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.
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)
|Critical Theory: A Global Perspective||MDES UN1001|
|Hamid Dabashi||Section 001|
The purpose of this foundational course is to introduce Columbia undergraduate students, in the context of their Global Core curriculum, to the seminal field of critical theory. The historical domain of this course is within the last century and its geographical spectrum is global. European critical thinkers are included in this course but not privileged. Thinkers from Asia, Africa, Europe, North, South, and Latin America, are examined here in chronological order and in equal democratic footing with each other. This course as a result is decidedly cross-cultural, one step forward towards de-alienating critical thinkers from around the globe and the issues they address without pigeonholing them as something “other” or “different.” The course is designed and offered in the true spirit of the “Global Core.” The purpose of the course is to reach for the common denominator of serious critical thinking about the fate of our humanity and the health of our social relations in an increasingly fragile world—where the false binaries of “the West” and “the Rest” no longer hold. The roster of critical thinkers we will examine is by no means exhaustive but representative. Any number of other critical thinkers can be added to this roster but none of those we will examine can be excluded from them. The course is divided into thirteen successive weeks and for each week a number of seminal, original, and groundbreaking texts are identified. Each week we will examine selected passages from these texts. The course is designed as a lecture course, and my lectures are based on the totality of these texts but students will be assigned specific shorter passages to read.
|African Civilization||AFCV UN1020|
|Elleni Zeleke||Section 002|
This course provides a general introduction to some of the key intellectual debates in Africa by Africans through primary sources, including scholarly works, political tracts, fiction, art, and film. Beginning with an exploration of African notions of spiritual and philosophical uniqueness and ending with contemporary debates on the meaning and historical viability of an African Renaissance, this course explores the meanings of ‘Africa' and ‘being African.' Field(s): AFR*. NO FIRST YEAR STUDENTS PERMITTED.
|Major Texts: Middle East and India||AHUM UN1399|
|Elaine Van Dalen||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 Islamic Civilization||ASCM UN2008|
|Nathanael Shelly||Section 001|
Lecture and recitation. No previous study of Islam is required. The contemporary Islamic world studied through freshly translated texts; recorded interviews with religious, political, and intellectual leaders; and films highlighting the main artistic and cultural currents. Topics include religion and society, religion, and politics, issues of development, theories of government, gender issues, East-West confrontation, theater, arts, films, poetry, music, and the short novel.
|Palestinian-Israeli Politics and Society||MDES UN3042|
|Joseph A Massad||Section 001|
The History of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) in 19th century Europe and the development of Zionism through the current "peace process" between the state of Israel and the Arab states and the Palestinian national movement. Provides a historical overview of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict to familiarize undergraduates with the background of the current situation. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.
|Literatures and Cultures of Struggle in South Africa||MDES UN3121|
|Jennifer Wenzel||Section 001|
Generations of resistance have shaped contemporary life in South Africa -- in struggles against colonialism, segregation, the legislated racism known as apartheid, and the entrenched inequalities of the post-apartheid era. Two constants in this history of struggle have been youth as a vanguard of liberation movements and culture as a "weapon of struggle." As new generation of South African youth -- the "born frees" -- has now taken to the streets and social media to "decolonize" the university and claim their education as a meaningful right, this course traces the ways that generations of writers, artists, and activists have faced censorship, exile, and repression in an ongoing struggle to dismantle apartheid and to free the mind, "the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor" according to Black Consciousness activist Steve Biko. This course traces the profoundly important roles that literature and other cultural production (music, photography, film, comics, Twitter hashtags like #rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall) have played in struggle against apartheid and its lingering afterlife. Although many of our texts were originally written in English, we will also discuss the historical forces, including nineteenth-century Christian missions and Bantu Education, as well as South Africa's post-1994 commitment to being a multilingual democracy, that have shaped the linguistic texture of South African cultural life.
|Ancient Sciences in the Medieval Islamic World||MDES UN3251|
|Mohammad Sadegh Ansari||Section 001|
“ʿUlūm al-awāʾil”, or the “Science of the Ancients” was one of the many names given to the body of knowledge that the Islamic civilization inherited from the Ancient Greek nature-knowledge system. By the end of the 10th century CE the Islamic civilization had appropriated many branches of the Greek knowledge, including cosmological philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, music, and medicine among other disciplines. While some of these disciplines, such as cosmological philosophy, were heavily opposed by proponents of traditional sciences (Qur’anic exegesis, Hadith scholarship, Arabic grammar, etc.), many of them became legitimate fields of knowledge for Muslim intellectuals and scholars for many centuries until the dawn of modern science. With the advent of modern science, some of these disciplines, such as mathematics and astronomy, were absorbed in the new scientific paradigm as “exact sciences”; many others were relegated to the domain of “occult sciences”. This course aims at surveying the “Ancient sciences” in medieval Islam by studying several of these disciplines, both “exact” and “occult”.
