Fall 2016 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)



Professor George Saliba

Professor Debashree Mukherjee

This course offers an expansive journey through the forms, pleasures, and meanings of Indian cinema. It explores the plural beginnings of popular film; the many competing cinemas produced across India; the diverse protagonists (from vamps to vigilantes) that populate the imagined entity named ‘national cinema’; and the varied audiences addressed by these cinemas. Over the course of the semester, we will watch 15 of the most iconic narrative films produced in India, including Diamond Queen (1940), Awara (1951), Deewar (1975), Roja (1992), Mahanagar (1963), and Bandit Queen (1994). As we voyage with the dynamic, shifting codes and priorities of India’s fiction filmmaking, we also shadow the emergence of the Indian nation and contestations of its coherence.

Professor Gil Anidjar

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.

Professor Kai Kresse

This course offers an introduction to East African history and society. It is intended primarily for those who have taken an introductory course in African studies, such as MDES W2030 Major Debates in the Study of Africa or AFCV 1020 African Civilization, or similar courses in South Asian or Middle Eastern studies. Students read anthropological and historical studies of the region, alongside works of literature by a number of leading East African writers. The course emphasizes the historical role of the Swahili coast and Swahili language as forces that shaped an interconnected world stretching far inland and across the Indian Ocean, but that also shaped adversity and antagonisms.CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement.

Wael Hallaq

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

Professor Dan Miron

The course traces the development of Israeli literature since its inception in the 1940s to the end of the twentieth century. It ponders the why and the how of its separation from the earlier Hebrew literature, focuses the new issues it tackled and the new themes and forms in which these issues were expressed. Both major poets (Alterman, Amicahi, Zach, Ravikovich et al.), and major novelists (Yizhar, Shamir, Oz, Yehoshua, Shabtai, et al.) will be discussed. Texts can be read in the original Hebrew or in English translations.

Professor Mamadou Diouf

This seminar offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the history of African cities. It cuts across disciplinary boundaries of history, geography, anthropology, political and cultural sociology, literature and cultural studies, to explore the vaious trajectories of urbanization on the continent.

Professor Joseph Massad

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, autobioghraphies 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.

Professor Wael Hallaq

Through detailed discussions of certain landmarks in Islamic legal history (e.g., origins; early formation; sources of law; intellectual make-up; the workings of court; legal change; women in the law; legal effects of colonialism; modernity and legal reform, etc.), the course aims at providing an introductory but integrated view of Islamic law, a definition, so to speak, of what it was/is. Please note, thsi course must be taken for a letter grade.

Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi

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.

Professor Kai Kresse

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.

Professor S. Akbar Zaidi

This course is designed for undergraduate students to be a survey course of modern Pakistani history from 1947 to the present. The course will examine the six "eras" that help define Pakistan's history, and will highlight political, economic and institutional developments. The completion of this course should prepare students for further and more advanced work on South Asia.

Professor Hamid Dabashi

The purpose of this course is an examination of the genre of epic and its narrative connection to empire-building. The primary text that will be used in this critical examination is the Persian epic poem Shahnameh, composed by Abolqasem Ferdowsi circa 1000 CE.

Professor Mamadou Diouf

This seminar examines Sufism and Society in West Africa considering three periods: the pre-colonial, the colonial, and the postcolonial. Islam has been have been global and uneven, and has operated with various effects across and within different African regions and communities. Its focus is the intersection of politics, society and geography. Using colonialism, empire, and globalization as key analytical frames of the interactions of religion and society, the seminar explores (a) the multiple geographies of the expansion of and resistance to Islam as well its accommodation and revision and (b) the histories of cultures forms, politics, economies and representations which are shaped by – and have been shaping the various ways in which religion is publicly and privately performed.

Professor Kai Kresse

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. In readings and discussions, we will keep the relationship between the two main discursive fields in view, and also (re-)consider the ongoing relevance of colonialism and colonial experiences in relation to them. Conceptual reflections on modernity and postcolonial experience(s) need to be based upon empirical research, and underpinned by regional socio-historical knowledge of the settings and scenarios discussed - there is no 'modernity' per se and no 'postcolonial experience' as such. We will involve comparative, historical and contemporary angles of discussion, and pursue an interest in critical conceptualization in relation to social and political realities in Africa, and with a view to African thinkers.

Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi

The course explores cold war strategies and effects in Arab culture, 1950-1991, in comparison with similar applications and methods in other parts of the world. A stage and volatile space, Arab culture of the cold war period presents a case of significant engagements with and implications for the rest of the world. While acquainting students with the emergence, implementation and impact of the cold war as pervasive strategic penetration into arts, literature, and education, especially during the heyday of cold war politics.

