Middle East Studies
IAFF 6364 Religion and Society in the Middle East
Islam performs many roles for contemporary Middle Easterners: focus of identity, cultural idiom, system of religious belief and practice, guide to politics and public morality. For governments of the Middle East, Islam can serve as a basis of political and ideological legitimation domestically and abroad, a source of legislation, or a driver of friction between state and segments within society. Likewise, "Islam" itself is a contested inheritance for Middle Eastern Muslims, who exhibit a diversity of theological interpretations, ritual practices, and social enactments. In the Middle East today it is appropriate to speak of "Islams," which reflect and influence the social structures and political arrangements of diverse environments from Morocco to Iran.
This course examines the varieties of Islamic expression and contestation among Arabs, Turks, and Iranians, with a particular focus on the past two decades. The emphasis is on the sociocultural and spiritual, as a pathway to the political.
IAFF 6378 Special Topics in Middle East Studies
The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
This course is a multi-faceted, in-depth examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It discusses key issues in the conflict, presents different historical narratives, and examines the conflict from an interdisciplinary perspective. The course looks at the sources of the conflict and its dynamics over time, applying to the analysis relevant theories about conflict and conflict resolution. While we will discuss the role of the US and its policies in the region, our primary focus will be on looking at the conflict from the vantage point of Palestinians and Israelis living it. In addition to presentations by the professor and class discussions, the course will include a number of films and presentations by guest speakers.
Iraq and Iran: Society, Politics, War, and Peace
This course is intended to give you information and insight into the history and political culture of modern Iraq and its relations with Iran, its other neighbors, and the United States. The focus will be on the role of occupation, militarism, and nationalism on state formation; the consequences of ethnic, sectarian and ideological conflict; and the impact of these issues on the region and U.S. security from 1914 to the present. The region is important for its geo-strategic location, energy resources, and propensity for weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and autocratic governance. All of these issues are flashpoints for U.S foreign and security policy interests. This course is meant to enhance your knowledge base as well as your ability to analyze these issues; understand them in their geographic, cultural, and historical context; and examine how policy was and is made towards this complex region.
Lebanon and Syria
This course explores the inextricable link between Syria and Lebanon — from the time these territories were part of the Ottoman Empire until the present. In the process, the course focuses on the different political and economic trajectories the two states followed upon gaining independence from France; the domestic and external sources of their respective foreign policies; Lebanon's slide towards civil war in 1975 and Syria's intervention to end it; the politics of Syria's domination of Lebanon and, ultimately, its withdrawal from the latter.
Media and Politics in the Islamic World
The Arab media have emerged as a major political force over the last decade. From the satellite television revolution and the rise of al-Jazeera to the more recent explosion of internet activism, new media forms seem to be transforming the politics of the region. This increased importance has been mirrored in an outpouring of academic research on this long-neglected field. This course surveys the academic and policy literature on the new Arab media and its political effects, with an eye towards understanding the possibilities and limits of the new media's transformative effects. We will examine critically the claims made for the new Arab media, drawing on theoretical literature from political science and communications, on case studies from the region, and from comparisons to other regions. This summer course will focus tightly on the Arab electronic media, which unfortunately means shortchanging a wide variety of important topics, including non-Arab countries such as Iran and Turkey, the historical evolution of the Arab press, or the global realm.
Militaries and Politics in the Middles East
This course is designed to examine the nature of civil-military relations in the Middle East in an effort to understand
1) the connection between militaries and the development of regime in the region,
2) the role militaries play in the durability of Middle Eastern political systems, and
3) possible pathways out of authoritarian politics.
Oil: Industry, Economy, Society
This course take a multidisciplinary approach (primarily political economy and management) to oil and its effects on business, nation-states and the world economy. The first half of the course adopts a top-down viewpoint, examining the global oil environment. The second half is more bottom-up, using cases to grapple with industry issues.
Political Economy of the Middle East
This course is designed as a seminar to introduce students to the present day political economy of the Middle East, or the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) as it is generally called, a region stretching from Morocco to Iran. Starting with an overview of the historical and political challenges facing economic development in the MENA, students will apply such insights to present day issues in the region.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the world's attention has been focused on global terrorism and Islamic religious extremism as never before. In the intervening seven plus years, we have witnessed further outbreaks of crises and violence in many parts of the world. At the same time, national and international conflicts in Muslim countries as well as crises in their relations with the Western world have multiplied and grown in severity. As a result, a better understanding of the historical, cultural, religious and political dimensions of the critical events driving the current crises in the Muslim world and its multiple confrontations with the West has become imperative.
Political Islam covers the various mixtures of politics and religion driving the domestic and foreign policies of Muslim countries as well as the ideology of Islamic extremism and global terrorism. This course will examine the four historical, religious and political factors that define Political Islam, namely the political confrontations between radicals and moderates within and among Muslim countries, Islamic terrorism against the West, the present day manifestations of the Sunni-Shia schism and the quest for a new role for Islam in Western Europe.
Politics of North Africa
The goal of this course is to examine the post-colonial government and politics of the Maghreb — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia — and other select states of the North African region, including, Libya and Mauritania. The course will consider the role that history and geography have played in shaping contemporary North Africa, and critically, the influence of nationalism and state-building in the aftermath of colonialism. Also central is the development and impact of domestic actors (e.g. the military, political parties, and civil society), political and economic liberalization, and how North African states have managed broader international relations and regional conflicts. The course will also explore the development of political Islam across the Maghreb and the emergence of other competing ideologies and identities, such as Berberism. As this course will adopt a comparative perspective, we will assess political change across states, change in traditional structures, and the governmental and non-governmental sources of change. These themes will also be compared with processes in the Middle East and developing world.
