Fall 2018 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)

NEW MESAAS COURSES

Debates on CapitalismMDES GU4151
Elleni Zeleke Section 001

Within the literature on the history of capitalism there is a lively debate that seeks to explain the world-historical transition from feudal and tributary modes of production to the capitalist mode of production. Substantial issues raised in this debate include the question of whether capitalism can be characterized as a mode of production dominated by the exploitation of free labour; the role of international trade in the origin and development of capitalism; and the role of agriculture in promoting a transition to capitalism. Through the publication of two key texts in the late 1970s Robert Brenner's proposition that capitalism had its origins in English agriculture came to dominate the transition debate. More recently, however, there have been a number of publications that seek to challenge the Anglo-centric and Eurocentric tendencies of the entire transition debate. This course begins with the Brenner debates and then takes up revisions, critiques and challenges to that debate. Ultimately, the aim of the course is to more clearly understand the place of non-European polities and peoples in the history and development of capitalism.

Arabic Autobiography: Arabic Self-NarrativeCLME GU4226
Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

This course draws a map of Arab thought and culture in its multiple engagements with other cultures. It works globally along two lines: a theoretical one that accommodates conceptualizations of self-narrative in relation to shifting categories of center and margin; and a thematic one that selects a number of Arabic autobiographical texts with strong thematic concerns that cut across multiple cultures. More than historical accounts, these intellectual itineraries speak for the successes and failures of the secular ideology of the Arab nation-state. The course studies a number of autobiographical works; memoirs and reminiscences that are meant to rationalize and reproduce a writer’s experience from authors such as Taha Huseyn, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Hanna Mina, and Sayyid Qutb. No prior of knowledge Arabic is required.

Themes in the Arabic NovelCLME GU4262
Sarah bin Tyeer Section 001

The focus of this seminar will be novels by Arab writers. The course will explore the history of the Arabic novel: its rise, development, and evolution. We will read and analyze novels belonging to various periods in Arab history and representing diverse points of views, including gender, identities, and different sub-cultures and sub-genres. We will look into the connections therein between the novel and the historical backdrops of colonialism, decolonization, globalization, war, rights and personal independence from several perspectives and writers across the Arab world. We will also consider the modern Arabic novel’s engagement with the global, glocal, and local as well as its nod to the Arabic literary tradition; its engagement with technology, scientific progress, absurdity, loss, trauma, the human condition, as well as dystopic themes.

Origins of Armenian ArtMDES GU4347
Helen Evans Section 001

Working with objects in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Medieval Department’s offices, the course will be an interdisciplinary exploration of the creation of a sense of self-identity for the Armenian people through visual media and material culture. Coins, manuscript illuminations, stone carvings, ceramics, textiles and other media will be studied to determine the means by which the Armenian people at the level of elite and popular culture identified themselves and positioned themselves in relation to neighboring, or dominating, cultures. Relevant works from other cultures in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections will be used for comparative study. Students will do a paper on an Armenian work selected from the Museum’s collection and present an aspect of their research in class. Hands on experience with the Museum’s works of art will allow consideration of means of manufacture as well as style and iconography.

Concentration Camps: Cuba to East AsiaMDES GU4349
Khatchig Mouradian Section 001

Forcibly moving civilians to designated areas as a wartime measure has constituted a widely practiced military strategy for centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, colonial powers increasingly provided more structure and organization to these policies of relocation and internment in the Americas, Africa, and East Asia. This course provides a social history of civilian internment and mass murder from late-19th century colonial cases to World War II. Through case studies of the Spanish-Cuban war, the South African War, the Philippines-American War, the genocide of the Herrero and Nama in Southwest Africa, the Armenian Genocide, and the Holocaust, the course traces the evolution of the concentration camp from a counter-insurgency strategy in wartime to a weapon of mass murder. The course also examines the internment of Japanese Americans, and the Japanese “comfort stations” in comparative perspective.

Decolonizing VisionMDES GR5040
Gil Hochberg Section 001

This interdisciplinary seminar explores the ways in which racial, imperial, and settler colonial regimes of power instantiate regimes of vision that determine what we see, how we see, and how we are seen. We will consider how the legitimacy and authority to rule and regulate particular populations has been inextricably linked to the concomitant power to visually survey these populations and the landscapes they inhabit. We explore how colonial modernity’s abiding legacy is the institution of a way of seeing, and hence knowing, that obscures the intimacies of imperial, racial, and settler colonial projects as they produce racial, gendered, and sexual subjectivities. Most importantly, we identify “decolonial visual practices” that speak to these submerged, co-mingled histories, and that point to their continuing resonance in the present.

