MESAAS Courses Spring 2017

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-MESAAS)
  • CLME (Comparative Literature-MESAAS)
  • HSME (History-MESAAS)
  • ANME (Anthropology-MESAAS)



Max R Shmookler Section 001

How did the novel come to be seen as the dominant form of Arabic literary modernity in the twentieth century? And what other forms ofliterary expression and imagination might be obscured by the conflation of the novel and the modem? To explore these intertwined questions, we will study a set of Arabic texts composed before and during the so-called rise of the novel from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. These texts draw from a variety of literary traditions, techniques, and forms, giving us a sense of the heterogeneous literary imaginary that was subsequently subsumed by the modular form of the novel. Reading these texts alongside (and sometimes against) the scholarship that purports to explain them, we will discuss the major historiographical, aesthetic, and theoretical debates in the study of modem Arabic literature. 

Sheldon Pollock Section 001

AHUM UN1399 and UN1400 form a sequence, but either may be taken separately. UN1399 may also be taken as part of a sequence with AHUM UN3830.  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.

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 will examine the coincidence, as well as the discrepancy, between modernist poetics and the nationalist imagination. It will ask how literature constructs national consciousness and whether, and in what ways, it ever exceeds it.

Hamid Dabashi 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, theatre, arts, films, poetry, music, and the short novel.

 Owen Cornwall Section 001

This course explores the beginnings of Islam in South Asia, its growth over time, and the development of South Asian Muslims’ cultural, social, religious, and political life from the 8th century until the present. It assumes no previous background in Islamic or South Asian studies. Readings will include not only scholarly works but also material in translation from chronicles, biographies, memoirs, novels, stories, and other primary sources.

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.

 Literature and Cultures of Struggle in South AfricaMDES 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.

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.

Debashree Mukherjee Section 001

This lecture course introduces students to the power and meaning of popular visual cultures of South Asia. Visual culture is a crucial arena for the enactment of social transformations and the creation of collective imaginaries. We will track such varied modern media types as calendar art, photography, film, architecture, clothing, and religious festivals, loosely following key chronological signposts in the shared histories of the subcontinent. Together, we will practice a new way of understanding history and society – a visual way that will make us aware of the diversity of hopes, fears, and dreams that comprise South Asia. Designed for students with a basic understanding of South Asian history, the course aims to familiarize you with key methodological approaches in visual culture studies and current debates in South Asian art history and media theory.

Jinny K Prais Section 001

This seminar offers students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of African political thought and action during the first half of the twentieth century. It brings together readings from a range of disciplines, including history, colonial and post­colonial studies, women's studies, and literary studies as well as primary documents and novels to explore African intellectuals' engagement with European imperialism and international politics, and their positioning of Africa within the twentieth century world. 

Kai Kresse 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.

Kai Kresse Section 001

In seminar discussions, we will be covering key readings in African Philosophy, following how this field of research and academic debate has emerged, progressed and become more sub­differentiated in the 20th and early 21 st century. While the main task set here is to understand the essential readings of the debate about African philosophy as it has been led by academic African philosophers, in the second part of the semester, we will pick up in an interdisciplinary manner on open questions and fields for further research that have been identified. For instance, in addressing questions of how to approach (document, qualify, understand) traditions of oral and written philosophical discourse as part of long-standing regional (and trans-regional) intellectual histories, expressed in African languages, we involve knowledge in linguistics, history, anthropology and religion.

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.

Muhsin Al-Musawi Section 001

This course studies Sufism as it has emerged, developed, and assumed its presence in Sufi autobiographies and religious and literary writings. The Sufi Path is traced in these writings that include poems like ibn al-Farid’s Poem of the Way. Sufi States and Stations are analyzed to understand this Path that reaches its culmination in an ecstatic sense of Oneness. Sufism is also a social and political phenomenon that unsettles formal theologies and involves Sufis in controversies that often end with their imprisonment and death.

Salim Tamari Section 001

This course will address the sacred, imagined and worldly Jerusalem through its social history, religious rituals, the politics of archaeology, planning and urban transformation, demographic debates, ethnicity and war.  It will examine the commodification and packaging of holy city for pilgrimage and tourism.  The course will address the current predicament of the city and its future within the context of Arab Israeli conflict.

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 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.

Translation: Premodern IndiaGU4630
Owen T Cornwall Section 001

This course will provide a survey of the historical practices of textual translation in India as well as some of the ways in which translation has been used to open up analysis of a broad set of cultural practices.  Discussion topics will range from methods of translation to conceptual commensurability, translatability, patronage and vernacularization, as the class rigorously examines how to approach the following questions: What was translation in India?  What were the ways in which it was theorized? What was the relationship between translation and political power?  How does a history of translation challenge nationalist narratives of culture, if at all? 

Hamid Dabashi Section 001

The course is a comparative examination of modern and medieval Islamic political thoughts. The seminar begins with the roots of Islamic political thoughts in the early Islamic history, as well as in the Qur'anic revelations and Prophetic Hadith traditions. We will then divide the course into two major components: medieval and modern, with the rise of European colonialism in the late 18th and early 19th century as the principal catalyst of groundbreaking changes in Islamic political thoughts.

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.

Sudipta Kaviraj Section 001

Prerequisites: MESAAS Pre-M.Phil students only. This course provides a structured setting for stand-alone M.A. students and Ph.D. students to develop their research trajectories in a way that complements normal coursework. The seminar meets occasionally throughout the spring term and each session is moderated by a faculty sponsor. This course is the second semester counterpart to the for-credit MESAAS Research Colloquium (G6008). Participation in the spring research workshop is not required, but it is strongly encouraged  

Timothy Mitchell 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.

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.



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