Crown Center Courses
The staff at the Crown Center teach innovative courses at Brandeis University to advance the students knowledge of the region.
IMES 105a - War and Revolution in the Middle East
Tuesday and Friday 12:30 - 1:50 pm
Prof. Kanan Makiya
This course will combine a lecture and seminar format, meeting twice weekly. It will begin with a general introduction to the themes of war and revolution as these have presented themselves in the post WWII Middle Eastern context. Then it will examine in depth the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war and how the legacy of that war continues to bedevil the contemporary Middle East. The focus will shift to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the rise of political Islam with an emphasis on what made the overthrow of the monarchy in Iran a genuine revolution as opposed to a mere change of regime. Does the experience of the 1979 revolution in Iran shed new light on the phenomenon of revolution. A brief consideration of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-89, followed by the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, will be followed by a more in-depth look at the 1991 Gulf war and its successor in 2003 accompanied by regime change in Iraq. The course will end with a week devoted to the implications of the current civil war raging in Syria. The focus of the course is always on the seminal violent turning points that have changed the lives of millions of men and women in the Middle East.
NEJS 197B - Politics and Culture of the Middle East
Tuesday 5:00 - 7:50 pm
Prof. Kanan Makiya
This seminar will consider the emergence, evolution and interactions of the reigning ideologies of the modern period in the Arab world: liberalism, nationalism, socialism, and Islamism. The time period covered will range from the early 19th century to the present. The focus of the course is on the ideas that have moved millions of men and women starting in the 19th century and through the 20th century. The course will conclude by examining contemporary issues concerning the language of politics, religiosity, human rights and change, along with the series of revolutions in 2011 known as the Arab Spring.
POL 164A - Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East
Monday 2:00 - 4:50 pm
Prof. Shai Feldman, Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly, Dr. Khalil Shikaki
This course aims to provide students with historical and analytic mastery of the Arab- Israeli conflict in a novel way. Through immersion in three competing narratives - Israeli, Palestinan, and pan-Arab - students will gain proficiency in the history of the conflict as well as analytic leverage on the possibility of its resolution. The course will be team-taught by an illustrious triad of experts from the region with lived experience of negotiating the conflict: Prof. Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies; Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly; Director of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo; and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. The course is organized as a seminar and is premised on active student participation. Enrollment in this class will be limited to 30, with preference to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.
ECON 122b - The Economics of the Middle East
Prof. Nader Habibi
The main goal of this course is to familiarize the students with the patterns of economic development and the evolution of economic institutions in the Middle East and North Africa region after World War Two. In addition to analyzing the current economic conditions of the region the course will also look at how regional instability and political institutions of MENA countries have affected their ability to implement economic reforms. Another important topic that will be covered in detail is the impact of oil wealth on political and economic development of the region.
The coverage of this course is subject oriented and analytical. Students will learn how to use the basic tools and methods of country analysis and regional analysis to understanding the present conditions of the MENA countries and predict future trends. The emphasis will be on analysis of the main drivers of economic growth such as the leading economic indicators, prospects for macroeconomic stability, and major risk factors that could have an adverse effect on business climate (such as political risks, taxation risks and adverse government policy risks.) Students will be required to choose one MENA country of their choice for detailed analysis.
This seminar will examine reactions and responses to the Arab defeat of 1967 and how the legacy of that war continues to bedevil the Middle East. The focus will then shift to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the rise of political Islam with an emphasis on what made the overthrow of the monarchy in Iran a genuine revolution as opposed to a mere change of regime. Passing through the Lebanese civil war of 1975-89, the next war to be covered in depth will be the 1991 Gulf War that followed the occupation and annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein and its conclusion in 2003 through regime change in Iraq. The focus of the course is on the seminal violent turning points that have changed the lives of millions of men and women in the Middle East from the last quarter of the 20th century until today.
HIST 111A - History of the Modern Middle East
Prof. Naghmeh Sohrabi
This course examines the history of the Middle East from the nineteenth century to contemporary times. It focuses on political events and intellectual trends, such as imperialism, modernity, nationalism, and revolution that have shaped the region in the modern era. As a history course, it also examines the way historical discourse is formed.
