Courses

Undergraduate Courses - Fall 2018

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/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
Jerusalem Contested: A City's History from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives
Jerusalem is considered a holy city to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this course, students will learn the history of Jerusalem from its founding in pre-biblical times until the present. Over the course of the semester, we will ask: What makes space sacred and how does a city become holy? What has been at stake - religiously, theologically, politically, nationally - in the many battles over Jerusalem? Is a city that is so deeply contested doomed to endless tension or does history offer more hopeful precedents?
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
The Arts of the Islamic World
A survey of the architecture and the arts of various Islamic cultures between northern Africa and the Indian subcontinent from its beginnings in the 7th to the 20th century. Emphasis will be on major monuments of religious and secular architecture, architectural decoration, calligraphy and painting. Background in Islam or Middle Eastern languages is not a prerequisite.
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
The Politics of Modern Islam
This course examines the political dimensions of Islam. This will involve a study of the nature of Islamic political theory, the relationship between the religious and political establishments, the characteristics of an Islamic state, the radicalization of Sunni and Shi'i thought, and the compatibility of Islam and the nation-state, democracy, and constitutionalism, among other topics. Students will be introduced to the complex and polemical phenomenon of political Islam. The examples will be drawn mainly, though not exclusively, from cases and writings from the Middle East.
Instructors: Bernard A. Haykel
The Foundations of Civilization: the Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Middle East
While most people are familiar with the modern Middle East, few understand the deep history of the region. This geographically diverse area rich with resources engendered civilization as we conceive it, being home to the earliest domesticated agriculture, oldest monumental art and architecture, first cities, first political and economic systems, and the first examples of writing in human history. In this course we will examine objects, architecture, and archaeological sites from across this region from roughly 8,000-400 BCE, considering the nature of civilization and the enduring influence of these earliest societies.
Instructors: Deborah A. Vischak
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 and its Islamic manuscripts collection.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
Elementary Biblical Hebrew I
Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible in the original language. During the semester, students will learn the script and the grammar, develop a working vocabulary, and read a selection of Biblical passages. The course is designed for beginners with little or no previous knowledge of the language. Students with extensive experience in the language should contact the instructor about course alternatives.
Instructors: Laura Elizabeth Quick
God's Messengers: Prophecy and Revelation in the Islamic Tradition
Prophecy and revelation are the foundations of Islam. What is the meaning of revelation and of scripture in Islam? Why is the Qur'an considered to be the final revelation? How has the Prophet Muhammad been understood and represented by Muslims in the past and in the present? What role do Muhammad's "brother prophets," including Abraham, Moses and Jesus, play in the Qur'an and in Islamic tradition? Was Mary, mother of Jesus, a prophet? This seminar explores these questions through primary sources in translation as well as through the lens of ritual, sacred geography, images, novels, and film.
Instructors: Shaun Elizabeth Marmon
Introduction to Islamic Law
A survey of the history of Islamic law and its developments, and the attempts of the Muslim jurists to come to term with the challenges of modern times. It will focus on issues in constitutional and personal laws that have the greatest relevance to the modern era.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
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
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
Marriage and Monotheism: Men, Women, and God in Near Eastern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
The decline of marriage in recent decades is often tied to the decline of religion. But why should marriage, a contractual relationship centered on sex and property, be seen as a religious practice? This seminar considers the varied and surprising ways in which the great monotheistic traditions of the Near East came to connect certain forms of human marriage - or their rejection- to divine devotion, and considers how marriage worked in societies shaped by these traditions. Spanning biblical Israel to the medieval Islamic world, this course will introduce you to the historical study of Near Eastern religions and to the field of family history.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
The Nature of Reality in Medieval Arabic Literature
This course will look at a variety of canonical texts and genres from the Classical Arabic literary heritage and examine them through the question of "truth" and "representation." In a culture that is often said to frown upon fictional writing, we will explore attitudes towards language as a means of gaining knowledge about the world, on the one hand, and as a way to depict "reality," on the other. The texts we will be reading range from pre-Islamic poetry to 13th century shadow plays and cover a wide range of topics, including philosophy, mysticism, historiography, as well as Islamic science and art. Readings will be in English.
Instructors: Lara Harb
Secularism
This course introduces students to classic and recent theoretical debates about secularism and secularization. We will consider a range of historical-ethnographic examples, focusing particularly on the limits of secularism in its modern encounter with Islam and Muslim communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America. By comparing the realities of everyday life in a variety of national contexts, we will ask what secularism offers as a human way of experiencing the world, a mode of legitimating norms and constructing authority, and a method of telling stories and creating myths about human values and historical progress.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Human Trafficking and its Demise: African and European Slaves in Modern Islam (16th-21st century)
What did slavery represent for Islamic societies, and what does human trafficking mean in the Middle East and North Africa after Salafist groups such as ISIS restored practices of enslavement in Syria and Iraq? After a presentation of the issues related to slavery in Muslim societies today, we will ask ourselves if there was even such thing as Islamic slavery: Did Muslim societies organize a specific type of slave trade? To what extent was slavery a pivotal institution? We will see that various experiences of slavery shaped discourses about race and gender, and we will assess the main legacies of slavery in current Muslim societies.
Instructors: M'hamed Oualdi
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

