Courses

Undergraduate Courses - Spring 2019

Arabian Nights
The Arabian Nights (The Thousand and One Nights) is a masterpiece of world literature. However, its reception and popularity are fraught with challenges and problems. This course traces the origins of this authorless collection, examines its transmission in the Arabic tradition, and its entry into Europe. Students will read some of its most famous story cycles and become familiar with the major debates surrounding them. Besides reading related literary works from medieval Arabic literature, we will look at the influence of the Nights on modern authors and filmmakers. All readings will be in English.
Instructors: Lara Harb
The Idea of Iran: History, Memory, and the Making of a Cultural Identity
Course introduces the history of the Iranian world through the lens of historical memory. Study primary sources from the ancient, medieval, and modern periods as they think critically about the notion of "Iranian civilization." Themes range from geography and ethnicity to art and poetry to kingship and revolution. Gain hands-on experience working with archival and visual material through class trips to libraries and museums in and around Princeton. Approaches to large-scale problems in the study of history will be introduced, and by the end of the course, students will gain insight into the relevance of Iranian history in the present.
Instructors: Daniel Jensen Sheffield
Sufism
This course examines Sufism or what is often called the mystical tradition in Islam. In Western media and popular discourse, Sufism is often portrayed as the 'soft-side' of Islam that is contrasted with the harsh 'legalism' of the Shari`a or Islamic law. In this class, we will try to interrupt this portrayal through a rigorous exercise of textual and conceptual interrogation. Using primary Sufi texts and sources of Euro-American scholarship on Sufism, we will explore the institutional and intellectual history, meditation and disciplinary practices, poetry and literature, as well as orientalist and neo-imperialist representations of Sufism.
Instructors: Tehseen Thaver
Revolt
Talk about revolt and resistance is everywhere. But what do those words mean? In this course we will think about revolt and resistance by focusing on the case of the Middle East in a global context. We will study the "Arab Spring," the history of revolt in the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street, and different perspectives on what revolt and resistance mean. Readings draw on social theory, anthropology, sociology, history and the arts.
Instructors: Julia Elyachar
US Foreign Policy and the Middle East since 1979
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.
Instructors: Michael Anthony Reynolds
Muslims in France and Europe Before and After the Terror Attacks
Since the attack against a Jewish school in March 2012, France has experienced, as have other countries, traumatic terror attacks. Most of these acts have been perpetrated by French and Belgian citizens of North African descent claiming to be acting in the name of jihadi groups such as ISIS. This course aims at understanding this terrible violence by relocating its authors in a French and European context since the 1970s. Above all, beyond the enigma of the terrorists, this course will explore a broader issue: the very diverse situation of the Muslims in France in an era of uncertainty, racial divide, and political contentions.
Instructors: M'hamed Oualdi
Interpreting the Qur'an: Text, Context, and Materiality
This course will involve a close reading of the Qur'anic text and its interpretive traditions. The course will also go beyond approaching scripture as a bounded, collected, literary text, by examining the ritual, experiential and material encounters between the Qur'an and Muslim communities. How does the Qur'an operate within societies? What are its multiple functions? How are the controversial verses often associated with the Qur'an interpreted? Through a critical engagement with categories like "scripture," and "interpretation" students will be introduced to larger debates on hermeneutics and material culture within the study of religion.
Instructors: Tehseen Thaver
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
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.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Islamic Family Law
This course examines the oulines of Islamic family law in gender issues, sexual ethics, family structure, family planning, marriage and divorce, parenthood, child guardianship and custody, etc. The course starts with a general survey of Islamic legal system: its history and developments, structure and spirit, and the attempts of the Muslim jurists to come to terms with the challenge of time.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood
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."
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
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
Medieval Cairo: A Survival Guide
How can we reconstruct quotidian life in premodern society? This course takes history to the micro-level, with rigor. Sometimes simple questions (what did people eat, wear, do for a living? whom did they marry?) can be the most challenging to answer. Our laboratory will be medieval Cairo, a burgeoning metropolis astride the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade routes and an excellent place for take-out food. You will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge through letters and other documents written by the men and women of medieval Cairo, and through hands-on experiments, including paper-making, cooking and eating.
Instructors: Marina Rustow
Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Islam: North Africa (1830-2019)
This course explores the history of North Africa, an area undergoing radical political turmoil since the beginning of the Arab spring in January 2011. It analyzes the colonial and postcolonial transformations of the Maghrib from the 19th to the first decade of the 21st century. Through a range of secondary and primary sources, the purpose of the course is to give an overview of the colonial effects and legacies on and in North African societies, but also to start questioning the colonial period as a framework of analysis.
Instructors: M'hamed Oualdi
Modern Iran
This course surveys major themes in the history of modern Iranian politics and society beginning in the 19th century and ending in the present. Topics to be explored include national identity, imperialism and interaction with the West, Islamic government, monarchism, constitutionalism, revolution, gender, Shi'a religious culture, religious diversity and post-revolutionary reformist and conservative thought and politics. Though focusing on the Iranian context, the course addresses questions asked by thinkers across the Muslim world in the modern period, questions that concern their relationship with the West, with Islam, and with modernity.
Instructors: Nura Alia Hossainzadeh
Postcolonialism without Colony? Marx, Subaltern Studies, and the Question of Orientalism
Subaltern Studies and Postcolonial Studies have shown how critiques of capitalism were based on a provincial account of western history. Postcolonial studies, in turn, was based on analysis of places that were directly colonized. In this course, we will critically read and compare approaches based on Marx, subaltern studies, and orientalism to think about the case of the former Ottoman Empire, which was not colonized. Readings will draw on social theory, political economy, postcolonial studies, critical infrastructure studies, history of the Middle East, and ethnography and are appropriate for students of any region or discipline.
Instructors: Julia Elyachar
The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1800
This course surveys the history of the world's most enduring Islamic state, the Ottoman Empire, from its beginnings in the fourteenth century to the advent of reform in the early 19th century. At its height, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Middle East, the Balkans, modern day Turkey, Central Europe and much of the Mediterranean. The history of the Ottoman Empire is essential in understanding the modern Middle East and the Balkans.
Instructors: Molly Greene
The Late Ottoman Empire
This course focuses on the Westernization movement, Ottoman administrative reforms, Young Ottoman, Young Turk, and ethnic-nationalist movements. In addition great diplomatic crises of 19th and 20th century and the emergence of modern Turkey will be examined.
Instructors: Mehmed Sükrü Hanioglu

