Fall 2020

MES Fall 2020 Course Offerings

Arabic 1: Beginning Arabic

  • Jamila Chahboun @ B, taught remotely with Synchronous Components
  • Mostafa Ouajjani @ B, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

An introduction to written and spoken Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). In addition to mastering the basics of grammar, emphasis is placed on active functional communication in the language, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. Mandatory apprentice-teacher-run drill sessions meet four times/week (4 hours/week) for all beginning Arabic language classes.

Arabic 22: Intermediate Arabic @ C, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Jamila Chahboun

Intermediate level of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Continuation of presentation of fundamentals of grammar and development of proficiency in reading, writing, spoken communication skills, and aural comprehension, including much authentic cultural material.


Arabic 31: Advanced Arabic @ C, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Mostafa Ouajjani

A continuation of the fundamentals of grammar and further acquisition of spoken communication skills, aural comprehension, and proficiency in reading and writing. Students will be expected to master a wide variety of reading materials.


Arabic 41: Advanced Arabic @ arranged time, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  •  Hussein Kadhim

This three-course series (41, 42 and 43) may be taken non-sequentially. Readings for the courses are extensive and of a high level of complexity; they are drawn from a variety of genres and periods. The progression towards full proficiency in the language is a fundamental objective of the sequence. The courses will be conducted entirely in Arabic.


Arabic 59: Advanced Independent Study in Arabic @ arranged time


Hebrew 1: Beginning Hebrew @ F, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Nurit Ben Yehuda

An introduction to spoken and written Modern Israeli Hebrew (MIH). In addition to mastering the basics of grammar, emphasis is placed on active functional communication in the language, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. Mandatory student-run drill sessions meet four times/week for one hour (4 hours/week) for all beginning Hebrew language classes.


Hebrew 21: Intermediate Modern Hebrew @ arranged time, taught remotely with Synchronous Components (CANCELLED)

  • Nurit Ben Yehuda

Continued study of Modern Israeli Hebrew grammar and syntax. Emphasis is placed on acquisition of the spoken language and on listening and reading comprehension. The course includes selected readings from contemporary Hebrew authors.


Hebrew 59: Advanced Independent Study in Hebrew @ arranged time


MES 2.03/*HIST 4.03: Introduction to the Modern Middle East and North Africa @ D, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Golnar Nikpour

The diverse nations and peoples that make up the Middle East and North Africa are of major significance in our contemporary world, at the same time that they are often misunderstood or given only superficial (albeit spectacular) popular attention. This lecture course is designed to give students a nuanced introductory overview of the modern histories of this region. Students will read a variety of primary and secondary materials designed to familiarize them with the historical, cultural, and social processes that have affected and transformed the region in question, and will learn to put these regional histories in a global framework. The course begins with a brief summary of the early modern Islamicate "Gunpowder" Empires—Mughal, Safavid/Qajar, Ottoman—and then moves through several topics of significance: the era of European colonialism; the establishment of the nation state; competing discourses of nationalism; the emergence of Third Worldist and anti-colonial movements; the Israeli- Palestinian conflict; debates over the politics of gender; the effects of the Cold War; the processes of decolonization and the establishment of post-colonial states; the rise of revolutionary Islamism; oil politics and policies; globalization and neoliberalism; 9/11, terrorism, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Arab uprisings of 2010-2011; and the region's uncertain present and future.


MES 8.01/GOVT 40.25: Introduction to Middle East Politics @ K, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Ezzedine Fishere

This is a gateway course to the political life of the Middle East. It will introduce students to the main political issues and dynamics of the region, including:

  • Conflict and civil wars, from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Syrian collapse
  • Security arrangements, especially in oil-rich countries
  • The political economy of (mal)development
  • Political ideologies and the conflict between liberalism, nationalism and Islamism
  • International politics and the American presence in the region
  • Rivalries and alliances among Middle Eastern powers, including Iran and Turkey
  • The return of authoritarianism and stalled democratic processes
  • Terrorism
  • Anti-colonialism

We will cover the basic contours and intellectual debates around these issues, analyzing the main texts tracing their development. The aim of this course is not only to familiarize students with the basic political features of the Middle East but also to equip students with the tools necessary to pursue future academic and analytical work on the politics of the region.