Apologies & Non-ApologiesMDES GR6340
Khatchig Mouradian Section 001

Why do we apologize? What are the elements of an effective apology? When is an apology not an apology? Can resentment and unforgiveness be a virtue? We will tackle these questions by delving into research in the fields of history, sociology, linguistics, philosophy, political science, and clinical and social psychology. Students will analyze texts, audio, and video of apologies offered by governments, political leaders, and other public figures, ascertaining their weaknesses and strengths, and their reception by various parties. Students will also analyze apologies and their manifestation in the media, public discourse, and literary works (memoirs, poetry, novels, and parables). After tackling interpersonal and collective apologies (and non-apologies), the course delves into literature that responds to these apologies, tackling issues of forgiveness, unforgiveness, and (re)conciliation.

NON-LANGUAGE COURSES


Major Texts: Middle East/IndiaAHUM UN1399
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.

Introduction to Islamic CivilizationASCM UN2003
Nathanael Shelley Section 001

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

Major Debates-Study of AfricaMDES UN2030
Mahmood Mamdani Section 001

This course will focus on key debates that have shaped the study of Africa in the post-colonial African academy. We will cover seven key debates: (1) Historiography; (2) Slavery and slave trades; (3) State Formation; (4) Colonialism; (5) Underdevelopment; (6) Nationalism and the anti-colonial struggle; (7) Political Identity and political violence in the post-colony. Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement.

Africa Before ColonialismHSME UN2915
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 and CultureMDES UN3000
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.

Contemporary Culture in the Arab WorldMDES UN3920
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.

Honors Thesis SeminarMDES UN3960
Timothy Mitchell Section 001

Prerequisites: minimum GPA of 3.5 in MESAAS courses. 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.

Subaltern Studies: Problems of HistoryMDES GU4057
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.

Debates on CapitalismMDES GU4151
Elleni Zeleke Section 001

Within the literature on the history of capitalism there is a lively debate that seeks to explain the world-historical transition from feudal and tributary modes of production to the capitalist mode of production. Substantial issues raised in this debate include the question of whether capitalism can be characterized as a mode of production dominated by the exploitation of free labour; the role of international trade in the origin and development of capitalism; and the role of agriculture in promoting a transition to capitalism. Through the publication of two key texts in the late 1970s Robert Brenner's proposition that capitalism had its origins in English agriculture came to dominate the transition debate. More recently, however, there have been a number of publications that seek to challenge the Anglo-centric and Eurocentric tendencies of the entire transition debate. This course begins with the Brenner debates and then takes up revisions, critiques and challenges to that debate. Ultimately, the aim of the course is to more clearly understand the place of non-European polities and peoples in the history and development of capitalism.

Arabic Autobiography: Global DimensionsCLME GU4226
Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

This course draws a map of Arab thought and culture in its multiple engagements with other cultures. It works globally along two lines: a theoretical one that accommodates conceptualizations of self-narrative in relation to shifting categories of center and margin; and a thematic one that selects a number of Arabic autobiographical texts with strong thematic concerns that cut across multiple cultures. More than historical accounts, these intellectual itineraries speak for the successes and failures of the secular ideology of the Arab nation-state. The course studies a number of autobiographical works; memoirs and reminiscences that are meant to rationalize and reproduce a writer’s experience from authors such as Taha Huseyn, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Hanna Mina, and Sayyid Qutb. No prior of knowledge Arabic is required.

Cold War Arab CultureCLME GU4231
Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

This course studies the effects and strategies of the cold war on Arab writing, education, arts and translation, and the counter movement in Arab culture to have its own identities. As the cold war functioned and still functions on a global scale, thematic and methodological comparisons are drawn with Latin America, India and Africa.

Themes in the Arabic NovelCLME GU4262
Sarah bin Tyeer Section 001

The focus of this seminar will be novels by Arab writers. The course will explore the history of the Arabic novel: its rise, development, and evolution. We will read and analyze novels belonging to various periods in Arab history and representing diverse points of views, including gender, identities, and different sub-cultures and sub-genres. We will look into the connections therein between the novel and the historical backdrops of colonialism, decolonization, globalization, war, rights and personal independence from several perspectives and writers across the Arab world. We will also consider the modern Arabic novel’s engagement with the global, glocal, and local as well as its nod to the Arabic literary tradition; its engagement with technology, scientific progress, absurdity, loss, trauma, the human condition, as well as dystopic themes.