|Rethinking Middle East Politics||MDES UN3260|
|Timothy Mitchell||Section 001|
This course examines a set of questions that have shaped the study of the politics of the modern Middle East. It looks at the main ways those questions have been answered, exploring debates both in Western academic scholarship and among scholars and intellectuals in the region itself. For each question, the course offers new ways of thinking about the issue or ways of framing it in different terms. The topics covered in the course include: the kinds of modern state that emerged in the Middle East and the ways its forms of power and authority were shaped; the birth of economic development as a way of describing the function and measuring the success of the state, and the changing metrics of this success; the influence of oil on the politics of the region; the nature and role of Islamic political movements; the transformation of the countryside and the city and the role of rural populations and of urban protest in modern politics; and the politics of armed force and political violence in the region, and the ways in which this has been understood. The focus of the course will be on the politics of the twentieth century, but many topics will be traced back into developments that occurred in earlier periods, and several will be explored up to the present. The course is divided into four parts, each ending with a paper or exam in which participants are asked to analyze the material covered. Each part of the course has a geographical focus on a country or group of countries and a thematic focus on a particular set of questions of historical and political analysis.
|Urban Space and Conflict in the Middle East||MDES UN3331|
|Khatchig Mouradian||Section 001|
This course explores how civil war, revolution, militarization, mass violence, refugee crises, and terrorism impact urban spaces, and how city dwellers engage in urban resilience, negotiate and attempt to reclaim their right to the city. Through case studies of Beirut (1975-present), Baghdad (2003-present), Cairo (2011-present), Diyarbakir (1914-present), Aleppo (1914-present), and Jerusalem (1914-present), this course traces how urban life adjusted to destruction (and post-conflict reconstruction), violence, and anarchy; how neighborhoods were reshaped; and how local ethnic, religious, and political dynamics played out in these cities and metropolises. Relying on multi-disciplinary and post-disciplinary scholarship, and employing a wealth of audiovisual material, literary works, and interviews conducted by the instructor, the course scrutinizes how conflicts have impacted urban life in the Middle East, and how civilians react to, confront, and resist militarization in urban spaces.
|Arabic Prison Writing||CLME UN3928|
|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.
|Honors Thesis Seminar||MDES 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.
|Rethinking Freedom in Africa||MDES GU4152|
|Elleni Zeleke||Section 001|
Through the study of a set of key theoretical and fictional texts that range from the late 1960s to the present we will attempt to understand the “pitfalls of national consciousness” within historically existing African emancipatory projects. The texts that we will read will help us comprehend the nature of race, racism, ethnicity, and class struggle within the struggle for African freedom. Overall, the course will unfold in four sequences. In the first sequence we will examine the new debates that have emerged from within the Afro-pessimist literature. Here we will be concerned with the assertion within this body of writing about the impossibility of a collective African emancipatory project in this world. Secondly, because the Afro-pessimist literature is primarily concerned with rethinking freedom in Africa through Frantz Fanon, the course will then turn to the most recent secondary literature on Fanon from Africa (broadly conceived). Our objective here is twofold: to stage a debate regarding stakes between this secondary literature and the Afro-pessimist literature and to pose the question more generally of what it has meant to think of freedom from within Africa. The third sequence of the course will then turn to a rereading of classic texts associated with African emancipatory projects including the writings of Fanon, Amìlcar Cabral, and Steve Biko as a way to ground our thinking within these debates. Lastly, we will turn to the novels of Ben Okri so as to potentially identify and rethink the limits of contemporary debates about the prospects for freedom in Africa today.
|Pan Africanism||HSME GU4154|
|Mamadou Diouf||Section 001|
“Pan Africanist” ideologies were very diverse from Garveyism, Negritude to the various African America, Caribbean and African discourses of “neo-pharaohnism” and “Ethiopianism.” This seminar explores how Black leaders, intellectuals, and artists chose to imagine Black (Africans and people of African descent) as a global community from the late 19th century to the present. It examines their attempts to chart a course of race, modernity, and emancipation in unstable and changing geographies of empire, nation, and state. Particular attention will be given to manifestations identified as their common history and destiny and how such a distinctive historical experience has created a unique body of reflections on and cultural productions about modernity, religion, class, gender, and sexuality, in a context of domination and oppression.
