Current Courses


Courses – Fall 2018

Professor Title School Course Number Time
Akasoy Renaissance Culture: Global Renaissance Graduate Center MES 73500 GC: M, 4:15-6:15
Haj Contemporary Theory and History Graduate Center MES 78000 GC: T, 4:15-6:15
Le Gall History of the Modern Middle East Graduate Center MES 73000 GC: Th, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Richardson The Historical Muhammad Graduate Center MES 73900 GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Taleghani Prison Literature and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa Graduate Center MES 76900 GC: T, 6:30-8:30
Yesil Islam, Media and Politics in the Middle East Graduate Center MES 74900 GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

MAMES Fall 2018 Course Descriptions

MES 73000: History of the Modern Middle East

Prof. Dina Le Gall, Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

Seeking to nurture critical historical thinking about the modern and contemporary Middle East, this course introduces students to some of the major dynamics and problems in the history of the region in the past two centuries, and to a sample of critical historical literature about them. Topics to be examined include paradigmatic approaches to modern Middle Eastern history; Western encroachment and colonialism; bureaucratic reforms and reforming elites; the carving up of new states following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; Mandatory regimes and colonial modernity; the politics and culture of nationalism; post-colonial states and authoritarian regimes; and contending understandings of Islamist politics. We proceed in a roughly chronological order, weaving thematic discussions concerning women and gender, environmental history, urban history etc. into that framework. Class discussions will be guided by reading questions, one of which students will answer in writing in preparation for each class. The final assignment is a 6-8 page argument-based analytical essay on a selected question from a list I will provide.

MES 73900:  The Historical Muhammad

Prof. Kristina Richardson, Monday 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

In this course we’ll examine the life of the Prophet Muhammad through the earliest Islamic and non-Islamic sources (translated from Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Syriac), Qur’an, hadith, rock graffiti, medieval paintings of the Prophet, Shi’ism, Sufism and poetry. 

discussions will be guided by reading questions, one of which students will answer in writing in preparation for each class. The final assignment is a 6-8 page argument-based analytical essay on a selected question from a list provided in advance.

MES 73900:  Medieval Mediterranean World

Prof. Kristina Richardson, Monday 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

Course description TBA 

MES 74900: Islam, Media and Politics in the Middle East

Prof. Bilge Yesil, Wednesday 6:30-8:30 p.m.

This course examines politics, religion and culture in the Middle East through the lens of media forms and practices. It analyzes how Middle Eastern media shape (and are shaped by) global cultural flows and national and inter-regional politics. Topics include but are not limited to political activism and democratization; consumerism and modernity; youth, media and civic participation; women, media use and female empowerment. Taking into consideration the heterogeneity of media and political systems across the region, the course pays special attention to the articulation of national identity, modernization and Islam in various countries. The course also covers Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, and examines its historical roots, its connections with colonialism and Orientalism, and media representations of Arabs and Muslims in Western media. Special attention is paid to September 11 and the War on Terror, and the “migrant crisis” in Europe and rise of right-wing nationalism. The course is based on mini lectures, class discussions and presentations, occasional guest speakers and screenings (documentaries, films, reality TV shows, music videos, etc.). Students do not need to have prior knowledge of media history, theories or methods.

MES 76900: Prison Literature and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africaa

Prof. Shareah Taleghani, Tuesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

This course will examine works of prison literature produced in the Middle East and North Africa in the past six decades. The first part of the course will consider the debates about prison literature or prison writings as a genre, issues of state censorship and cooptation of dissident literature, and the relationship between literature, narrative, and human rights discourse more generally.  The second part of the course will focus on the aesthetics and forms of specific works of prison literature in order to elucidate how different authors reconstruct the experience of political detention and how such literary works challenge the narrative conventions of human rights reportage. Special attention will be paid to how authors represent political detainees’ experiences of vulnerability and recognition, torture, the emotional geographies of prison life, and the act of writing as a form of resistance.  In addition to poetry and short stories, primary readings will include Sunallah Ibrahim’s That Smell, Fadhil al-Azzawi’s Cell Block-Five, Sinan Antoon’s I’jaam, Salwa Bakr’s The Golden Chariot, Hiba Dabbagh’s Just Five Minutes, and Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell. Secondary and critical readings will include works by Joseph Slaughter, Sidonie Smith and Kay Schaffer, Barbara Harlow, Judith Butler, Bryan Turner, and Elaine Scarry.

MES 78000: Contemporary Theory and History (cross-listed with Hist. 72300)
Prof. Samira Haj, Tuesday, 4:15-6:15 p.m.

The question of the relationship of theory to history is laden with problems. While it is obvious that historians carry their research in archives, it is not obvious what analytical or theoretical frameworks historians utilize to make sense of the past, its relationship to the present and its potential relevance to the future. Obviously, the question of what is particularly historical about the discipline of history is central to the debate. The objective of this seminar is to explore some of the concerns that have haunted historians since history established itself as a modern discipline, including the notions of historical temporality, historical memory, conceptual history, periodization, historical materialism, genealogy and others that are more conceptual rather than historical per se. The course is de facto thematically-organized as well as interdisciplinary, which by implication means that it will be drawing on different bodies of knowledge, including philosophy, political theory, anthropology, religion and gender studies with some recent written narratives and accounts drawn from the history field itself.  

MES 73500: Renaissance Culture: Global Renaissance (cross-listed with MALS 70500)

Prof. Anna Akasoy, Monday 4:15-6:15 p.m.

The Renaissance has been considered the period in which Europe or the West more generally came into its own. Having recovered the classical Greek heritage from its Arab custodians after the ‘dark ages’, Europe, led by Italian humanists, prepared itself for Enlightenment, secularization and modernization. In this course, we will explore this historical narrative critically, focusing on two aspects:

1) We will discuss to what extent the Renaissance is a uniquely western European phenomenon of the early modern period. We will be discussing Jack Goody’s Renaissances. The One or the Many? as well as Charles Homer Haskins’s idea of a twelfth-century Renaissance and Joel Kraemer’s study of intellectual culture in medieval Iraq under Buyid rule (Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam).

2) We are going to explore the Renaissance and the formation of European identity within the context of entangled or connected histories, focusing especially on the relationship between Italy and the Ottoman Empire. We will survey responses to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and the attempts of Italian humanists to explain the origins and rise of the Ottomans in terms of classical geography and history. We will select examples from Margaret Meserve’s Empires of Islam in Renaissance Historical Thought and analyze by way of contrast the Saidian paradigm in Nancy Bisaha’s Creating East and West. Renaissance Humanists and the Ottoman Turks. We will also discuss Renaissance crusade literature and the reformulation of medieval tropes. While most of the material covered in this course is textual, we will also pay attention to visual and material sources such as Gentile Bellini’s portrait of Mehmed II and the circulation of objects around in the Mediterranean in particular. For the latter, we will be discussing contributions in The Renaissance and the Ottoman World, edited by Anna Contadini and Claire Norton. While most of the course will focus on Italy (including Natalie Rothman’s Brokering Empire. Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul and Deborah Howard’s Venice and the East), for comparative purposes we will also consider the relationship between England and the Islamic world (Early Modern England and Islamic Worlds, edited by Linda McJannet and Bernadette Andrea).


Course Lists from Previous Semesters: Click Here

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