Professor Rakesh Ranjan

This is a one-semester course for those upper level undergraduate and graduate students who have an advanced level of proficiency in Hindi. This course is designed to develop students’ pedagogical and analytical skills in Hindi and to prepare them to teach Hindi in the language classroom. It aims to review grammatical and socio-cultural features of Hindi and expose students to pedagogical methodologies and practices of Hindi. Topics include teaching grammar (inflectional and derivational features of nominal and verbal phrases, types of clauses, and syntactic features of simple and complex sentences), registers, and communicative competence. It will discuss student-centered learning, task-based learning, and the use of technology in teaching, and methods for working with different categories of learners at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. One collective activity will be to review and analyze current textbooks and web resources so that students are fully familiar with existing materials and engage critically with current pedagogical practice. At the end of the course, students will understand key issues in Hindi language pedagogy, learn to develop lesson plans, design a curriculum and teach a Hindi class independently.

Professor Mana Kia

This course engages with the history of early modern India (c. 1500-1800) through the analytic lenses of gender, culture and power with an emphasis on Persianate contexts. Our main question is how the analytics of gender and sexuality can illuminate issues surrounding culture and power in India. Conversely, we explore how early modern Indian contexts challenge the assumptions of theoretical works on gender and sexuality. The topics we consider include the politics of history writing, mysticism, self-fashioning, imperial self-figuring, the ethics and aesthetics of morality, love, heroism, homosocial relations and homoerotic practices. To this end, we read theoretical works, recent scholarly studies and an array of primary sources such as memoirs, moral exempla, historical chronicles, monuments, paintings, Sufi sayings (malfuzat), epic literature, moral philosophy, and political advice literature.

Professor Timothy Mitchell

The purpose of this seminar is to investigate the theoretical and historical dimension of Colonialism as one of the most vociferous forces of change in modernity. The seminar is intended primarily for graduate students. Advanced undergraduate students will be considered only after interview. In this course, we will follow two simultaneous tracks: As we explore various theoretical issues concerning colonialism, we will equally navigate the historical manifestations of this force in various continental contexts. The course is heavily investigative, research-based, and bibliography-oriented. We are primarily after an investigation of the economic and social changes that preceded and followed colonialism.

Professors Sudipta Kaviraj and Dan Miron

A reading course on Literary Theory and Social Theory for students and faculty of MESAAS and the broader Columbia community from the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will take up in greater detail some of the issues of Literary and Social Theories and employ them to think on the research topics of the participants in the seminar. The course is conceived as part of an ongoing project that will acquaint students, who are seriously interested in literary theory, with these thinkers and theoretical traditions in greater depth and detail. The course that will take place this fall will concentrate on works by Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukacs. Theoretical texts are selected for each week and one student or faculty participants will make a presentation in which the connections between the theory and the research projects will be explored and discussed by the group.

Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi

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.

Professor Dan Miron

The course will survey the development of Israeli Literature within three time sections and along the evolving process of its three main genres. The time sections are those a) the birth of Israeli literature in the aftermath of the 1948 War (the 1950s); b)the maturation of Israeli literature during the 1960s and 1970s; c) Israeli Literature in the era of the peace process and the Intifadas (1980s and 1990s). The genres are those of lyrical poetry, prose fiction (mainly novels), and drama. The course will also follow the crystallization of three sets of Israeli poetics: the conservative (realistic) one, the modernist, and the post-modernist ones. All texts will be available in English translations. Participation does not depend on former knowledge of Hebrew or Israeli literature.

Professor Hamid Dabashi

This course will go over some philosophical and interpretative problems raised by recent works in a field described as "postcolonial theory". It will start with the original debates about "Orientalism" – particularly its critical arguments about the question of representation of the Orient in art and literature, the question of the writing of history, and the logic of basic concepts in the social sciences. The course will analyse some "Orientalist" texts in detail, assess the criticisms offered by postcolonial writers, and take up these three problems – of representation, history and conceptualization for detailed, rigorous critical discussion.

Professor Timothy Mitchell

Professor Joseph A Massad

This doctoral seminar will address how the universalization of sexuality as an essential human (and sometime animal) attribute that transcends cultures began to be studied in U.S. academia in earnest in the 1970s, proceeding apace with the mobilization for sexual rights in U.S. domestic social activism, and by the 1980s with the mobilization of universal human rights as a central agenda for both U.S. foreign policy and international activism. With the era of globalization, these trends intensified with the aggressive proliferation of Western-funded non-governmental organizations in the Global North and South. The seminar will examine the literature on the universalization of sexual rights and identities by U.S. and European activists and scholars and the implication this has for sexual citizenship in the Global North and for sexuality studies itself in the Western Academy. Of particular interest to the seminar will be the resistance attributed by this literature to Islam, Muslims, and Arabs to assimilate into this new regime of universal sexuality, whether located in the Muslim or Arab worlds, or among Muslim populations in Europe and the United States and how the latter's presence in the heart of the Global North may influence sexual citizenship negatively.



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