|Arabic Literary Production||CLME GU4225|
|Muhsin Al-Musawi||Section 001|
This course applies current theories to the study of Arabic literary production. It focuses on forms of the 'sacred' and social critique that have developed over time and gathered momentum in the modern period. Although a number of Arab intellectual interventions are used to substantiate literary production, the primary concern of the discussion is narrative. A base for modern narrative was laid in the tenth century Maqamat of Badi al-Zaman al-Hamadhani that led in turn to the growth of this phenomenal achievement that set the stage for narratives of contestation, crisis, and critique.
|Rethinking Middle East Politics||MDES GU4260|
|Timothy Mitchell||Section 001|
This course examines a set of questions that have shaped the study of the politics of the modern Middle East. It looks at the main ways those questions have been answered, exploring debates both in Western academic scholarship and among scholars and intellectuals in the region itself. For each question, the course offers new ways of thinking about the issue or ways of framing it in different terms. The topics covered in the course include: the kinds of modern state that emerged in the Middle East and the ways its forms of power and authority were shaped; the birth of economic development as a way of describing the function and measuring the success of the state, and the changing metrics of this success; the influence of oil on the politics of the region; the nature and role of Islamic political movements; the transformation of the countryside and the city and the role of rural populations and of urban protest in modern politics; and the politics of armed force and political violence in the region, and the ways in which this has been understood. The focus of the course will be on the politics of the twentieth century, but many topics will be traced back into developments that occurred in earlier periods, and several will be explored up to the present. The course is divided into four parts, each ending with a paper or exam in which participants are asked to analyze the material covered. Each part of the course has a geographical focus on a country or group of countries and a thematic focus on a particular set of questions of historical and political analysis. Discussion Section Required.
|Colonial Encounters||MDES GU4263|
|Rena Barakat||Section 001|
This course focuses on issues related to colonial encounters over time, space and geographies. The course is organized around issues that emerge from thinking about the past and present of colonialism and how those encounters affect and frame epistemological as well as ontological questions. We will explore the themes and lines of thought that are helpful in thinking about our contemporary conditions in terms of colonial history. As such, this course examines different types of colonialisms in their various forms and iterations over time and space and their attendant narrations and stories regarding the relationship to the past and present. This course is also about the various ways, means and methods that colonized people(s) confront(ed) colonial violence, domination, and other forms of power. Throughout the semester we ask questions related to histories of colonialisms, comparative colonial settings, settler colonial trajectories, and indigenous responses to settler power. The course will travel in theory and space, in terms of geography and temporality, while prioritizing a focus on the Middle East.
|Rumi:The Poet, The Mystic, The Muslim||MDES GU4264|
|Hamid Dabashi||Section 001|
This seminar is a close encounter with the towering figure of Persian mystical poet Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi and his monumental masterpiece, The Masnavi. Rumi (1207-1273) is a seminal figure in Persian poetry and Islamic mysticism. His seminal chef-d'oeuvre Masnavi is the centerpiece of his poetic legacy. He has been widely read and deeply loved by generations of Muslim and non-Muslim readers. His recent popularity in North America amounts to a renaissance of his poetry in a fertile ground. The Masnavi (1258-1273) consists of six books of poetry, 25000 verses or 5000 lines. It is one of the most significant mystical dramas performed in Persian poetry. A close reading of this classical text is a singular inroad into the variegated landscape of Persian poetry and Islamic mysticism. The course consists of regular readings of the original Persian text alongside its most recent English translation. We will then locate the Masnavi within the larger historical and literary context of its time and provenance.
|Wanderlust: Readings in Arabic Writing||CLME GU4271|
|Sarah Bin Tyeer||Section 001|
Travel is a prominent feature of Arab-Islamic literature. As Individuals have consistently sought to understand and extend their physical, spiritual, and imaginative worlds, we will, in this course, join them in exploring the literary trope of travel through the physical and non-physical, real and imagined geographies. In this seminar, we will read fictional and non-fictional writing about travel, space, and place from Sindbad’s Voyages to Mahmoud Darwish’s exile poetry.