This course examines the roots of the 1979 revolution in Iran and the nature of the state and society that resulted from it. It begins with a discussion of pre-revolutionary Iran, examining the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that laid the groundwork for the 1979 revolution. As a history course, it also analyzes the multiple narratives of the revolution itself—as an Islamic movement, an anti-monarchical movement, and an anti-imperialist movement. In the last section, the course examines the evolution of the Islamic Republic and the tensions that have resulted from its specific historical development. This course draws on secondary literature, textual primary sources, and visual materials.
HIST 112A – Nationalism in the Middle East
Dr. Naghmeh Sohrabi
By the 1920’s, the area known today as the Middle East had transformed from a system of empires to that of colonial and independent nation-states. As such, nationalism was and is seen as one of the most powerful and lasting forces of change in the region. This seminar examines theories, concepts, and processes of nationalism in the modern Middle East. The course begins by discussing some of the most important theories of nationalism. It then uses various countries as case studies for examining different manifestations of nationalism in the area. It concludes by analyzing the roles played by gender, memory, historiography, and art in the formation and articulation of Middle East nationalisms.
HIST 178a: Middle Eastern Encounters in the Age of Colonialism
Dr. Naghmeh Sohrabi
NEJS 183A - Modern Middle East History through the Arts and Popular Culture
Dr. Naghmeh Sohrabi
Most of us, at one point or another, have been exposed to information about and from the Middle East. Television, radio, newspapers, academic articles, and travel give us an image of the region structured by the nature of the medium and the people who create, control, and disseminate the information. This course focused on one of the lesser-used sources--works of art and popular culture by Middle Easterners-- in order to illuminate and understand a number of pivotal political and historical events that have shaped the modern Middle East.
The course was divided into 3 sections. Section I provided historical background and theoretical tools necessary for the study of culture in the Middle East. Section II examined some of the most important events and defining moments of 20th century Middle East and their cultural productions. Section III looked at the question of representation and memory in modern Middle East culture and society.
Each week the course and the readings were divided in two sections: The first half of the course focused on the historical event at hand and the second half examined the assigned cultural artifact and the ways in which it reflects and shapes its historical reference.
This seminar will consider different ways of thinking about and describing the phenomenon of political cruelty. The focus is on physical cruelty and the cases dealt with are drawn largely from the Middle East. The seminar will examine a broad range of intellectual efforts and literary or artistic works that engage with political cruelty (human rights reports, theoretical works, literary texts, films, paintings, monuments and memorials). How do they succeed or fail in describing cruelty? What is cruelty, and in the effort to represent it, what do we learn about ourselves? The emphasis is on understanding the nature of cruelty, thinking about how to describe it, and examining one’s purpose for doing so in the first place.
NEJS 194A - Civil Society in the Middle East
Dr. Banu Eligur
The democratization of the Middle East has been highly debated, particularly since the end of the Cold War. This course focuses on the extent to which civil society in the Middle East is comparable to its Western counterpart and whether civil society can trigger democratization in the region. The course has three primary goals: First, it introduces students to the concept of civil society and its relation with democracy; second, it examines civil society in the Middle Eastern context; and finally, it analyzes cases of civil society and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel).
NEJS 196B - Cities in the Middle East: History, Politics and Society
Dr. Abigail Jacobson
Looking at the city as a site for political, social, cultural and urban interactions, this course will examine the role and centrality of cities in the history of the modern Middle East. The course will begin with a theoretical introduction of the different approaches for investigating urban spaces, with a special emphasis on the Middle East, and will then move to discuss several case studies that demonstrate the diversity of urban centers in the Middle East, including Beirut, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Mecca, Algiers and Cairo.
Explores the way in which people make assumptions about power, authority, and justice. Focuses on Israel, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, explaining the nature of political power in these states.
