Winter 2019

MES Winter 2019 Course Offerings

Arabic 2: Beginning Arabic

  • Jamila Chahboun @ 9S
  • Mostafa Ouajjani @ 9S

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 1-2: Intensive Beginning Arabic @ 9S & 2 (CANCELLED)

  • Mokhtar Bouba

Arabic 1-2 is a combined course of elementary to intermediate beginner Arabic that is built on the fundamentals experiential and skill-based learning. The focus of this course falls exclusively on Modern Standard Arabic- العربية الفصحى (MSA)-- the standard language for reading, writing, and all formal speech in the media and school instruction. It is the basic foundation for any serious engagement with the Middle East and North Africa.

We focus on the progressive development of the four skills: speaking, reading, listening and writing. We start with the beginning level designed as a basic introduction to the Arabic language, where students learn vocabulary, basic grammatical structures, and effective participation in daily life interactions, to a beginner’s intermediate level that aims at building students’ skills in understanding written texts, oral and audio-visual materials on a wide variety of topics while continuing to strengthen their proficiency skills in Arabic.

This is content based and intensive course that meets twice a day for ten weeks. We will cover ten units from Alif Baa (third edition) and eight chapters from Al Kitaab part 1, (third edition). Students will be able to acquire a broad range of language skills at the conversational level. This will allow them to comprehend and integrate language strategies and access a varied set of competencies that the course provides. Students will use a variety of texts, which will allow them to engage in a direct experience through the use of the narrative forms and argumentative styles in Arabic.


Arabic 59: Advanced Independent Study in Arabic @ arranged time


Hebrew 2: Beginning Hebrew @ 2

  • 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 59: Advanced Independent Study in Hebrew @ arranged time


MES 1.01: Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies @ 2A

  • Tarek El-Ariss

Conflict seems like the lens through which the Middle East is perceived and studied. But beyond wars and religious fanaticism, are there other conflicts, both social and personal, that generate great art and dark humor expressed in literature, film, and music? This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to the modern Middle East as a field of study, a region, and a site of cultural and artistic production. Each week is structured in such a way as to offer a historical and political context for particular issues or eras, and shed light on the way people experience these issues through art and culture, contact and exchange. Starting with the examination of the rise of modernity and the effects of European colonialism on Middle Eastern politics and culture from the nineteenth century onward, we will examine the rise of nationalism, authoritarianism, and fundamentalism. We will link this discussion to recent developments in the region from the “Green Revolution” in Iran in 2009 to the “Arab Spring” starting in 2010, and analyze the role of social media and youth culture in the process. Before concluding with a discussion of Middle Eastern displacement and diaspora, we will address questions of gender and sexuality in Middle Eastern societies. No knowledge of Middle Eastern languages is required for this course.


MES 2.01/JWST 044/HIST 90.04: Making of Modern Middle East @ 12

  • Andrew Simon

What is the history of the “Arab Spring”? Why is Mustafa Kemal considered to be the “Father of the Turks”? How may cultural productions shed new light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? This panoramic course surveys major developments in Middle East history, politics, and society. Covering more than a two hundred year stretch, we will move across an expansive geography encompassing North Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Central Asia. Throughout this journey, particular attention will be paid to five important themes: imperialism, modernization, nationalism, Islam, and revolution. In the process of navigating these seminal topics, we will develop a more nuanced understanding of the modern Middle East and a greater appreciation for the insights offered by primary sources, from poems and national speeches to songs and motion-pictures, into the region’s dynamic past. We will begin with a basic question – what and where is the Middle East? – prior to exploring the impact, importance, and mechanics of empires (Ottoman, French, British, Russian). Once elucidating this imperial backdrop, we will study sweeping reforms, struggles for independence, and the fashioning of nation-states, before examining a series of revolutionary moments, America’s presence in the Middle East, and the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath. Whenever possible, we will strive to illuminate ordinary people, as opposed to only elite actors, who contributed to the making of the modern Middle East.


MES 4.01/GOVT 40.23: Energy and Society in the Middle East @ 10A

  • Dirk Vandewalle
  • Chad Elias

This course focuses on the economic, political, social and cultural consequences of rapid development in the so-called hydrocarbon states of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): states whose growth and development is highly dependent on access to the global economy for their income from oil and natural gas. The course aims to provide students with an understanding -- from both a Social Science and a Humanities perspective -- of how hydrocarbon-led development has dramatically and irrevocably changed the economic, political, and cultural fates of what were previously essentially tribal societies.


MES 6.02/*REL 8: Introduction to Islam @ 10

  • Candace Mixon

This course will provide students with useful tools for reading about, thinking about, or otherwise engaging with Islam and Muslims. It is first a survey of important topics in the study of the religion of Islam, including the Qur'an and the Prophet, the role of Islamic mysticism, Islam and the state, Islamic law, and Islamic theories of family and person. We also discuss Orientalism and the western study of Islam, so that we can understand ourselves as students of the Islamic tradition.