|War, Genocide, and the Aftermath||MDES GU4357|
|Khatchig Mouradian||Section 001|
This 4000-level course examines how societies grapple with the legacy of mass violence, through an exploration of historical texts, memoirs, textbooks, litigation, and media reports and debates on confronting the past. Focusing on case studies of the Herero Genocide, the Armenian genocide during WWI, and the Holocaust and the Comfort Women during WWII, students investigate the crime and its sequelae, looking at how societies deal with skeletons in their closets ( engaging in silence, trivialization, rationalization, and denial to acknowledgment, apology, and repair); surveying responses of survivors and their descendants (with particular attention to intergeneration transmission of trauma, forgiveness, resentment, and the pursuit of redress); and dissecting public debates on modern day issues that harken back to past atrocities.
|Readings in Hebrew Texts II||MDES GU4502|
|Naama Harel||Section 001|
Prerequisites: MDES W4501 or the instructor's permission. Students must have a good familiarity with the Hebrew verb system, and the ability to read a text without vowels. This course focuses on central identities shaping Israeli society and is designed to give students extensive experience in reading Hebrew. Through selected readings of contemporary literary works and media texts, students will increase their proficiency in Hebrew and enhance their understanding of Israeli culture and society. All readings, written assignments, and class discussions are in Hebrew. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.
|Modernism, Nationalism, Revival: Readings in Modern Hebrew Literature||JWST GU4537|
|Roni Henig||Section 001|
Exploring a rich variety of literary prose fiction, this course focuses on the emergence of modernism in Hebrew literature at the turn of the 20th century. Ever since the 19th century Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), Hebrew literature has played a major role in the processes of permutation and transition within Jewish society, articulating new modes of thinking on matters such as body, identity, sexuality and language. In both its themes and aesthetics, Hebrew literature not only reflected these processes, but in fact created and shaped the public sphere within which these new ideas emerged. Identifying literature as an institution of the modern, intertwined with the rise of nationalism, this course examines the coincidence, as well as the discrepancy, between modernist poetics and the nationalist imagination. It asks how literature constructs national consciousness and whether, and in what ways, it ever exceeds it. No prior knowledge of Hebrew is required. All texts are available in English translation.
|Readings in Hindi Literature II||MDES GU4611|
|Allison Busch||Section 001|
This course introduces students to the riches of the classical Hindi Tradition. We read Bhakti and Sufi Literature in tandem, with a special interest in Tulsidas and the Indo-Islamic Romance. Prerequisite:Two years of Hindi-Urdu or the instructor's permission.
|Readings in Urdu Literature II||MDES GU4636|
|Aftab Ahmad||Section 001|
Prerequisites: two years of prior coursework in Hindi-Urdu (MDES W1612 & MDES W1613), one year of Urdu for Heritage Speakers (MDES W1614 & MDES W1615), or the instructor's permission. This course is a literary course, with in-depth exposure to some of the finest works of classical and modern Urdu prose and poetry. In the fall semester, our focus will be on some of the most famous Urdu short stories while, in the spring semester, we will focus on various genres of Urdu poetry. The content may change each semester. This course is open to both undergraduates and graduates. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.
|Gender, Power, and Culture in Early Modern India||MDES GU4654|
|Mana Kia||Section 001|
Explores gender, culture, power in India, c. 1500-1800 by reading theoretical works on gender and sexuality, scholarship relevant to early modern India, and a variety of primary sources. Topics include morality, mysticism, devotion, desire, kingship, heroism, homosocial relations, and homoerotic practices. The focus is largely on Persianate contexts, in conversation with broader South Asian and Islamic studies. This discussion seminar is designed for graduate and advanced undergraduate students, with some previous background in South Asian, Islamic, or gender studies.
|Readings in Ottoman Texts II||MDES GU4927|
|Zuleyha Colak||Section 001|
Prerequisites: Elementary Ottoman Turkish. This course deals with authentic Ottoman texts from the early 18th and 19th centuries. The class uses Turkish as the primary language for instruction, and students are expected to translate assigned texts into Turkish or English. A reading packet will include various authentic archival materials in rika, talik and divani styles. Whenever possible, students will be given texts that are related to their areas of interest. Various writing styles will be dealt with on Ottoman literature, history, and archival documents. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.
|Theory and Methods II||MDES GR5001|
|Gil Anidjar||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|
|Gil Hochberg||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.
|Dissertation Colloquium||MDES 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.
|Study of Gender and Sexuality in the Arab World||MDES GR8280|
|Joseph 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.
For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Registrar's Directory of Classes.