In Orientalism, Edward Said (1978) argues that the ‘Middle East’ is a fabricated concept, created in the Western mind and within Western academia. This “imagined” place, however, has experienced a series of both socio-political and economic crises over centuries. Similarly, its people hold on to shared affinities and experiences that contribute to their experiences of daily social life. The aim of the course is to probe the extent to which Western concepts, social science theories and the narrative of Western modernity can be applicable to the study of the Middle East. Towards this goal, we will examine a wide range of theoretical traditions and their application to the study of the region. Examining a variety of theoretical perspectives within the social sciences, the course focuses on the scholarly analyses of the Middle East that are inspired by these perspectives.
Please keep in mind that this is not a theory course in the sense of teaching you about the different theoretical perspectives that the social sciences have to offer. Instead, the course looks at how different theoretical perspectives have been applied to the study of the Middle East, and in the process aided in the construction of the region as a field of inquiry.
Class meetings are organized around lectures and discussions, with student participation encouraged at every class meeting