Fall 2017 MESAAS Courses


This information is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Registrar's Directory of Classes.

Note that enrollment in language courses is determined in some cases by placement examinations. See Languages for details, and consult the pages on specific languages, such as Arabic for further information. Language courses must be taken for a letter grade. Pass/Fail or Registration credit (R) is not permitted.

For course requirements, see the pages on the Graduate and Undergraduate programs.

Course Numbering System

  • 1000 and 2000: Undergraduate-level courses. Introductory and intermediate language courses are numbered at the 1000 level.
  • 3000: Advanced undergraduate courses.
  • 4000: Courses for graduate students and, in some cases, advanced undergraduates.
  • 6000 and higher: Graduate-level courses; some 8000- and 9000-level courses are reserved for Ph.D. students only.

The following course designators appear in abbreviated form:

  • MDES (Designator for all MESAAS courses that are not cross listed)
  • AHUM (Asian Humanities)
  • ASCM (Asian Civilizations-Middle East)
  • CLME (Comparative Literature-Middle East)
  • HSME (History-Middle East)
  • ANME (Anthropology of Middle East)

NON-LANGUAGE COURSES


INTRO TO ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION ASCM UN2003
Professor Mana Kia Section 001

Lecture and recitation. Islamic civilization and its characteristic intellectual, political, social, and cultural traditions up through 1800.

AFRICA BEFORE COLONIALISM FROM PREHISTORY TO THE BIRTH OF THE ATLANTIC WORLD
MDES UN2915
Prof. Mamadou Diouf
Section 001

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the precolonial history of the African continent. It investigates in-depth the political, social, cultural and economic developments of different Africa communities, covering various regions and periods, from prehistory to the formation of the Indian Ocean and Atlantic worlds. Its focus is the intersection of politics, economics, culture and society. Using world history and Africa’s location in the production of history as key analytical frames, it pays special attention to social, political and cultural changes that shaped the various individual and collective experiences of African peoples and states and the historical discourses associated to them.

THEORY & CULTURE MDES UN3000
Professor Gil Hochberg Section 001

Required of all majors. Introduces theories of culture particularly related to the Middle East, South Asia. and Africa. Theoretical debates on the nature and function of culture as a symbolic reading of human collectivities. Examines critical cultural studies of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Enables students to articulate their emerging knowledge of Middle East, South Asian, and African cultures in a theoretically informed language.

FROM COLONIAL TO GLOBAL HEALTH HSME UN3044
Professor Joelle Abi-Rached Section 001

Two decades or so after decolonization post-World War II, a small but growing group of historians of medicine directed their attention to disease and health care in colonial settings. The undergraduate seminar examines this literature as well as readings from a range of disciplines—history, anthropology, medicine, and public health—to make sense of the ways in which indigenous populations interacted with colonial medical practices and various medical actors (hygienists, military personnel, missionaries, medical doctors, etc.) and how in turn these biocolonial and bioimperial projects were deployed, to what end, and with what consequences. The seminar explores issues related to race, religion, modernity, subjectivity, imperial ambitions, and agency (local and foreign) through the lens of public health policies, epidemics, psychiatry, medical schools, diseases, and hospitals. The seminar finally examines two emerging and intertwined literatures: (i) the colonial genealogy of the “global heath” paradigm, and (ii) the post-colonial histories of diseases, health care infrastructures, behaviors, and practices as they now play out in post-colonial settings.

ARABIC LITERATURE AS WORLD LITERATURE CLME UN3221
Professor Sarah Bin Tyeer Section 001

This advanced undergraduate seminar focuses on Arabic literature in the world, as World Literature. The focus will be particularly on pre-modern Arabic literary works that traveled and circulated and were adapted to and acquired individual meanings in different cultures. We will look at how literary works travel and circulate through its fusion with regional concepts, or even take on new meanings at different times and places. Admittedly, also, we will look into the strengths, weaknesses, and criticism surrounding World Literature.

MAJOR TEXTS OF THE MIDDLE EAST & INDIA AHUM UN3399
Professor Wael Hallaq Section 001

Readings in translation and discussion of texts of Middle Eastern and Indian origin. Readings may include the Qur'an, Islamic philosophy, Sufi poetry, the Upanishads, Buddhist sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Indian epics and drama, and Gandhi's Autobiography

CONTEMPORARY CULTURE IN THE ARABIC WORLD MDES UN3920
Professor Joseph A Massad Section 001

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission. This seminar, designed for seniors, aims to acquaint students with the notion and theoretical understanding of culture and to introduce them to a critical method by which they can study and appreciate contemporary culture in the Arab World. The seminar will survey examples of written and cinematic culture (fiction and autobiography), as well as music, dance, and literary criticism in the contemporary Arab world. Students will be reading novels, autobiographies and literary criticism, as well as watch films and listen to music as part of the syllabus. All material will be in translation. Films will be subtitled. Songs will be in Arabic.

