Middle East Studies

IAFF 6360-6379

The courses listed here include only those under the designation IAFF (International Affairs). The Middle East Studies curriculum includes a large number of courses taught through other disciplinary departments at the university, including Political Science (PSC); History (HIST); Anthropology (ANTH); etc. Consult the curriculum pages for more information on these courses.

IAFF 6364 Religion and Society in the Middle East

Islam performs many roles in the contemporary Middle East: 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 society. Likewise, “Islam” itself is a contested inheritance for Middle Eastern Muslims, who exhibit a diversity of theological interpretations, ritual practices, and social enactments. 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

Arabic for International Affairs

The Arabic for International Affairs course is designed to provide students with the vocabulary specific to international affairs, to include issues of politics, economics, media, business and finance. Students will read and listen to primary source materials including government documents, official speeches, literature from international organizations, and other material that a practitioner of international affairs is likely to encounter. This course is for students at the high-Intermediate level; Arabic is the only instructional language used in class.

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.

Oil: Industry, Economy & Society

This course takes 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.

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

This course will address the 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.

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.

United States Foreign Policy in the Middle East

The course focus is on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. It will begin with an inventory of U.S. foreign policy basic principles and bureaucratic tools. It will then survey the Middle East as a whole to identify commonalities of importance to American policy makers. It will then focus on individual countries of importance (Israel, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey), and critical issues (Islam, Terrorism, the Arab Spring, Use of Force).

United States Foreign Policy in the Middle East

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.

United States Security Policy in the Middle East

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.

The Arab Uprisings: A Critical Introduction

The events known in the West as the revolutions of the Arab Spring include a series of uprisings in the Arabic-speaking Middle East that were sparked by the Tunisian revolution of 2011, but which eventually spread throughout the region, leading to actual or attempted regime change in countries as diverse as Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Much debate and analysis has surrounded the Arab Spring: from whether the terms “spring” and “revolutions” are even appropriate, to how one should assess the complex implications of these events, let alone whether they have “succeeded” or “failed.” Perhaps the most important lesson one can take from these developments and debates, however, is the danger of trying to reach definitive conclusions based on only short-term changes. As events continue to unfold, the fallibility of premature declarations about what the Arab Spring means has become increasingly evident.

This course explores the Arab Uprisings and studies their political, social, economic and cultural roots. Through a critical inquiry embedded in political science, history, and sociology, this course will unpack the underlying factors, forces, and processes of these events. It will also consider specific themes through which one can navigate these events, such as gender dynamics, the role of the military, and the growing influence of social media.

This critical introduction to the Arab Spring Revolutions is divided into four parts. The first part is a basic introduction to three key issues: a discussion of authoritarianism in the Arab world; the sociology of social movements and revolutions; and introducing the Arab spring revolutions themselves. In the second part of the course, we will examine the specific case studies of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, and we will analyze the resilience of Arab monarchies. In the third part, we will focus on thematic topics within the Arab uprisings such as the role of the Arab militaries, Islamists, women and youth in these uprisings in addition to the impact of social media.

Sectarianism and Communal Politics in the Middle East

Why do the people of the Middle East seem so prone to communal religious violence? Sectarianism is one of the most recurring problems in the Middle East, yet it remains one of the least understood. This course introduces the religious and ethnic diversity of the so-called ‘Islamic World’, exploring the social implications of identities such as ‘Sunni’ or ‘Shia’. Students learn not to take religious conflict as given, but to ask what generates sectarianism in the contemporary Middle East, weighing the relative importance of religious thought, legacies of colonial minority politics or Ottoman legal frameworks, modern state structures, international politics, and globalization. Various kinds of solutions will be discussed, with a focus on making explicit the debate’s underlying assumptions about Arab society and state.