Undergraduate Courses - Fall 2023
Near Eastern Studies
This course examines the role of the senses in art and architecture to move beyond conceptions of art history that prioritize vision. While the experience of art is often framed in terms of seeing, the other senses were crucially involved in the creation of buildings and objects. Textiles and ceramic vessels invite touch, gardens involve the smell of flowers, sacred spaces were built to amplify the sound of prayers and chants. The focus will be on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean. Readings will range from medieval poetry and multisensory art histories to contemporary discussions of the senses in design and anthropology.
What is the relationship between culture and ethics in conflict zones? Can culture serve as an agent of conflict resolution and social change, or does it deepen political divisions? How does art represent extreme violence? How do power and cultural interact? This course explores such questions through the lens of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We'll see how the conflict permeates everyday life, and how Palestinian and Israeli artists, writers and filmmakers respond. Course material includes film, fiction, memoir, visual art, music, TV satire, interactive websites, and cookbooks, all in English translation; course features guest speakers.
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.
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.
Prepares NES majors to conduct independent research in Near Eastern Studies by introducing the central questions, debates, and scholarly methodologies that have informed the region's study in varying disciplines (history, comparative literature, religious studies, political science, and anthropology). Includes practical training in 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 museum visits and guest lectures.
Introduces the transdisciplinary field of trauma studies by examining visions of humanity from the Global South that prioritize alternative narratives and paradigms of healing individual and collective trauma. Re-orienting healing as a decolonizing process enables students to re-politicize personal trauma as it intersects with global legacies of violence, war, racism, slavery, patriarchy, colonialism, orientalism, homophobia, ableism, capitalism, and extractivism. The course participates in a new project to help illuminate how the humanities itself can offer new paths to understanding trauma and healing.
This seminar examines the evolution of American diplomacy and military policy in the Middle East from the late Cold War through the "Unipolar movement" and 9/11 to the very recent past. Given the militarization of American policy, it pays particular attention to the use of force. It asks why military force has become the defining instrument of US foreign policy in this region, seeks to evaluate the efficacy of America's military interventions, and to identify the sources of American conduct. Prior coursework in international relations and Middle Eastern history is beneficial but there are no prerequisites.
This course examines the fascinating and tragic history of the encounter and conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine/Israel beginning in the late 19th century. We will try to understand the evolution of the conflict from the distinct perspectives of the different parties engaged in it, aiming to comprehend their motivations and the obstacles that have stood in the way of a peaceful resolution. The course is structured around questions, inviting students to partake in the challenging task of exploring one of the world's most complex, ever-developing and enduring political conflicts.
This course is a general survey of the main principles of Islamic doctrine. It focuses on the Muslim theological discourse on the concepts of God and His attributes, man and nature, the world to come, revelation and prophethood, diversity of religions, and the possibility and actuality of miracles.
The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts from an Egyptian synagogue including letters, lists and legal deeds from before 1500, when most Jews lived in the Islamic world. These are some of the best-documented people in pre-modern history and among the most mobile, crossing the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to trade, study, apprentice and marry. Data science, neural network-based handwritten text recognition and other computational methods are now helping make sense of the texts on a large scale. Students will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge and gain an insider's view of what we can and can't know in premodern history.
Are the Jews a separate nation? Should they have their own country? Where should it be located? This course investigates why Jews and non-Jews alike began asking these questions in the late eighteenth century and explores the varieties of answers they offered. The course's focus is on those who insisted that the Jews were a nation that required a state in the Jews' historic homeland. We will try to understand why these people - known collectively as Zionists - came to these conclusions, and why many others disagreed. The final part of the course will address debates within the State of Israel about what it means to be a "Jewish state."
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.
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.
This course provides an overview of politics in the Middle East through the 2010-2011 Arab Spring uprisings. We interrogate the main debates surrounding the democratic deficit in the region to understand whether recent developments mark change or continuity. We explore whether and how a variety of factors such as foreign intervention, oil, and religion have contributed to persistent authoritarianism in the Middle East through evidence in the realms of redistribution, gender politics, political mobilization, and public opinion. The course combines academic and popular writing, documentaries, twice-weekly lectures and weekly precept meetings.
This course explores the theory and practice of slavery in specific Muslim societies from the 8th century up through the 20th. Our goal is to recover the lives of the enslaved and to explore intersections of sex, gender and slavery. Students will read primary sources in translation: papyri, letters, chronicles, coins. Why did some former slaves become rulers? What role did the sexual/reproductive labor of female slaves play in the family? Why did European colonial authorities perpetuate slavery in the modern period? What is the legacy of slavery in Muslim societies?
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 Levantine colloquial dialects. Class activities are designed to foster communication and cultural competence through comprehension and grammar exercises, skits, conversation, videos and songs.
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.
Development of speaking, listening, reading and writing at the upper-intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency. Course is taught primarily in Arabic.
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.
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.
Conducted entirely in Arabic, ARA 403 is intended for undergraduate and graduate students who are native speakers of Arabic, and for non-native speakers who have completed at least three year of Modern Standard Arabic and are interesting in a close reading of political texts. Course readings will be divided into themes, including Arab nationalism, democracy, dictatorships, conflicts and peace, and the role of women in politics. Texts will be supplemented by documentary films and interviews.
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.
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.
Through viewing, discussion, and analysis of filmic representation of overarching themes in Israeli cinema, this course promotes four primary outcomes: increased student proficiency in Hebrew, attainment of a basic knowledge of Israeli cinema, development of the skills for filmic analysis, and increased understanding of the State of Israel and fundamental issues related to its character. Course taught in Hebrew. This year's themes are religiosity in Israel; Israeli Palestinians; the military in Israeli life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This graduate course seeks to provide the participants with a broad introduction to major intellectual trends in the history of Islam in South Asia from the early nineteenth century to the present. We focus on the work of select individuals and discuss their writings in the context of their intellectual, social, cultural, and political milieu. Translations and exegeses of the Qur'an, Islamic law, politics, and social thought are among the themes on which we focus.
A systematic introduction to Syriac language. Close reading of selected passages of Syriac texts.
This graduate seminar explores the current state of modern Middle East intellectual history. By attending to the foundations, methods, and critical debates of intellectual history broadly conceived, the course carefully investigates the development of modern Middle East intellectual history on its own terms, as a field producing meaningful knowledge that is neither derivative of nor irrelevant to the mainstream of the historical discipline.
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. The syllabus varies according to the interests of the students and the instructor. Experience reading Arabic is required; experience reading manuscripts is not.
This course focuses on reading texts that are illustrative of various issues in Muslim religious thought. The texts are selected according to students' needs.
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.
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.