Origins of Armenian ArtMDES GU4347
Helen Evans Section 001

Working with objects in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Medieval Department’s offices, the course will be an interdisciplinary exploration of the creation of a sense of self-identity for the Armenian people through visual media and material culture. Coins, manuscript illuminations, stone carvings, ceramics, textiles and other media will be studied to determine the means by which the Armenian people at the level of elite and popular culture identified themselves and positioned themselves in relation to neighboring, or dominating, cultures. Relevant works from other cultures in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections will be used for comparative study. Students will do a paper on an Armenian work selected from the Museum’s collection and present an aspect of their research in class. Hands on experience with the Museum’s works of art will allow consideration of means of manufacture as well as style and iconography.

Concentration Camps: Cuba to East AsiaMDES GU4349
Khatchig Mouradian Section 001

Forcibly moving civilians to designated areas as a wartime measure has constituted a widely practiced military strategy for centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, colonial powers increasingly provided more structure and organization to these policies of relocation and internment in the Americas, Africa, and East Asia. This course provides a social history of civilian internment and mass murder from late-19th century colonial cases to World War II. Through case studies of the Spanish-Cuban war, the South African War, the Philippines-American War, the genocide of the Herrero and Nama in Southwest Africa, the Armenian Genocide, and the Holocaust, the course traces the evolution of the concentration camp from a counter-insurgency strategy in wartime to a weapon of mass murder. The course also examines the internment of Japanese Americans, and the Japanese “comfort stations” in comparative perspective.

Theory and Methods IMDES GR5000
Timothy Mitchell Section 001

This course will be the first part of a two-part introduction to theoretical approaches to modern social science and cultural studies in Asian and African contexts. The first course will focus primarily on methodological and theoretical problems in the fields broadly described as historical social sciences - which study historical trends, and political, economic and social institutions and processes. The course will start with discussions regarding the origins of the modern social sciences and the disputes about the nature of social science knowledge. In the next section it will focus on definitions and debates about the concept of modernity. It will go on to analyses of some fundamental concepts used in modern social and historical analyses: concepts of social action, political concepts like state, power, hegemony, democracy, nationalism; economic concepts like the economy, labor, market, capitalism, and related concepts of secularity/secularism, representation, and identity. The teaching will be primarily through close reading of set texts, followed by a discussion. A primary concern of the course will be to think about problems specific to the societies studied by scholars of Asia and Africa: how to use a conceptual language originally stemming from reflection on European modernity in thinking about societies which have quite different historical and cultural characteristics. Open to MESAAS graduate students only

Foundation to Islamic StudiesISCS GR5000
Kathryn Spellman Poots Section 001

This course provides students with a foundation to the key concepts, theories and debates in the field of Islamic studies. Interdisciplinary in scope, and wide-ranging in substantive coverage, the seminar features weekly visits by faculty from across the university. The course will utilize major approaches in the classic areas of history, law and political economy as well as sociology, anthropology, media studies, and colonial and postcolonial studies. We will critically address theoretical questions and debates about culture and civilization, religion, secularization, law and authority, nation-states, globalization, minority rights and technology. While engaging with archetypal themes in Islamic studies, this course will also concentrate on gender and sexuality, cultural production and articulations, transnational movements, and modes of religious association and ritual in everyday life. We will examine the variety of ways that Islamic norms and practices are developed, reinterpreted, embodied and regulated in contemporary Muslim societies as well as among Muslims minorities in western contexts. This seminar is a core course for the MA in Islamic Studies and will be helpful for graduate students studying the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Qualified undergraduates may register with permission of the instructor.

Decolonizing VisionMDES GR5040
Gil Hochberg Section 001

This interdisciplinary seminar explores the ways in which racial, imperial, and settler colonial regimes of power instantiate regimes of vision that determine what we see, how we see, and how we are seen. We will consider how the legitimacy and authority to rule and regulate particular populations has been inextricably linked to the concomitant power to visually survey these populations and the landscapes they inhabit. We explore how colonial modernity’s abiding legacy is the institution of a way of seeing, and hence knowing, that obscures the intimacies of imperial, racial, and settler colonial projects as they produce racial, gendered, and sexual subjectivities. Most importantly, we identify “decolonial visual practices” that speak to these submerged, co-mingled histories, and that point to their continuing resonance in the present.

MESAAS Research ColloquiumMDES GR6008
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.

