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Fall 2023

Class Schedule

Course Title Day/Time Instructor
MENA 200-0-20 Making the Modern Middle East: Culture, Politics, History MWF 11am-11:50am Ipek Yosmaoglu/Jessica Winegar
MENA 290-3-1 / ANTHRO 290-0-3 Infrastructure, Power, and Justice in the Anthropocene TTh 3:30pm-4:50pm Ekin Kurtic
MENA 290-6-1 We Are What We Eat: Turkish Food Culture and Cuisine MW 9:30am-10:50am Oya Topcuoglu
JWSH_ST 280-4-1 Leisure and Popular Culture in 20th Century Palestine TTh 2pm-3:20pm Maayan Hilel
JWSH_ST 279-0-1 It's Complicated: Love Stories in Hebrew Literature and Israeli Culture MW 12:30pm-1:50pm Guy Ehrlich
MENA 301-1-20 / ANTHRO 384-0-20 Traveling While Muslim: Islam, Mobility, and Security after 9/11 TTh 5pm-6:20pm Emrah Yildiz
MENA 390-3-1 / POLI_SCI 390-0-1 Muslim Politics Th 1pm-3:50pm Zekeria Salem
MENA 390-6-20 / RTVF 377-0-20 Documentary Production in the Middle East TTh 2pm-3:20pm Mehrnoosh Fetrat
MENA 411-0-20 (grad course) New Histories of the Middle East W 3pm-5:50pm  Ipek Yosmaoglu
HISTORY 405-0-32 (grad course) Orientalism and Its Discontents T 2pm-4:50pm Rajeev Kinra


Course Descriptions

MENA 200-0-20 : Making the Modern Middle East: Culture, Politics, History

This team-taught course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of histories, cultures, and societies in the Middle East and North African region (MENA), as well as an introduction to MENA as a field of study. We examine how the term “MENA” emerged as well as how, as a political and cultural imaginary, MENA coalesced into a geopolitical entity and conceptual category. Among the topics explored are the history of the idea of MENA and the multiple meanings of “modernity” in that context; the complex relations between MENA and the US and western Europe; the historical formation of Middle East nation states, polities, ideologies, identities; the dynamic social and political struggles unfolding in the region since the 2011 Arab uprisings. The course will consider these structures, events, and relationships from a range of disciplinary perspectives, focusing on historical and cultural production. Primary and secondary course materials include historical, social science, cultural, literary, and digital texts.

MENA 290-3-1 / ANTHRO 290-0-3: Infrastructure, Power, and Justice in the Anthropocene

Our lives are configured through the routinized functioning of infrastructures that mostly remain invisible until they break down. Material infrastructures such as roads, bridges, grids, and dams connect people, places, ideas, and things across time and space. They promise spatial and social connectivity, environmental control, technological modernization, and development in the age of Anthropocene defined as the era in which human activities play a dominant role in environmental changes. However, they also lead to uneven access to resources, prevent mobility, and produce injustices and socio-political conflicts. This course will scrutinize infrastructures to discuss their social, political, and environmental lives. We will read and discuss anthropological studies that examine how infrastructures are constructed, used, maintained, and repaired in everyday life. In this exploration, we will pay specific attention to power relations, social meanings, and environmental transformations that shape and are shaped by infrastructures. Conceptual themes include, among others, urban citizenship, state power, social conflicts, securitization, violence, community building, and ecology. These themes will be explored through the focus on water systems, renewable energy, road projects, waste facilities, oil extraction, housing, and other infrastructures. We will pay specific attention to infrastructure and its politics in the Global South, through readings and other course materials on regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, South East Asia, Africa, and South America. The course will also cover new understandings of infrastructure beyond material systems; we will discuss the new perspectives that approach social relations and nature as infrastructures that sustain human and non-human life.