MES 7.01: First-Year Seminar: Arab Revolutions: Dependency, Despotism and the Struggle for Democracy @ 10A

  • Ezzedine Fishere

This course explores the long struggle of Arabs to build independent and democratic states. After long cycles of revolutions and repression, the Arab World still suffer from despotism and dependency, and its people still yearn and struggle for freedom and good governance. Why have Arab revolutions failed? Are Arabs condemned to live under tyranny or is there hope forthose who seek democratic, accountable governments and rule of law? To answer this question, we will dig into the complex political and cultural realities of the Arab World. We will read about old and new Arab revolutions; from Prince Abdul-Qader’s armed revolt in Algeria (1832-1847); Egypt’s multiple revolutions (1882 and 1919); Lawrence of Arabia’s Arab revolt (1914-1918); the bleak revolution of Palestine (1936), all the way to the Arab Spring of 2011 and its subsequent collapse into civil war and despotism. The readings cover these revolutions and the deep dynamics that shape Arab societies and states. We will also read old texts written by Arabs about freedom, despotism and renaissance. As such, this course introduces students to the politics and culture of one of the most turbulent regions of our world.


MES 10.10/JWST 045: Soundscapes of the Middle East @ 11

  • 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 12.04/GOVT 20.08: America and the Middle East @ 2A

  • Ezzedine Fishere

The United States has played a major role in shaping the political, economic and cultural development of the Middle East. Oil, global security, Israel’s survival, and promotion of democracy, all have drawn the US into the complex politics of the Middle East since the 1920s. This course introduces students to various aspects of this role and the reactions it triggered. It covers the role played by American missionaries and travelers/immigrants around the turn of the 20th century. It analyzes the transformative impact of the discovery of Oil, the establishment of the state of Israel, the Cold War, Turkey’s integration into NATO and the US attempts to establish a security regime for the Middle East. It also examines how Americans viewed the Middle East and their role in its life. In addition, the course then takes the students in a tour d’horizon of US role in Middle East politics: its involvement in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, its responses to Radical Islamism and 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and its consequences, the uneasy relationship with a changing Turkey, and its policy of “democracy promotion”. It discusses the doctrines defining US role in the region since Truman until Obama’s “disengagement”. Combining academic books with novels and movies, this course should give students a rounded view of the role and lasting impact of the United States in one of the world’s most turbulent regions.


MES 19.03/WGSS 24.01: Arab Feminisms @ 2

  • Eman Morsi

This course is an introduction to the history of feminism in the Arab world from the 19th century to the present. It examines some of the most important socioeconomic and political issues as well as aesthetic trends that were or continue to be central to feminist activism and cultural production in the region. Throughout the term students will engage with a wide range of primary sources (newspaper articles and op-eds, memoirs, novels, poems, photographs and films) that will help them develop a nuanced and critical understanding of the diverse and dynamic experiences of women in the Arab world.


MES 85: Advanced Independent Research (Senior Honors Thesis part 1) @ arranged time



MES 12.06/GOVT 40.24: Dictatorship and Dissent: the Middle East in a Global Context @ 10A 

  • Alaa Al Aswany

Dictatorship is the defining characteristic of some governments, especially in the Arab world. Dictatorship is usually described as a strongman imposing his will on the nation through sheer force. French political philosopher Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563) in his seminal essay Discours de la servitude volontaire (Discourse on Voluntary Servitude)presented the existence of a dictatorship as a relationship between two parties. Before every dictator is a population that is willing to accept rule by the dictator. The dictator cannot impose his will on a people that shun a dictatorship. Extrapolating from this concept, we can consider dictatorship to be a syndrome. The dictionary defines a syndrome as “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.” In this course, students will examine the condition, signs, symptoms, and cures for the malady of dictatorship.


MES 15.01/CRWT 40.07: The Craft of Fiction: A Masterclass with Alaa Al Aswany @ 2A 

  • Alaa Al Aswany

Fiction presents an abundance of rich and creative possibilities. Through the magic of imagination, fiction takes us deep inside worlds and into the lives of characters. This course trains students to recognize the qualities that make for spellbinding fiction, including the natural rhythm and tone, mapping the structure, and shaping the content. The Craft of Fiction course teaches the essential elements of sketching a story, creating a great opening, devising structure and plot twists, incorporating tension, implementing flashback and viewpoint, and mastering the art of dialogue. Students learn techniques of crafting a story, originating colorful characters, and developing ways of bringing imagination and intrigue into a literary work. They will learn how their stories can be woven into unforgettable narratives by mastering rhythm, tempo, tone, and brevity. Students will explore the process of developing lively characters, mapping out a plot, describing realistic settings, adding subtext and layers of meaning, and penning captivating fiction.