ARABIC PRISON WRITING CLME UN3928
Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

This course studies the genealogy of the prison in Arab culture as manifested in memoirs, narratives, and poems. These cut across a vast temporal and spatial swathe, covering selections from the Quran, Sufi narratives from al-Halllaj oeuvre, poetry by prisoners of war: classical, medieval, and modern. It   also studies modern narratives by women prisoners and political prisoners, and narratives that engage with these issues. Arabic prison writing is studied against other genealogies of this prism, especially in the West, to map out the birth of prison, its institutionalization, mechanism, and role. All readings for the course are in English translations.

PANAFRICANISM & POSTCOLONIALISM CPLS UN3959
Professors Mamadou Diouf & Gayatri C. Spivak Section 001

This course will read some major texts of PanAfricanism and Postcolonialism; and examine their intersectionality. CPLS students will be expected to read the texts (primary and secondary sources) in the original language where possible. For Diouf and Spivak’s sections, students are expected to submit a 1-page response paper by midnight of the Tuesday before class. The final class will be a colloquium with 20-minute presentation of a research paper by each student.

HONORS THESIS SEMINAR MDES UN3960
Professor Kai Kresse Section 001

The MESAAS honors seminar offers students the opportunity to undertake a sustained research project under close faculty supervision. The DUS advises on general issues of project design, format, approach, general research methodologies, and timetable. In addition, students work with an individual advisor who has expertise in the area of the thesis and can advise on the specifics of method and content. The thesis will be jointly evaluated by the adviser, the DUS, and the honors thesis TA. The DUS will lead students through a variety of exercises that are directly geared to facilitating the thesis. Students build their research, interpretive, and writing skills; discuss methodological approaches; write an annotated bibliography; learn to give constructive feedback to peers and respond to feedback effectively. The final product is a polished research paper in the range of 40-60 pages. Please note: This is a one-year course that begins in the fall semester (1 point) and continues through the spring semester (3 points). Only students who have completed both semesters will receive the full 4 points of credit.

CINEMA & SOCIETY IN ASIA & AFRICA CLME GU4031
Professor Hamid Dabashi Section 001

Introduction to Middle Eastern cinema as a unique cultural product in which artistic sensibilities are mobilized to address, and thus reflect, significant aspects of contemporary society, Arab, Israeli, Turkish, and Iranian cinema. Cultural and collective expressions of some enduring concerns in modern Middle Eastern societies. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.

SUBALTERN STUDIES/PROBLEMS OF HISTORY MDES GU4057
Professor Sudipta Kaviraj Section 001

The aim of this course will be two-fold: first to initiate a detailed study of the school of Indian history called Subaltern Studies which achieved immense attention and popularity starting from the 1980s; secondly, to study, through these writings, the epistemological problems of critical historical and social science scholarship. The discussions will be on two levels – every week there will be a reading from the subaltern studies history, but this would be linked to thinking about some specific theoretical issue, and the historiographic difficulties of investigating the history of social groups and actors who were conventionally kept outside mainstream histories. It will track the intellectual trajectory of subaltern studies intellectual work as it expanded, moving from histories of the peasantry, the working class, tribals, women, lower castes, subordinate nations, to raising larger theoretical and methodological questions about critiques of nationalist history, of European history and social science to the general question of knowledge about the modern world and the languages in which it should be examined. In the last section, we shall discuss if SS contains a promise of similar forms of critical knowledge in other parts of the world, and whether it can be used to examine the conceptual structures of modern social sciences in general.

AFRICA: MODERNITY & POSTCOLONIAL EXPERIENCE MDES GU4144
Professor Kai Kresse Section 001

This 4000 level seminar course is organized around weekly readings that represent substantial contributions to the debate about both ‘modernity’ and ‘postcolonial experience’ in Africa, from a range of interrelated disciplinary perspectives. The course will cover a representative corpus of core readings overall, and students will have to prepare close and critical readings of the key texts for each session, for joint discussions of the respective positions and arguments involved. This will be done with a view to wider comparative debates as well as to regional scholarship (meaning on the region and from the region).

ARABIC LITERARY HERITAGE MDES GU4232
Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

Prerequisites: one semester of fourth-year Arabic, or demonstrate equivalent competence. The sessions for this course cover a number of excerpts from texts that are systematically arranged to enable close reading and further discussion and analysis that lead to an active engagement with Arab literary [cultural] tradition. There are samples from pre-Islamic poetry, including that of the Renegades and the Ravens, the Maqamat, al-Jahiz’s oeuvre [selections from a number of books and epistles], Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi’s writings, prose by ibn Wahb on use and misuse of language, epistles by prominent epistolographers, Hikayat Abi al-Qasim by al-Azdi, selections from al-Bayhaqi, and the Thousand and One Nights. There are excerpts from the middle and premodern period, along with specific selections of commentaries of pertinence to the rise or devaluation of genres, modes, and practices. We address cases in which language is the contested space. The theoretical framework takes language as the dynamic force and also the battlefield through our reading of the movement of the word from transparency [where no distance exists between signifiers and signified], representation, and discourse. Every epistemic shift has its ideological base which we need to detect.   The underlying premise is that through close reading and discussion we can draw a genealogy of generic growth or decay in terms of historical, geographical, and religious-political dynamics. The class involves reading, discussion, and written assignments in both Arabic and English.