NEJS 161B - Representations of the City
Prof. Kanan Makiya
The city is an artifact housing a community of anonymous persons, one that has carried great creative and destructive potential across the ages. Works of the imagination--in literature, theology, and architecture--expose unquantifiable dimensions of that potential. In this course we examine ten such works with a view to what the city has been in the past, is today, and can become in the future.
POL 133A: Contemporary Politics in the Middle East
Prof. Eva Bellin
Introduction to the politics of the region through the study of regimes in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel. Themes include the political legacy of colonialism, the challenge of ethnic pluralism, the rise of political Islam, the politics of gender, the role of the military in politics, the dynamics of regime survival, the persistence of authoritarianism and the prospects for democratization, and the implications of the Arab spring for the future of the region.
POL 133A - Contemporary Politics in the Middle East
Mr. Lawrence Rubin
Examines the Western impact on the Middle East state system, and the key challenges to the stability of these states and to the regional order. Topics include Arab nationalism; religion and minorities, the Arab-Israeli conflict and other issues.
POL 134A - Strategies of Islamic political activism in the Arab Middle East
Mr. Lawrence Rubin
This course will examine the role of Islamic political and social movements in Middle East politics. Using social science approaches and case studies, students will acquire a conceptual and empirical understanding of various manifestations of Islamic movements, ranging from the populist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to radical, violent organizations such as al-Qaeda. We will explore the conditions under which Islamic actors choose to employ violence and/or enter the political process to achieve their goals. Particular attention will be paid toward understanding developments within Islamic movements since 9/11, the War in Afghanistan, and the War in Iraq.
POL 135B - Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians: Between War and Peace
Prof. Asher Susser
This course will discuss interrelationship between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian national movement from the issue of the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of the British Mandate over Palestine until the present. I t will trace the emergence of the Palestinian national movement and its conflict with the Zionist movement; the war of 1948 and its consequences; Jordanian rule of the West Bank until 1967 and the subsequent competition and clash between Jordan and the PLO for control over the destiny of the Palestinians; and the impact this had on the evolution of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
POL 136A - Political Islam: Introduction to Islamist Social Movements in the Middle East
Dr. Banu Eligur
Since the 1990s, political Islam has successfully mobilized in the Muslim world by utilizing democratic means. Political Islamist parties, with diligent movement activists and strong organizational resources, have been challenging to democratic and semi-democratic polities in Muslim populated countries by successfully competing in elections. This course provides an introduction to Islamist social movements and has three primary goals: First, it introduces students to the main concepts in political Islamist thought, contemporary political Islam, and its relation with democracy; second, it examines major theoretical approaches of social movement in literature; finally, it analyzes cases if Islamist mobilization in the Middle East and North Africa (Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen) within the framework of social movement theory.
During the first half of the semester, Prof. Feldman and Dr. Said Aly will focus on the regional dimensions of the conflict and the efforts to resolve it. During the second half, team-taught by Prof. Feldman and Dr. Shikaki, discussion will shift to the Palestinian-Israeli bilateral dimension of the conflict.
Enrollment in this class will be limited to 30, with preference to juniors, seniors, and graduate students. The class will be held in seminar form, encouraging active student participation. It will ensure that students taking this class will be able to derive maximum benefit from the presence of these three Middle East scholars on campus during the fall semester.
POL 166b: The Middle East in International Relations
Prof. Shai Feldman
Where is the intersection of theory and reality? Can the various international relations paradigms, approaches and theories taught in Pol 15A provide valuable insights into the functioning of one of the key regions of the world – the Middle East? POL 166B - The Middle East in International Relations will allow students to begin answering this question. The concepts, approaches, paradigms and theories examined include: Realism, balance of power, alliance politics, deterrence, the security dilemma, Liberalism, Institutionalism, domestic politics, Constructivism, International Political Economy, Miscalculation, and Arms Control.
POL 166B - The Middle East in International Relations
Prof. Shai Feldman and Dr. Jonathan Lev Snow
Where is the intersection of theory and reality? Can the various international relations theories taught in political science courses provide valuable insights into the functioning of key regions of the world, or are they merely academic simplifications that fall apart when rigorously examined?