MES 10.10/JWST 045: Soundscapes of the Middle East @ D, taught remotely with Synchronous Components -- SEE VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzmjHUx03Mg&t=11s

  • Andrew Simon

What is the relationship between popular music and the Iranian Revolution? How may jazz help us rethink the making of modern Turkey? Why is Umm Kulthum considered to be "the voice of Egypt"? In recent years, scholars have started to question the conspicuous "silence" pervading many academic works that privilege one sense – sight – to the detriment of all others. This seminar builds upon these overdue efforts by critically engaging the writings of historians, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and media experts with the aim of uncovering how the study of sound may radically enrich our understanding of the modern Middle East. Beginning with an overview of sound studies, we will consider where multi-sensory scholarship on North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf fits into this burgeoning field of inquiry. After situating the Middle East within a body of literature that is at once innovative and highly interdisciplinary, we will then shift to exploring several key themes, including religion, biography, popular culture, mass media, gender, space, and the environment, in relation to the region's diverse soundscapes. To assist us on this journey, we will conduct close readings of several primary sources, from "confidential" embassy reports and colloquial Arabic poems to contemporary noise complaints and national radio broadcasts. As a result, we will begin to look at, and listen to, the Middle East in an entirely new way.


MES 12.02: Modern Iraq: Society, Politics, and Literature @ arranged time, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Hussein Kadhim

Iraq is a pivotal country in the Middle East. Known to history as "the cradle of civilization," Iraq was also the center of the Islamic world in medieval times. From Baghdad, the present-day capital of Iraq, Abbasid caliphs ruled a vast Muslim empire from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. The political history of modern Iraq, however, has been characterized by authoritarian rule, communal strife, wars and occupation. In this course, we will examine the politics of Iraq under the British mandate, as an independent state under the monarchy, and as a republic after the coup of 1958. We will also examine the rule of the Baath and of Saddam Hussein as well as the American invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Drawing on a mixture of texts and media, the course explores the prevalent tropes of Iraqi culture, the ideologies underpinning these tropes and in doing so provides a cultural context for understanding the forces that shaped the modern history of that country.


MES 12.09/JWST 40.01/*GOVT 40.09: Politics of Israel and Palestine @ C, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Bernard Avishai

This course is about the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the many unsuccessful attempts to resolve it. First, we will examine the roots and developments of the conflict and see how Palestinian nationalism and Zionism clashed in the early 20th century giving birth to one of the world's oldest disputes. We will also examine how the involvement of Arab states in 1947 and then again in 1967 transformed the Palestinian-Israel conflict into a full-fledged Arab-Israeli confrontation, with both regional and global ramifications.


MES 12.13/*HIST 70.02: Modern Iran @ E, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

  • Golnar Nikpour

    This course examines the history of Iran from the early modern to the contemporary period. We will start in the era of the Islamicate empires then move through European imperialism, the rise of modern nationalism, the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911), the formation of Pahlavi state institutions, the 1953 coup, the 1979 revolutionary movement, the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the Iran-Iraq War, and more. Students will learn to think through Iranian history in domestic and global contexts.


    MES 16.07: Arabian Nights East and West (rescheduled for 21W term)

    • Hussein Kadhim

    An introduction to Arabo-Islamic culture through its most accessible and popular exponent, One Thousand and One Nights. The course will take this masterpiece of world literature as the focal point for a multidisciplinary literary study. It will cover the genesis of the text from Indian and Mediterranean antecedents, its Arabic recensions, its reception in the West, and its influence on European literature. The course will be taught in English in its entirety. No prerequisites.


    MES 18.01/*ARTH 42.01 Unmaking History: Contemporary Art in the Middle East @ J, taught remotely with Synchronous Components

    • Chad Elias

    This course focuses primarily on the work of contemporary artists who make work in or about the so-called Middle East. It includes recent works by artists from nations as diverse as Algeria, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Turkey and the UAE. One of the main objectives of the course is to look at art practices that attempt to deepen our understanding of the varied cultures, ethnicities and societies that are found in this part of the world. The geographic focus of the course–mostly the Muslim nations of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa–is not meant to perpetuate the assumptions about this region as a monolithic geopolitical entity, nor to blindly label its production according to existing ethnic, religious or national categories. Against media stereotypes of the region, the artists studied in this course have made work that function as a critical platform for rethinking traditional identity formations and extending the space of cultural encounter across borders (territorial, political, linguistic). In many cases these artists may not be living and working in their country of birth but their ethnicity, religion or citizenship continues to inform both their own sense of identity and the terms of their art practice. Some of the topics to be discussed include: artistic responses to the Arab-Israeli conflict, representations of everyday life in times of war, the movement and obstruction of people, goods and information across borders, the rise of new art markets in the Middle East, the politics of gender and sexuality in the Arab world, and the of use archival documents to rethink the meaning of evidence, truth and testimony.


    MES 85: Advanced Independent Research @ arranged time