MENA 290-6-1: We Are What We Eat: Turkish Food Culture and Cuisine

Food represents an integral part of livelihood, culture and identity. Food production, consumption and sharing also have symbolic and ideological meanings. In this course we will explore the complex relationships between food, culture and society through the lens of Turkish food from the Middle Ages to the present. Using an array of primary and secondary sources from history, anthropology, literature, film and media, we will situate culinary practices and their use in constructing and expressing cultural, regional and national identities within the social, historical and political context of Turkey and the wider Middle East. We will study the consumption of and attitudes toward specific foodstuffs, gauging the relevance of items like coffee in the pre-modern world and baklava in modern politics. We will investigate the role of minorities and immigrants in shaping culinary practices in and outside Turkey; the effects of climate change on food production and scarcity; the role of globalization on national cuisine; and representations of Turkish food culture in world literature and film.

JWSH_ST 280-4-1: Leisure and Popular Culture in 20th Century Palestine

This course focuses on leisure and popular culture in Palestine/ The land of Israel, during the first half of the 20th century. The course examines the emergence of new leisure forms, sites, and practices and probes how local, regional, and global events shaped the cultural life of both Jewish and Arab societies and their intercultural relations. Throughout the course, we will discuss cafés, cinemas, beaches, nightlife, theatre, and sports clubs, as new venues for intercommunal encounters and friction. We will examine how broad historical processes such as modernization, urbanization, the emergence of national identities, and the evolving national conflict between the Arab and Jewish communities shaped local leisure culture. Also, we will analyze the interrelationship between leisure and other social constructs such as work, family, community, and nation; How did categories of ethnicity, gender, and class organize and reshape institutions and practices of leisure culture and vice versa? The course combines a wide range of primary sources as well as cultural products of Jewish and Arabs writers, moviemakers, and artists. Through course readings, lectures, discussions, and collaborative assignments, students will confront the many ways in which leisure has had a foundational impact on ordinary people's daily lives and the formation of collective identities in 20th-Century Palestine\The land of Israel.

JWSH_ST 279-0-1: It's Complicated: Love Stories in Hebrew Literature and Israeli Culture

Whether as a dangerous rival of traditional Jewish life or the only escape from the cruel, alienated modern world, love has always been a preoccupation in modern - and postmodern - Hebrew literature and culture. This course observes and discusses various depictions of the notion of "love" from the early 20th century onwards, as captured in Hebrew novels, short stories, films, and other cultural representations. What stories do Hebrew and Israeli culture tell us about love? What kinds of love (and sexualities) does it portray? And why does it seem that even the greatest love stories must be painful and complicated? Throughout the course we will explore and examine different aspects of the cultural formation of love in Hebrew literature and Israeli culture. We will discuss notions such as the eruption of love and its decline; the myth of love; the diasporic Jewish men's complex attitude toward Eros and the suffering of the abandoned wives of the shtetl; the gendered roles and power relations; the queer alternatives of love; and postmodern love. Moreover, we will adopt close reading practices in order to critically read and interpret different literary texts from different perspectives and prisms - social, political, historical and cultural. The literary and cultural texts will be accompanied by theoretical essays - mainly psychoanalytical, feminist, and queer - as we will discuss and investigate the potentiality of bringing together literature and theory. While focusing on the concept of love, this course also provides an introduction to Hebrew literature and Israeli culture. During the course, we will read literary texts from Yosef Haim Brenner, Dvora Baron, Yehudit Hendel, David Grossman, Orly Castel-Bloom, Alon Hilu and others. We will also watch some recent Israeli films/TV shows. No previous knowledge of Hebrew, Israel or Judaism is required! All the Hebrew texts will be read in translation.