ARABIC

Elementary Arabic II
This course continues the study of Modern Standard Arabic and spoken colloquial Arabic commenced in Arabic 101. Emphasis in class is placed on active use of grammatical points introduced in the book; reading and writing increasingly longer texts; further vocabulary acquisition, and continued practice in listening and speaking Modern Standard and spoken colloquial Arabic.
Instructors: Nancy A. Coffin, Tarek Farag Elsayed, Thomas Henry Hefter, 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: Gregory J. Bell, Tarek Farag Elsayed
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
Theory and Practice of Arabic to English Translation
This course trains students in the practice of translating Arabic texts from a wide variety of genres into English. Attention will be given to both theoretical and practical problems of translation for research and professional ends.
Instructors: Gregory J. Bell
Arabic Skills for Everyday Living
This course is based on thematic instruction featuring audio-visual materials of native speakers discussing their daily lives. Emphasis is on improving fluency in reading and speaking skills used in everyday contexts.
Instructors: Hannah Essien
Readings in Arabic Drama
This course will focus on a selection of short plays in Modern Standard Arabic with a view to strengthening skills in reading, speaking, listening and writing along with providing a sense of how theater reflects developments in the political, social and intellectual spheres over the last century. The first portion of each class period will consist of close reading and translation of passages from the assigned pages. The remainder of class will be devoted to discussion, dramatic readings of passages, student presentations and listening activities.
Instructors: Thomas Henry Hefter
Topics in Arabic Language and Culture: The West in the Writings of Arab Travelers and Intellectuals
Conducted entirely in Arabic, this course will explore the ways in which Arab travelers and intellectuals have struggled to make sense of Europe and the people who live there, in both the medieval and modern eras. We will start first with more modern texts, and move back in time toward the 10th century. Students will offer weekly responses to the readings, and prepare a final project on a text of their own choosing.
Instructors: Faris Zwirahn