This course will explore how the concepts, theories, and paradigms from the field of International Relations, and specifically those covered in Pol 15 A (Introduction to International Relations), can be used to understand the politics of the Middle East. For many political scientists and Middle East area specialists, the region is viewed as an aberration that is outside of the scope of traditional IR scholarship, due to its unique history and culture. These experts argue that generalized theories that may shed light on issues in other parts of the world do little to elucidate the specific workings of the Middle East. But how true is this traditional stance and how valuable are the concepts of IR theorists broadly if they do not apply to this vital region? This course will seek to answer these questions by using the specific theories and paradigms of the field to explore the issues of the Middle East. Topics covered include: Realism, Liberalism, Institutionalism, Constructivism, International Political Economy, Alliance Politics, Domestic Politics, the Security Dilemma, Deterrence, Miscalculation, and Arms Control. By organizing the course into separate sections focused on specific IR theories, students will be able to determine for themselves whether the Middle East is really the anomaly that it sometimes appears or just a region that has been underexplored and misunderstood by many scholars.
POL 170A - Arms Control in the Middle East
Prof. Shai Feldman and Dr. Chen Zak Kane
This course aimed to explore and analyze the theories behind, dynamics within, and problems encountered with arms control as part of regional security in the Middle East. Defining arms control and its place in international relations theory and exposes many of the practice's central paradoxes. Debates concerning verification, compliance, supplier regimes, and major arms control treaties will be identified and addressed along with the contemporary examples of Iraq, Israel, Libya, and - to a greater extent - Iran as case studies. By the end of the course, students were able to articulate the role of arms control in international relations, both in theory and practice, understand its role in the past, and hypothesize its future in the Middle East.
POL 177B - National Security Strategy: The Case of Israel
Prof. Shai Feldman
This seminar-style class focuses on Israel’s national security strategy. The class has three purposes: First, to identify the components and explore the evolution of Israel’s national security strategy. Second, to explore key concepts in national security studies, such as offense, defense, deterrence, preemption, prevention, proliferation and arms control, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and to assess their relevance to Israel’s pursuit of national security. Finally, to evaluate the extent to which Israel’s strategy is typical of small states facing numerically superior neighbors.
The seminar complements the department's larger course on the competing Arab-Palestinian-Israeli perspective and discourses on the Middle East conflict, team-taught by Prof. Feldman and others. The proposed seminar provides a more in-depth examination of the full range of Israeli national security issues. It places the study of Israeli national security into the intellectual frameworks of international relations/national security concepts/literatures, and thus builds on our introductory courses in international relations and complements our courses on US foreign policy and on US national security.
POL 193B - Track-II Diplomacy: Theory and Practice
Prof. Shai Feldman and Prof. Alain Lempereur
In Track II Diplomacy: Theory and Practice students will explore the theory, conceptual framework, and practicalities of Track-II diplomacy using case studies in the Middle East and Africa.
This course on Track II negotiations will allow students to obtain a grasp of the contribution of Track II channels for conflict resolution in the Middle East and Africa—an understanding that would be applicable to the use of this tool in other regions. The class will emphasize the very specific considerations that need to be taken into account when actually designing Track II talks such as the selection of participants, issues of funding and sponsorship, the connection to the formal Track I leadership level, etc. Students would be able to use these very practical considerations as a checklist for designing and planning the use of Track II channels across many other regions and conflicts. Second, the course will provide a very intensive introduction to the social and political foundations of conflict in the Middle East and Africa, as well as to the political institutions, interests and regimes that are currently shaping outcomes in these regions. Finally, the course will provide an overview of the various analytical approaches that peacemakers can adopt when analyzing the arrangement of forces in play in conflict situations.
U.S. Policy in the Middle East
Prof. Shai Feldman, Dr. Geoffrey Kemp
In the spring 2006 semester, Feldman taught a course, “U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” with Geoffrey Kemp, director of regional security studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. The course provided students with an understanding of the evolution of U.S. policy in the Middle East and the country’s role in key developments in the history of the region.