19TH CENTURY INDIAN MUSLIMS MDES GU4643
Professor S. Akbar Zaidi Section 001

This is an advanced undergraduate/graduate history seminar course over thirteen weeks, designed to introduce upper level students to the study of Muslims in colonial India in the nineteenth century. Although dealing with this period, the main focus of this course will be on social, religious and political developments, inspired by, and affecting, India’s Muslims in the second half of the century.

SHI'ITES AND SHI'ISM MDES GU4760
Professor Hamid Dabashi Section 001

This is a seminar devoted to a historical and comparative examination of the rise and spread of Shi’ism from its earliest stages in Islamic history to its contemporary conditions in various nation-states (in India, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon in particular). In this seminar we will cover a range of issues, extended from historical, doctrinal, intellectual, and spiritual roots of Shi’ism to its contemporary political manifestations. The course is intended as a seminar, and students will be expected to conduct guided research in an aspect of Shi’ism that interests them most. The course willbe conducted in a combination of weekly lectures, semester-long research, and seminar conversations. Knowledge of Arabic and Persian is not required for this course but would be highly beneficial in conducting research for the final paper.

THEORY AND METHODS II MDES GR5001
Professor Sudipta Kaviraj Section 001

The main purpose of this course is to acquaint students with different theories and methodological approaches to reading and interpretation of texts. This course may not be taken as Pass/D/Fail.

MESAAS RESEARCH COLLOQUIUM MDES GR6008
Professor Sudipta Kaviraj Section 001

This course provides a structured setting for stand-alone M.A. students in their final year and Ph.D. students in their second and third years to develop their research trajectories in a way that complements normal coursework. The seminar meets approximately biweekly and focuses on topics such as research methodology; project design; literature review, including bibliographies and citation practices; grant writing. Required for MESAAS graduate students in their second and third year.

REVISITING THE ARCHIVE MDES GR6041
Professor Gil Hochberg Section 001

The word archive comes from the Greek word arkheion, a repository for official documents, and a place where the archons, the rulers, reside. Archives, then, are unequivocally associated with power and authority, at least in their original formation. But who and what is the archive for? What gets left out of the archive? What is the relationship between the archive and the public? What claims of authority and knowledge (scientific, historical, credible, provable) are made in the name of the archive? In this seminar we will attend to these and several other related questions as we interrogate the notion of the “archive” as a system of documentation, a (often national) official site where “research is conducted,” a depositary of affect and sentiments. We will also look at ways in which the archive is appropriated and the “order of things” is challenged. In this respect we will consider both interruptions of dominant archives and the creation of alternative archives. In addition to a theoretical reading list, we will engage with several artistic responses to the question of the archive including, literary texts, films, photography and dance.

ISLAMIC LAW THROUGH TEXTS MDES GR6232
Professor Wael Hallaq Section 001

This graduate seminar is conducted entirely in Arabic sources. We will read various passages from the Qur’an in order to highlight the Qur’an’s moral imperatives about “living in” nature as well as about the generation of wealth and its distribution within the social order. We will then move on to examine the genre of figh (substantive law) with regard to the same themes, examining the moral structures of society in terms of the ethic of “spending.” Themes such as “making money,” building capital, charity, welfare, etc. will be examined in depth as constituting a system of checks-and-balances, through close readings of the concepts of kasb, zakat, sadaqa, waqf, etc. PROFICIENCY IN ARABIC REQUIRED.

DISSERTATION COLLOQUIUM MDES GR8008
Professor Mamadou Diouf Section 001

The dissertation colloquium is a non-credit course open to MESAAS doctoral students who have completed the M.Phil. degree. It provides a forum in which the entire community of dissertation writers meets, bridging the department's different fields and regions of research. It complements workshops outside the department focused on one area or theme. Through an encounter with the diversity of research underway in MESAAS, participants learn to engage with work anchored in different regions and disciplines and discover or develop what is common in the department's post-disciplinary methods of inquiry. Since the community is relatively small, it is expected that all post-M.Phil. students in residence will join the colloquium. Post M.Phil. students from other departments may request permission to join the colloquium, but places for non-MESAAS students will be limited. The colloquium convenes every semester, meeting once every two weeks. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of one or two pre-circulated pieces of work (a draft prospectus or dissertation chapter). Every participant contributes at least one piece of work each year.

STUDY OF GENDER & SEXUALITY IN THE ARABIC WORLD MDES GR8280
Professor Joseph A Massad Section 001

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission. This course aims to familiarize graduate students with the different methods and approaches that US and European scholars have used to study gender and sexuality in other societies generally, and the way they study them in the context of the Arab World specifically. The course will also explore how Arab scholars have also studied their own societies. We will survey these different approaches, both theoretical and empirical, outlining their methodological difficulties and limitations. Readings will consist of theoretical elaborations of these difficulties and the methodological and empirical critiques that the field itself has generated in order to elaborate how gender and sexuality in the Arab World have been studied, or more accurately, not studied, and how many of these methodological pitfalls can be avoided.

 

LANGUAGE COURSES


For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Registrar's Directory of Classes.