HEBREW

Elementary Hebrew II
This course is designed for students who are familiar with the Hebrew alphabet, and who have rudimentary skills in reading, writing, speaking and comprehending modern Hebrew. Over the spring term, students will further develop their proficiency in these skills, and acquire a solid grounding in modern Hebrew grammar and syntax. By the end of the semester, students will be able to read and comment on short articles, stories and poems, to conduct conversations, and make short presentations.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich
Intermediate Hebrew II
This course is designed for students who have completed elementary modern Hebrew language courses, and aims at further developing their reading, writing, speaking and aural comprehension skills. Emphasis will be placed on grammar and syntax, on conversational skills, and on creative writing. By the end of the spring term, students will achieve mastery of the Hebrew verb patterns, and proficiency in constructing complex sentences, and will be able to read and analyze literary works, discuss various media contents, write essays and make presentations.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich
Themes in Israeli Cinema
This course, which is taught entirely in Hebrew, evaluates the main themes of Israeli cinema. The course will present various issues that concern Israelis today (e.g., immigration, multiculturalism, identity, Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict, Holocaust, Jerusalem). The goal of the course is to give students an understanding of the issues that concern Israel today by means of examining trends in Israeli cinema from the earliest films until today.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich

PERSIAN

Elementary Persian II
To develop the skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing modern Persian. The classes are conducted mostly in Persian with emphasis on oral drills and conversations.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Intermediate Persian II
The emphasis is on reading modern and classical prose, and writing modern prose. Classes are conducted mostly in Persian. Advanced grammar drills and translation exercises.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Advanced Persian: Iran through Film
This course will engage students thoughtfully with modern Iranian society and politics through documentaries. Each week, students will watch a documentary and prepare for a lively in-class discussion of the issues. Students will be heavily exposed to colloquial Persian.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati

TURKISH

Elementary Turkish II
Familiarity with all grammatical aspects of Modern Turkish. Reading text of moderate difficulty; developing communicative skills: ability to comprehend and engage in daily discourse; ability to write short compositions.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Intermediate Turkish II
To enable students to communicate in Modern Turkish, and to read Turkish (current events, editorials, literature and academic writings) with some speed and accuracy.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Advanced Turkish: Selected Readings in Historical and Literary Texts
This course introduces a wide variety of reading material (newspaper, memoir, letter, short story, diary etc.) to strengthen students' abilities in understanding and evaluating modern Turkish texts. Information on selected authors and their works will provide a general view on the Ottoman/Turkish cultural, literary and historical panorama. The analysis and discussions of the texts in class will serve to build fluency.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi

Graduate Courses - Spring 2019

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
Ottoman Diplomatics: Paleography and Diplomatic Documents
An introduction to Ottoman paleography and diplomatics. The documents will be in divani and rika scripts.
Instructors: Mehmed Sükrü Hanioglu
The Maqamat
This course introduces students to the medieval Arabic genre of the maqamat. We read maqamat by al-Hamadhani (d. 398/1008) and al-Hariri (d. 516/1122) and discuss the relevant secondary scholarship. Towards the end of the semester, we also read examples of maqamat by other authors, including the Andalusian al-Saraqusti and the pious maqamat of al-Zamakhshari, as well as touch on the maqama in Hebrew and Persian. Students could choose to focus on one of these authors for their final projects or explore a new author altogether. Advanced knowledge of Arabic required.
Instructors: Lara Harb
Intermediate Syriac
The aim of the course is to provide the linguistic skills and the academic tools that are necessary to carry out research in Syriac Studies. The first session deals with the transcription of Syriac and presents an overview of the basic resources for academic research. The rest of the course centers on a selection of Syriac texts and addresses fundamental notions of literature, culture, and history.
Instructors: George Anton Kiraz
Historical Sociology and Middle Eastern Societies
This course provides an introduction to issues of theory, approach, and evidence in the field of historical analysis. It combines methodological topics with theoretical concerns about the questions of time and temporality. The course offers a review of different approaches to historical sociology and conceptual issues that have shaped this field. The overall objective is to help students understand, appreciate, and critique the field by close readings of a number of recent works that address different topics related to Near Eastern societies from different disciplinary perspectives.
Instructors: Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi
Sex and Secularism
This course approaches the study of secularism from the perspective of gender and sexuality in Islam and the Middle East. We examine the comparative methods of anthropologists and historians and explore theoretical debates around secularization and secularism, focusing on the production of sexual difference in science and medicine, religion, political economy, subjectivity, embodiment, law, politics, state governance, family and kinship. Readings combine texts on the Middle East and Muslim Communities outside the Middle East with theoretical texts on secularism outside of these regions.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Readings in Judeo-Arabic
Introduction to the Judeo-Arabic documents of the Cairo Geniza, including personal and business letters, legal testimonies and other ephemera of the tenth through thirteenth centuries. Students learn the Hebrew alphabet, the peculiarities of middle Arabic, diplomatic technique, research methods, manuscript paleography, digital tools and the existing literature. They also have the opportunity to contribute to an evolving state of knowledge by writing up unpublished texts for an online database.
Instructors: Marina Rustow
Topics in Premodern Iranian History: The Persianate World
In this course, we discuss how linguistic, literary, intellectual, and artistic traditions from the pre-Islamic Iranian world were transmitted and transformed throughout the Islamic period. Over the semester, we review works of scholarship which treat the period from the seventh to the nineteenth century, and a geography spanning the Middle East, Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia. Topics to be discussed include: questions of ethnicity, identity, and selfhood; practices of textual transmission and philology; attitudes toward language and translation in history; conceptions of sovereignty; and the impact of colonialism.
Instructors: Daniel Jensen Sheffield
Readings on World War One and the Middle East
The study of the Middle East in World War I has advanced rapidly over the course of the past decade. This course surveys the burgeoning literature on WWI in the Middle East and addresses such questions as how did Ottoman strategic performance impact the war; what was the experience of "total war" in the Middle East and how did it shape governance; what was the relationship between war and imperial collapse; and what are the motives for demographic engineering and mass killing? No prerequisites.
Instructors: Michael Anthony Reynolds
Problems in Near Eastern Jewish History: Judaism after the Talmud
Most varieties of late ancient Judaism disappeared after late antiquity, leaving rabbinic Judaism challenged only by Karaism (a medieval anti-rabbinic movement). This course examines this shift, focusing especially on the role played by the Babylonian Talmud's canonization and circulation throughout the Near East. Students will learn to work with the medieval Jewish scholastic genres that developed around and against the Talmud (rabbinic responsa, commentaries, and digests, as well as Karaite exegesis), consider material evidence for these texts' production and consumption, and survey their historical contexts and parallels.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
Readings in Modern Arabic Literature
This advanced reading course surveys the development of modern Arabic prose fiction from the 19th century nahda (Arabic renaissance) to the present. Special attention is devoted to questions of language and style, alongside discussions of major thematic concerns and the interaction of literature and society. All reading assignments are in the original Arabic, though English translations are available as a study aid. Open to qualified undergraduates with instructor's permission.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Studies in Islamic Religion and Thought
This course focuses on reading texts that are illustrative of various issues in Muslim religious thought. The texts are selected according to students' needs.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
Khomeini's Islamic Republic
In this seminar, we probe the idea of an "Islamic Republic," both in the writings of the most prominent leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and in the writings of modern and contemporary Iranian thinkers and political figures. We engage in an extensive study of Khomeini's theory of Islamic government, as well as a study of scholars who influenced him. We also study political debates in the decade after the Revolution over what institutions should comprise an Islamic government. The course ends with a study of reformist and conservative theories of state in contemporary Iran.
Instructors: Nura Alia Hossainzadeh
Late Medieval-Early Modern Islam
This seminar focuses on Islamic thought and society during the 17th and the 18th centuries. Our key concerns are two: to understand what Islam, and Islamic thought, looked like in the late medieval and the early modern world; and to think about how we should try to approach the study of Islam in that world. A good deal of our focus is on South Asia, though we also read about other regions, including Iran and the Arab Middle East. The required readings are in English. For those interested, some weeks might have supplementary readings in Arabic as well.
Instructors: Muhammad Qasim Zaman