Lessons: 4 / week Teacher: Julie Shackelford
Since the popular uprisings of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ that began when a street vender named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 in protest against political and social injustice, becoming a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and other uprisings throughout the region, events in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) have had a significant impact throughout the world. Often portrayed in Euro-American media as a region rocked by perpetual unrest and teeming with ‘dangerous Muslims’, news of the Middle East often offers little more than stereotypical images on well-rehearsed themes of terror and violence. This course seeks to counter this trend by approaching the Middle East in a more nuanced fashion and from a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to): ethnicity, gender, belief, history, geography, popular culture, the media and everyday life.
to challenge assumptions about the Middle East and approach the region from a more nuanced perspective
to deepen our understandings of the social, political and historical processes that gave rise to the contemporary Middle East
to become familiar with everyday life and customs in the Middle East in a variety of contexts
to sharpen critical thinking skills and spark interest in new topics within the region
In contrast to the stereotypes, students in this class will find the Middle East to have a rich and complex history composed of a diverse array of unique cultures, societies and beliefs. Challenging our own preconceived notions (and/or the common assumptions of those ‘back home’), this class will critically explore some of the social, political and historical processes that have contributed to the Middle East as it is today. The class will be divided into four parts: 1) Introduction: the basics of Middle East Studies; 2) social & political boundary making (and breaking); 3) the ‘Arab Spring’ and beyond, and 4) everyday life in the Middle East.
To facilitate class discussion, some light reading will be required, and students will be expected to have read the assigned text(s) prior to their arrival in class. However, readings will be supplemented with a variety of other approaches, including: lectures, large- and small-group discussions, in-class films, TV shows, literature, poetry, art, news reports, social media, presentations on topics of interest to you, etc.