently with reasonable accuracy.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Advanced Persian Reading I
This course is designed to improve the student's proficiency in the reading and comprehension of Persian texts. The emphasis is on reading and understanding and translating modern and classical prose. In the Advanced Persian course students are also expected to write essays in Persian during the course of the semester. Advanced Persian Reading class will be conducted in Persian.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati


Elementary Turkish I
A performance-oriented, multi-media introductory course in modern spoken and written Turkish. Based on authentic input, grammatical properties of the language are introduced. Cultural aspects are stressed throughout. Language skills are developed through communicative activities in class and individualized work with interactive digitized learning aids.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Intermediate Turkish I
Extensive exposure to current news, authentic multimedia sources; in-depth review of grammar. Introduction to modern Turkish literature, with close reading of selected prose and poetry. Development of all language skills and cultural understanding is emphasized.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi

Graduate Courses - Fall 2019

Introduction to the Professional Study of the Near East
A colloquium primarily intended to introduce graduate students to major scholarly trends and debates in the various disciplines and methodologies of Middle East and Islamic Studies.
Instructors: Max David Weiss
An Introduction to the Islamic Scholarly Tradition
The course offers a hands-on introduction to such basic genres of medieval scholarship as biography, history, tradition, and Koranic exegesis, taught through the intensive reading of texts, mostly in Arabic. The syllabus varies according to the interests of the students and the instructor.
Instructors: Michael Allan Cook
Introduction to Ottoman Turkish
An introduction to the writing system and grammar of Ottoman Turkish through close reading of graded selections taken from school books, newspapers, short stories, and travelogues printed in the late Ottoman and early Republican era.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Problems in Early Modern and Modern North African History
This graduate seminar introduces students to problems related to the history of North Africa from the 16th to the beginning of the 21th century. In particular, it explores the crucial issues of chronology: how periods in North African history have been defined and to what extent are they relevant? This seminar focuses on the issue of majority and minorities in North African studies by reviewing recent research on Berbers and Jews in the Maghrib. In a second part, this seminar also surveys recent topics in the relevant literature, such as environmental history, gender studies and religious history.
Instructors: M'hamed Oualdi
Ethnography of Gender and Islam
The 21st century has witnessed the explosion of public and scholarly interest in gender in Islamic cultures. Within this context, anthropology has advanced path-breaking approaches in diverse localities from the Middle East to the United States. This course surveys theoretical and ethnographic approaches to the study of women, gender and sexuality in Islamic cultures, focusing on work written in the last decade.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Introduction to Arabic Documents
An introduction to hands-on work with medieval Arabic documentary sources in their original manuscript form. Between 100,000 and 200,000 such documents have survived, making this an exciting new area of research with plenty of discoveries still to be made. Students learn how to handle the existing repertory of editions, documentary hands, Middle Arabic, transcription, digital resources and original manuscripts, including Geniza texts currently on loan to Firestone from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. The syllabus varies according to the interests of the students and the instructor.
Instructors: Marina Rustow
Persian Historiography and Belles-Lettres from the Origins of New Persian to the Mongols
Introduces advanced Persian students to Classical Persian prose from the appearance of literary New Persian in the 10th century to the time of the poet Sa'di Shirazi, whose Gulistan was regarded as the culmination of good literary style and a classic in ensuing centuries. Gain familiarity with a variety of genres including history, geography, travelogues, ethical texts, and hagiography. Develop archival skills through an introduction to Islamic codicology. Acquire both linguistic competency in working with Classical Persian sources as well as an introduction to the scholarly debates surrounding the works in question.
Instructors: Daniel Jensen Sheffield
Comparative Transformations in the Near East and Eurasia
This seminar offers a comparative study of the political, intellectual, religious, and cultural transformations of societies of the Near East and Eurasia from the late seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. The course investigates the common geopolitical, economic, and intellectual challenges that Western Europe posed to the societies of the Near East and Eurasia. It seeks to understand the responses of the latter on their own terms, and to relate them to each other. The course aims to stimulate students to move beyond regional particularities and think outside the models and assumptions provided by European historiography.
Instructors: Michael Anthony Reynolds
Problems in Late Ottoman History
A study of a number of central problems, historiographical issues, and primary sources relevant to the history of the late Ottoman Empire. Topics vary from year to year.
Instructors: Mehmed Sükrü Hanioglu