Religion and Politics in Post-Revolutionary Iran
It has been three decades since religion has gone "public." The Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and the establishment of the Moral Majority in the United States, all of which occurred in 1979, signified the "return of religion from exile." Political scientists often refer to the Iranian Revolution and its inspiring impact on Islamist movements the world over as the ultimate example of the increasing role of religion in world politics. But the events of the past three decades have also shown that politics can in turn shape religion and religious ideas as well.
For more than a century, Iran has strived to come to terms with modernity while at the same time maintaining its rich Persian and Islamic heritage. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran leaned heavily towards the West and attempted to revive the glamorous days of the ancient Persian Empire while reducing the role of Islam in the public sphere. The Islamic Revolution swung to the other extreme. It elevated religion to an unprecedented degree, viewing Islam as the best avenue for social, political, economic, cultural, and even scientific development.
Two decades later, a reform movement was born within the heart of the Islamic theocracy. Many of the founders and sympathizers of the Revolution came to the conclusion that religion alone could not overcome all of Iran's challenges. This intellectual movement, culminating in the presidency of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, sought a new balance between Islam and modernity and viewed both with a fresh but critical eye. However, Khatami failed to establish the rule of law and vibrant civil society that he promised his passionate supporters. The surprising ascendancy of hardline populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2005 shifted the political landscape to the far right and coincided with international pressure on Iran's nuclear program. Four years later, the disputed presidential election and its bloody aftermath further polarized Iran's political factions, militarized the polity, and most importantly, plunged the Islamic Republic into an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy.
This course will address the aforementioned political and social dynamics of contemporary Iran. After a brief review of Iran's modern history, we will discuss the roots of the Islamic revolution, the establishment of Islamic theocracy, the Iran-Iraq war and its major consequences, the emergence of a new generation of religious intellectuals, the rise and the decline of the reform movement, and the ascendance of the ultra-conservative politicians. We will also tackle other critical issues such as gender, human rights, the youth bulge, ethnicity, and the media. We then move to an examination of Iran's defense and foreign policies. We will focus on Tehran's stance towards the peace process in the Middle East, its nuclear ambitions, and Iran's love-hate relationship with the United States.
Saudi Arabia in the 21st Century
Saudi Arabia in matters of politics, security, economics and religion is a key actor in the Middle East. With its geographic location, it custodianship of Islam's two most holy sites, and its possession of 24% of the world's known oil reserves, understanding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is essential in any effort to address Middle East issues. This course aims to look at what makes Saudi Arabia what it is today: its historical basis, the Wahhabi/Al-Saud family relationship, Saudi society and culture, oil as a strategic interest, the regional political dynamics including inter-Arab, Arab-Israeli and Iran, and, importantly, the rise of a militant Islam.
For more than half of the twentieth century Saudi-U.S. mutually beneficial relations were based on oil and security. While this relationship arguably remains vital, the dynamics of that relationship have undergone profound change. Saudi public opinion became increasingly hostile toward the U.S. as a result of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict exacerbated further by the deployment of American troops on Saudi territory in 1990. The role of Saudi citizens in the 9/11 terrorist attack led to deterioration in the relationship that raised the most fundamental question: Was there an official Saudi role? If so, could there be a relationship?
Both countries recognize that a meaningful relationship remains important and have taken steps to manage the key issues at play. Yet the underlying problems that hinder a closer relationship remain. The question before us is what role Saudi Arabia will play in this new 21st century and how will this role impact on its relationship with the U.S. This then is the focus of this course.
Turkish Politics and Society
This graduate level course offers in-depth knowledge on Turkish domestic and foreign policy as well as a multi-faceted perspective on dynamics of the contemporary Turkish society. Topics will include current Turkish foreign policy ,its dynamics, domestic, regional and international drivers and implications, Turkish political parties and their ideological stance, socio-economic, ideological and cultural cleavages in Turkish society, relations between civil-military and secular-traditional Islamic forces and their impact on Turkish politics. At the end of this course, students will have an in-depth understanding of contemporary issues in Turkish domestic and foreign policy and be able to interpret these issues with a well-informed and sound analysis.
U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East (U.S. Foreign Policy in the Persian Gulf)
On March 19, 2003, forces of the United States and coalition countries opened military action against Iraq. Since that date, U.S. military operations in Iraq and U.S. involvement in regional diplomatic activity have dominated public debate in America. Yet, the coalition's war with Iraq was neither the beginning nor the end of U.S. engagement in the Gulf – a strategic body of water whose very name is under dispute. This course focuses on the evolution of United States foreign policy in the Gulf from the end of World War II to present, examining both its causes and effects. The Cold War, Arab nationalism, Islam, oil, and regional rivalries will be looked at as factors impacting U.S. decision-making and actions.
U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East
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This course is intended to give you information and insight into the formulation of U.S. foreign policy and security strategy toward the region known as the Middle East. It will examine the factors that have shaped and will continue to influence the making of American foreign and security policies in a region important for its geo-strategic location, energy resources, and propensity for weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and autocratic governance. Moreover, it is a region that houses the epicenters of 3 of the world's great religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of these issues are flashpoints for U.S. foreign and security policy interests. This course is meant to enhance your ability to analyze these issues; understand them in their geographic, cultural, and historical context; and consider how to formulate policy. In the process, you will be asked to defend or criticize topics and countries, some of which may be familiar and important to you, and others that may be unfamiliar and even unpopular with your customary perceptions of a political system, a religion, and some important themes in modern history, politics, and culture. The focus will be on security issues, the nature of governance and civil society, and issues that are significant for U.S. policy planning. If you have strong biases or views on any of these issues, please leave them at the door and come to class with an open mind.