History of the Modern Middle East: The Roots of ConflictBeginning in the late Ottoman Empire and running to the present-day, this course introduces students to the history, politics and culture of the modern Middle East. With emphases on the impact of war, colonialism, nationalism, and Islamism on the diverse cultures and peoples of the region, the course aims to facilitate the adoption of an informed, critical approach to the study of the Middle East’s past and present. While there will be much discussion of military developments and the current violent entanglements in the region, we will also challenge the common but false notion of a region perpetually embroiled in conflict by engaging with social, cultural and intellectual trends, looking to everyday life and common people in addition to major political events and personas. Finally, students will debate and interrogate popular representations of the region and its populations and will be encouraged to critically reflect on their own past and present visions of the Middle East.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: History, Culture, PoliticsThis course investigates one of the most controversial and misunderstood disputes in the world: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. At one level, the course adopts the classic approach of presenting the major historical and political developments from the late 19th century up until the present-day, laying bare a tragic succession of wars, diplomatic settlements, external interventions and human rights violations. Students will grapple with contentious issues such as state and grassroots terrorism, settlement construction, the one state vs two solutions, and the Jewish vs democratic state debates, among many others. At another level, however, the course will zoom in at times to investigate popular culture and everyday life, using such instances to understand the effect of the conflict on Arab and Jewish populations and its manifestation in their art and literature. Perhaps most importantly, we will use the occasion of the everyday to dismantle popular stereotypes of, for example, ancient religious feuds, eternal divisions, and the impossibility of peace. Finally, throughout the course, we will examine attempts by Israeli, Palestinian and foreign groups and individuals to, at turns, silence, embolden, and broadly sway global opinions on the conflict. As regards this 'war of the narratives', we will focus in particular on politicians, academics and students, and the pressures and intimidation they face when grappling with this divisive issue.
The Middle East in Graphic Novels: History, Politics and the Tragic Comic: Once thought of as juvenile and immaterial to politics, society and culture, graphic novels are today frequently considered art forms, political satires and/or intellectual compositions fundamental to the health of our polities as well as our imaginings of past and present. This course will explore graphic novels with a focus on their representation of Middle Eastern history, politics and peoples. Reading such works as Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Brian K. Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad and several others, we will discuss the evolution of the medium, the fraught history of visually representing the Middle East, as well as the challenges and opportunities graphic novels present for understanding the region. On this latter note, particular attention will be paid to the contentious use of graphic novels as works of journalism, oral history, and autobiography as well as to fundamental questions on the ethics of graphically representing tragic episodes from Middle Eastern pasts. Second, given recent events associated with cartooning (i.e. the Charlie Hebdo massacre) we will also seek to grapple with such divisive issues as Islamophobia, Orientalism, free speech, and the uses and limits of satire. Finally, students should note that some of the texts we study contain graphic content (no pun intended), including depictions of mass murder and sexual violence. The artist's choice to visually represent such crimes will be a significant and recurring topic of discussion, as will the nature and quality of their depictions.