Spring 2020

MES Course Offerings Spring 2020

Courses Offered Remotely due to Coronavirus Crisis:

Arabic 3: 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 23: Intermediate Arabic @ 10

  •   Mostafa Ouajjani

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 32: Advanced Arabic @ 2A

  •  Jonathan Smolin

The goal for this course is to develop Arabic from the intermediate to the advanced level. This course will focus on three key elements: grammar review and exercises, readings in modern Arabic fiction, and an introduction to media Arabic.


Arabic 59: Advanced Independent Study in Arabic @ arranged time


Hebrew 3: 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 51: Hebrew of the Bible @ arranged time

  • Nurit Ben Yehuda

An introduction to the language of the Hebrew Bible. The course teaches basic Biblical grammar, script, and vocabulary for recognition. Readings will be taken from a sampling of Biblical texts. This course serves as a requirement for students wishing to major and minor in Hebrew language and literature.


Hebrew 59: Advanced Independent Study in Hebrew @ arranged time


MES 1.01: Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies @ 10A

  • Jonathan Smolin

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: the Making of the Modern Middle East @ 10

  • 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 4.02: History of Technology in the Middle East @ 2 (CANCELLED)

  • Andrew Simon

What may cassette tapes teach us about the creation of Egyptian culture? How may cameras assist us in picturing the past and archiving the present in the Arab world? And what is the relationship between online communities and offline activism in Iran? In this class, we will explore the impact, significance, and social life of numerous technologies throughout Middle East history. We will cover devices we often take for granted as well as things that command our attention. Cameras, radios, and records, dams, the Internet, and electrical grids, printing presses, clothing, and modes of transportation, will all surface in readings that transcend any single historical genre, bridging the local and the global, the social and the cultural, the intellectual and the environmental. The scope of this course is consciously panoramic in nature. In traversing nearly two hundred years of history, we will examine a wide array of case studies that unfold across the Middle East and occasionally travel further afield. To assist us on this journey, we will conduct close readings of several primary sources, from films and photographs to maps and music videos. These materials will inspire lively discussions that engage larger themes, including modernity, mediation, power, politics, infrastructure, and identity formation. By the end of the quarter, it will be clear that the trajectories of objects, small and large, were essential to the making of the modern Middle East.


MES 12.02: Modern Iraq: Society, Politics, and Literature @ 2 (rescheduled for 20F term)

  • 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 12.04/GOVT 20.08: America and the Middle East @ 11

  • 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 12.05/GOVT 60.17: Arab Political Thought @ 12

  • Ezzedine Fishere

This is a gateway course to Arab political thought. It will introduce students to the main political and intellectual debates in the modern Arab world since its nascent beginnings during the first half of the 19th century to the ideologies that animated the Arab Spring and its aftermath, including:

Early accounts of political modernity
Early Islamic revivalism
Liberal thought
Nationalism and Pan-Arabism
Arab socialism, Marxism and the New Left
Anti-Colonialism and Occidentalism
Dreams of Domination
Citizenship, democracy and human rights
New directions in Arab thought: Liberalism, nationalism and Islamism
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 12.09/*JWST 40.01/GOVT 40.09: Politics of Israel and Palestine @ 2A

  • Shaul Magid

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 12.12: Cold War Arab Culture @ 2A (CANCELLED)

  • Muhsin Al-Musawi

This course purports to study 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 cultures in Latin America, India and Africa.


MES 16.03/LING 11.03: Language Behavior and Verbal Cultures in the Middle East @ 2A

  • Lewis Glinert

This course in anthropology and ethnography of language illustrates how Middle Eastern cultures employ language to construct and reflect values, identities and institutions, to create relationships and project personal status, and to perform actions (such as ending a phone call, apologizing, paying compliments, and negotiating business deals). Particular attention will be paid to the beliefs people hold about their languages and scripts. No prior knowledge of a particular language or culture is assumed. Open to all classes.