ARABIC

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: Nancy A. Coffin, Faris Zwirahn
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: Gregory J. Bell, Tarek Farag Elsayed, Thomas Henry Hefter
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, Nancy A. Coffin, Thomas Henry Hefter
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
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
Topics in Arabic Language and Culture: The Modern Debate between Secularists and Islamists in the Arab World
This course will focus on readings on the modern debate between Islamists and secularists. Students will develop their skills in listening, speaking, writing and reading through the analysis and discussion of texts by Arab authors of religious and secular outlook. Assignments will focus on improving comprehension and developing compositional and analytical skills. Students will complete an independent project in Arabic throughout the semester, focusing on a particular author.
Instructors: Tarek Farag Elsayed

HEBREW

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
From Shai Agnon to Etgar Keret: A Survey of Modern Hebrew Literature
This course, taught in Hebrew, traces modern Hebrew literature from the 1930's until today. Discussion in class will focus on the language and themes of this literature. The goal of the course is to give students an understanding of the development of Modern Hebrew literature of the 20th and 21st centuries, while exposing the students to the historical issues that concerned the writers of Modern Hebrew literature at the time of their writing. All texts will be in Modern Hebrew, which will not only strengthen the students' grasp of Hebrew in general but will also expose students to the various styles of literary Hebrew.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich

PERSIAN

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
Advanced Persian Reading II: Modern Persian Prose
This course focuses on modern Persian prose. It is the continuation of 302, and is designed to improve the student's proficiency in the reading and comprehension of Persian texts. The emphasis is on reading, understanding, and translating modern prose. The class is conducted in Persian.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati

TURKISH

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 2018

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: Mehmed Sükrü Hanioglu
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
Studies in the History of Islam: Representations of Sex and Gender in Muslim Societies
This seminar explores the diverse ways in which sex and gender were and are constructed in Muslim societies. Topics include: gender binary, masculinities and femininities, same sex love, intersexed people, eunuchs, cross dressers, and gender reassignment. Readings in translation will be included, as well as primary texts in Arabic for students who are studying Arabic.
Instructors: Shaun Elizabeth Marmon
Introduction to Syriac
A systematic introduction to Syriac language. Close reading of selected passages of Syriac texts.
Instructors: George Anton Kiraz
The Palestine Liberation Organization: The Evolution of a Nationalist Movement
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964, has a history of diverse activity across the Middle East and beyond. We situate the PLO in the Arab-Israeli conflict and contemporaneous nationalist, anti-colonial, and militant movements;study its structure and internal divisions;consider its evolution through key pivot points;analyze its own publications along with critical scholarship. We assess the PLO's successes (e.g. its recognition as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and its achievements in the Oslo Process) as well as its failures (the lack of a Palestinian state) and contemporary challenges.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
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
Topics in Middle East History: History and Theory
This graduate reading seminar considers problems and methods of modern intellectual history and social theory, with specific reference to the Middle East. Readings consist of scholarly monographs and articles as well as relevant theoretical resources. Topics vary by term and are tailored to suit student interests. Students from all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences are welcome.
Instructors: Max David Weiss
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
Themes in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence
Selected topics in Islamic law and jurisprudence. The topics vary from year to year, but the course normally includes reading of fatwas and selected Islamic legal texts in Arabic.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
Studies in Modern Arab History: Readings in Islamic Revivalism, Islamist Politics and Law
This course aims to survey a variety of historical and religious texts in Arabic. Students must have mastery of advanced Arabic. Some of the texts that will be studied have been edited and published, others remain in manuscript form.
Instructors: Bernard A. Haykel
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
Arabs, Jews, and Arab-Jews in Literature, History, and Culture
This course examines the idea of the Arab, the Jew, and the Arab-Jew as represented in history, literature, and film. It revisits the interdisciplinary scholarship around "Jews and Arabs" since the 1990s in order to reassess past and current approaches and to assist students with their own research agendas. We consider the following analytical frames: memory studies and its politics; historiography, recovery and the archive; hybridity and cosmopolitanism; and passing and cross-identification. We also utilize the Katz Center (U Penn)'s 2018-19 program on Jews in modern Islamic contexts.
Instructors: Lital Levy