ColonialismMDES GR6020
Timothy Mitchell Section 001

Examines questions of political economy and politics through the study of colonial regimes of power and knowledge, exploring the genealogy of modern forms of property, law, finance, debt, administration, and violence. Intended primarily for Ph.D. students interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the study of politics, political economy, and world history.

Islamic Law Through TextsMDES GR6232
Wael Hallaq Section 001

Prerequisites: Proficiency in Arabic required. 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 fiqh (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.

Apologies & Non-ApologiesMDES GR6340
Khatchig Mouradian Section 001

Why do we apologize? What are the elements of an effective apology? When is an apology not an apology? Can resentment and unforgiveness be a virtue? We will tackle these questions by delving into research in the fields of history, sociology, linguistics, philosophy, political science, and clinical and social psychology. Students will analyze texts, audio, and video of apologies offered by governments, political leaders, and other public figures, ascertaining their weaknesses and strengths, and their reception by various parties. Students will also analyze apologies and their manifestation in the media, public discourse, and literary works (memoirs, poetry, novels, and parables). After tackling interpersonal and collective apologies (and non-apologies), the course delves into literature that responds to these apologies, tackling issues of forgiveness, unforgiveness, and (re)conciliation.

Modern State & Colonial SubjectANME GR6406
Mahmood Mamdani Section 001

On the development of legal thought on the colonial subject. Focus on the American Indian in the New World, and subjugated peoples in the Ottoman Empire, in British India and in tropical and southern Africa. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor's permission required.

The Classical Urdu Ghazal and GhalibMDES GR6634
Frances Pritchett Section 001

Ghalib (1797-1869) and Mir (1723-1810) are the two greatest classical ghazal poets in Urdu. Of the two, Ghalib offers a particularly rich subject for study: his ghazals have inspired over a hundred commentaries, he himself documented his own life in a remarkable set of letters, and he was the first Urdu poet to publish his own work (four times). His life spanned the crucial period from the time the British took control of Delhi in 1803, to the Rebellion of 1857. This course will combine the literary study of Ghalib's ghazals, including memorization and recitation techniques, with an examination of his cultural and political world. Class reading will be supplemented by individual research. Half the grade will be based on general class performance--including regular attendance, preparation, participation; the other half will be based both on a paper (25-30 pages) on a relevant topic that may be literary or more broadly cultural or historical, and on an oral interview about it.

Dissertation ColloquiumMDES GR8008
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.

Advanced Studies in South Asian History, Society, and Culture ANME GR8014
Partha Chatterjee Section 001

This course is intended to be an advanced graduate seminar on late medieval and modern South Asia (i.e., from roughly 1600 to the present). Students will be expected either to have taken a previous graduate course on South Asia or to have extensive background in South Asian studies. The content of the course will change from year to year depending on the particular interests of the students and the professor. Students will be expected to prepare a paper based on primary research, and will make a presentation on the issues involved in their research at some point during the second half of the term. Prerequisites: previous graduate course on South Asia or background in South Asian studies. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor's permission required.

Psychoanalysis, Identity, CultureMDES GR8206
Joseph A Massad Section 001

This graduate seminar aims to introduce students to Freud and Freudian Psychoanalysis and the integration of both in critical theory. The main question the seminar aims to study is the formation of identity in psychoanalysis and how it relates to civilization and culture more generally, whether in its gender, sexual, or national configurations. The influence of Social Darwinism and Developmentalism more generally on Freudian psychoanalysis will be discussed as well as the importance of related temporal concepts deployed in psychoanalysis' insistence on the divide between primitivism and culture. We will discuss a number of major scholarly works engaging Freud's theories on all these questions and their relevance to social and cultural analysis.

History and TheoryHIST GR8944
Anupama Rao Section 001

This course is attentive to how social contexts shape the reception of ideas that are assumed to have universal purchase. The seminar adopts a historical mode of presentation, and locates social theory in its global contexts with a specific focus on the global South.We follow the itinerary of two concepts, equality and difference. Can we write a global history of social thought? How are ideas and contexts transformed when they encounter forms of social difference (e.g., race, caste, religion) that must be thought on their own terms? What is the relationship between commitments to equality, on the one hand, and the preservation of difference on the other? Readings for the seminar will include a mix of classic texts of social theory, and monographs in history and anthropology that seek to engage and redirect the energies of social thought toward questions of translation, commensuration, and alterity.

 

LANGUAGE COURSES


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