MES 16.11: From Genesis to Seinfeld: Jewish Humor and its Roots @ 10A

  • Lewis Glinert

What is Jewish humor, what are its roots, and what can it begin to tell us about Jewish society, its values and its self-image? Using Freudian and other humor theory, we examine 2000 years of Hebrew comedy and satire, from the Bible to contemporary Israel, in such genres as short stories, jokes, and strip cartoons, and its relationship to American Jewish humor.


MES 16.35/COLT 53.01: Modern Arabic Literature in Translation: Narrating Tradition, Change and Identity @ 12

  • Hussein Kadhim

This course is an introduction to the modern Arabic narrative tradition through the close reading of a number of key texts by leading twentieth and twenty-first centuries Arab authors. It takes as its focus a critical examination of representations of identity and change in modern Arabic discourses. Blending lectures and class discussions, the course will also explore the ways in which literary forms and narrative strategies tend to reinforce or contest normative power structures. Examination of motifs, literary styles, and assumptions pertaining to gender, sexuality, and class and socio-religious affiliation will also be undertaken.
The course will further examine the profound ways in which the colonial encounter has impacted (narratives of) identity with a particular emphasis on constructions of the Arab Self in relation to a Western "Other"
Readings for the course will be drawn from the works of Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt),Tayyib Salih (Sudan), Ghassan Kanafani (Palestine), Hanan Al Shaykh (Lebanon), Mohamed Berrada (Morocco), and others. The course will be taught in English.


MES 16.37/*JWST 24.06/COLT 19.02: Love in Translation: Poetics of Desire across Cultures @ 2

  • Daniel Behar

Literary traditions of the Near East possess an extensive corpus of writings that enact and speak of the importance of erotic feelings, accessible to most of us only in translation. But if articulations of love "translate" unspeakable thoughts and desires in the first place, what happens to these articulations when they are re-translated and move across cultures? What's gained and lost in the process? These translations can be seen as crucibles for cultural encounter and models for self-other relations and gender identity. How have translations challenged (or perpetuated) hegemonic ideas about sexual morality, stylistic propriety, the religious and the profane? How have they been generative in the target literatures and why? We will examine key intersections of love and translation, compare and contrast old and new translations, and become acquainted with key problems in translation theory.


MES 16.38 Arabic Prison Writing @ 3B (CANCELLED)

  •  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 lays emphasis on modern narratives by women prisoners, political prisoners, and narratives that engage with these issues. Prison writing is studied against other genealogies, especially in the West, to map out the birth of prison, its institutionalization, mechanism, and role.


MES 17.08/*JWST 74.01/REL 57.02: The Jewish Jesus @ 12

  • Deborah Forger

It is certain that Jesus of Nazareth lived in the first century C.E. and that his followers interpreted his life and death as harbingers of a new age. However, recent scholarship has made clear that Jesus was fully embedded in the Judaism of his time: the Jewish diversity of the period and Jewish resistance to the Roman Empire. This course examines the life of Jesus the Jew prior to the early Church's interpretation of Jesus as Christ; modern Jewish and Islamic views of Jesus, as well as his portrayal in contemporary film and art, will also be explored.


MES 19.03/WGSS 24.01: Arab Feminisms @ 3A

  • 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 19.05/*REL 28.04/WGSS 43.06: Gender in Islam @ 2A

  • Zahra Ayubi

"Is Islam sexist?" "What does Islam really say about women?" This course seeks to dismantle the premises of these questions by asking who speaks for Islam, what makes something Islamic, and how are gender and gender roles constructed in Islamic texts and Muslim thought. We will make critical study of the constructions of gender, femininity, masculinity, sexuality, gender relations, marriage and divorce in classical and modern Islamic texts. In asking how Islamic notions of gender are constructed, we will examine both the roles religious texts have played in shaping Muslim life and how Muslim life in its cultural diversity affects readings of religious texts. We will read works of Muslim thought on gender relations in their historical contexts and in relation to one another. Through in-class discussions, critical reading exercises, and short essay assignments, students will strengthen their literacy on global gender issues, study religio-historical ideas on gender, analyze the role of texts in shaping gender in society, and vice versa.


MES 85: Advanced Independent Research @ arranged time


MES 88: Senior Honors Thesis part 1 @ arranged time


MES 89: Senior Honors Thesis part 2 @ arranged time