MENA 301-1-20 / ANTHRO 384-0-20: Traveling While Muslim: Islam, Mobility, and Security after 9/11

Particularly after the 9/11 attacks and during the war on terror that has ensued shortly thereafter, Muslims on the move—from international students and pilgrims to scientists and artists—have faced increasing scrutiny and surveillance in both global travel economies and national immigration regimes, especially under the rule of authoritarian leaders in power across the globe from the US to India. What often unites Modi’s India and Trump’s United States is Islamophobia— albeit in different guises—or the racialization of Islam and Muslims. What are the stakes of traveling while Muslim in that post 9/11 era of racing Islam? What assumptions underpin the attendant constructions of religion and race in such understandings, as various state and non-state actors enlist themselves to manage the movements of Muslims? In probing these questions, this seminar has three aims: (1) becoming well-versed in studies of Islam and Islamophobia in the US and across the globe, (2) gaining a better understanding of Islam as a center tenet in a deeply uneven and racialized regime of ‘global’ mobility, and lastly, (3) critically designs of security that manage those differential regimes of mobility.

MENA 390-3-1 / POLI_SCI 390-0-1: Muslim Politics

The emergence of Muslim politics is arguably one of the defining transformations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This course explores the diversity of the contemporary political experiences of Muslims in multiple and shifting contexts to address questions such as: what is the role of ideology and faith in Muslim politics? Where does political Islam come from? How does politics play out in the lives of Muslims? How diverse are contemporary political experiences of Muslims? How did immigration, globalization, Islamic revival and violent extremism and securitization policies reshape the political and religious landscape of Muslim-majority nations as well as in non-Muslim countries? What does the study of political Islam teach us about the relationship between religious and politics in the modern world? The course is divided in three parts. In Part 1, we focus on the politics of Islamic revival through the trajectories of various Islamic political movements in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to understand the origins of the rise of political Islam and its national, regional and global impact. In Part 2, we turn to transnational Muslim networks and connections to explore the main issues around global political Islam in its various forms including violent Islamic extremism, Sufism, piety movements, economic networks. We discuss also anti-Muslim violence and its origins. In Part 3, we examine the social, political and historical dynamics shaping the politics of Muslim minorities in Europe and the USA, including the war on terror, identity politics, racialization and islamophobia. Our cross-cutting themes include state in the Muslim world, party politics, secularism, democracy, social movements, political violence, the politics of religion, security policies, globalization, citizenship, social and economic development… Our readings are drawn from political science, religious studies and anthropology.

MENA 390-6-20 / RTVF 377-0-20: Documentary Production in the Middle East

In this course, we will be studying and producing documentary films. On Tuesdays, we will screen feature-length films from various Middle Eastern countries, focusing on the history and documentary practices unique to the region. On Thursdays, we will delve into the entire process of making a documentary, from the initial idea and research, to choosing the most suitable style for the concept, and finally, filming and editing. To encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing between RTVF and MENA students, we will form groups for group projects. MENA students will lead the identification of subjects and research, while RTVF students will concentrate on developing the appropriate artistic style for the chosen topic. Our ultimate objective for this course is to produce a professional-grade short documentary by the end of the quarter. This course is taught by Mehrnoosh Fetrat, award-winning filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Radio, TV, and Film.

MENA 411-0-20 (grad course): New Histories of the Middle East

The aim of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to some of the recent works and
the trends they represent in historical scholarship on the MENA/Southeast Europe region.
While the reading material is history-focused, students from other disciplines will have a
chance to introduce perspectives from their disciplines during the “BYOB” (bring your
own book) sessions. In terms of periodization, the reading list covers the decades
immediately before and after WWI. The overarching theme of the seminar is the entangled
histories of imperial collapse, colonialism, and nationalism. A monograph will form the
centerpiece of each week’s readings and discussion.

HISTORY 405-0-32 (grad course): Orientalism and Its Discontents

Edward Said's "Orientalism" (1978) has been one of the most influential -- and controversial -- works of scholarship of the last half century. As a pioneering work of postcolonial theory, it has reshaped entire disciplines, from history and area studies to comparative literature, anthropology, and even the study of English literature(s). But Said has also had his critics, some very astute and others not so much. In this course, we will begin by closely reading Said's own works to try to understand them in all their nuance and complexity, and then examine some of the arguments of his critics of various disciplinary backgrounds.