Past Courses


ANTH 118A – Secularism, Religion and Modernity
Dr. Hikmet Kocamaner

Until quite recently, influential thinkers, political theorists, and social scientists shared the assumption that religious participation and the influence of religion in public and political matters would decline inevitably as a result of modernization. Yet, the inadequacy of this dominant narrative has become quite apparent in recent years. This course offers a comprehensive exploration of cutting-edge theoretical debates on the nature of secularism, the role of religion in the public sphere, and the changing relations between religion and the state in the contemporary world. Through anthropological texts, the course will also familiarize students with the various forms that secularism takes in countries with historic ties to different religious traditions, such as the U.S., France, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and India.

ANTH 118B – Culture and Power in the Middle East
Prof. Pascal Menoret

Examines the peoples and societies of the Middle East from an anthropological perspective. Explores problems of cross-cultural examination, the notion of the Middle East as an area of study, and the role of anthropology in the formation of the idea of the “Middle East.” To this end, the course is divided into sections devoted to understanding and problematizing key concepts and themes central to our understanding of the region, including tribe and state, family and kinship, gender and sexuality, honor and shame, tradition and modernity, and religion and secularism. Course materials will include critical ethnographies based on fieldwork in the region as well as locally produced materials such as literature, music, film and other visual arts.

ANTH 141A – Islamic Movements
Prof. Pascal Menoret

This course examines the social and cultural dimensions of contemporary Islamic movements from an anthropological perspective. It starts by critically engaging with such fundamental concepts as Orientalism, colonialism, and nationalism. Topics to be discussed include the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafism, Islamist feminism, Islamic public arguments, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, victimization and martyrdom, and the relationship between humanitarianism and terrorism.


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.


HIST 10A – Not Even Past: History for the Global Citizen
Prof. Naghmeh Sohrabi, Dr. Govind Sreenivasan

Applies historical thinking to a wide range of past and present human concerns. Each of its four concentric units of analysis centers on an issue of contemporary importance: “The Self,” “The Life,” “The Community,” and “The World.”

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.

HIST 111B – The Iranian Revolution: From Monarchy to the Islamic Republic
Prof. Naghmeh Sohrabi

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
Prof. 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 135B – The Middle East and Its Revolutions
Prof. Naghmeh Sohrabi

This course offers an examination of the various revolutions that have shaped the modern Middle East since the late 19th century. The course focuses on four different revolutionary moments: The constitutional revolutions of the turn of the century, the anti-colonial revolutions of mid-century, the radical revolutions of the 1970’s, and most recently, the Arab Spring revolutions that have affected the region since 2011.

HIST 178A – Middle Eastern Encounters in the Age of Colonialism
Prof. Naghmeh Sohrabi

This course examines historical processes and concepts that arose from Middle Eastern and Western interactions in the age of Colonialism. With an eye towards the formation of the modern Middle East in the aftermath of WWI, the course analyzes the ways in which Middle Eastern encounters with Europe in particular allowed for significant developments such as citizenship, knowledge and technology transfer, integration into the global economy, and gender relations. Students will be asked to write response papers for each class in addition to a final research paper. The course is an elective in IMES, fulfills the non-Western and Social Science distribution requirement and is Writing Intensive.

Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

IMES 105A – War and Revolution in the Middle East, 1967-2003
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.

IMES 140A – Photology of the Syrian Uprising
Dr. Hassan Almohammed, Madeleine Haas Russell Visiting Professor in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University and Visiting Research Scholar at the Crown Center

This special, one-time offering course on the ongoing Syrian Uprising will show students how one can use photography, which is produced in order to understand the social and political factors, in the creation of image language in its historical context. The course will also examine the political frameworks of the Uprising and its relationship with Syrian, Arab, and Western media in order to explore the interactions of making a history of a coherent ideology and of the construction and evolution of the Syrian Uprising through a political and media discourse. For the purpose of this course, photology reflects a chronological ensemble of mediology that underline political issues and historical events in the case of Syria. In addition, this course will survey the trajectory of the Syrian Uprising through popular demonstrations’ and protests’ slogans as the sine qua non (French: without which, not) of a new revolutionary and artistic language. Finally, this course will provide a survey of the principle aesthetic and political dimensions of the Uprising through thematic photography based on several different critical approaches.

Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

NEJS 183A – Modern Middle East History through the Arts and Popular Culture
Prof. 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.

NEJS 190A – Describing Cruelty
Prof. Kanan Makiya

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.

NEJS 197B – Political Cultures of the Middle East
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.

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 135B — The Politics of Islamic Resurgence
Prof. Eva Bellin

This course studies the impact of Islamic resurgence on both international and intra-national politics. It explores competing explanations for Islamic resurgence (cultural, economic, and political), Islamic movements in comparative perspective (with special emphasis on the cases of Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Britain and France), the successes and failures of Islamic revolution, the ideological content of Islamic revival (and debates over its potential conflict with Western notions of democracy, civil liberties, and gender equality), Islamic notions of jihad, terror in the name of Islam, the politics of cultural change and Islam as a supranational movement.

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.

POL 143B – Israel, Iran, the Bomb and Beyond: Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East
Prof. Shai Feldman

Addresses one of the most pressing international issues - the nuclearization of Iran. It focuses on Iran's nuclear ambitions, beginning with the Shah of Iran, the motivations behind the acceleration of its nuclear efforts in recent decades, the reactions of Israel, the U.S., Arab states and the international community to Iran's efforts, the implications of Iranian nuclear weapons for regional and international security, and the dynamics of the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran which led to the recent Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the agreement halting Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and lifting international sanctions against it.

POL162B – Middle East Crisis: Competing Explanations
Prof. Shai Feldman and Dr. David Patel

"What caused the protests and demonstrations of the so-called Arab Spring? Why did they spread to some countries but not others? What explains the emergence and behavior of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? What explains U.S. policy in the Middle East, and how important is who occupies the Oval Office? What explains the development of Iran’s nuclear program and its later consent to rolling back its program for at least ten years? Each of these questions can be approached from a number of different disciplinary perspectives, each of which provides a different tool box for reaching an answer.

The course will be divided into four parts, each focused on a major “case study”/development/episode: 1) the so-called Arab Spring; 2) the Iranian nuclear program; 3) the rise of ISIS and sectarianism; and 4) U.S. policy in the Middle East. Over the course of three class sessions each, these topics will be approached from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including insights from sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, and history. We will come to recognize different approaches to knowledge, including those that tend to generalize and those that seek specific and unique explanations for particular events. Students will be introduced to alternative “tool boxes” for explaining each of the phenomena and come to recognize the benefits and limitations of distinct approaches.

Although not an explicit “gateway” course, the course is designed to serve as an introduction to the various disciplinary approaches used by faculty and students in the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) Program.

POL 164A – Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East
Prof. Shai Feldman, Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly, Dr. Khalil Shikaki

This seminar course offers students a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with three different perspectives on the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the efforts to resolve it.  The course will be taught by three scholars of Middle East Politics. Prof. Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, is a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly is the President of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. Dr. Khalil Shikaki is the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. 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 166B – The Middle East in International Relations
Prof. Shai Feldman and Dr. David Patel

What caused the 1948, 1967, and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars? Why did Britain and France invade Egypt in 1956? What explains the horrific, 8-year Iraq-Iran War (1980-88) and the 1991 Gulf War? Why did the U.S. invade Iraq in 2003 and how come it has returned to Iraq, this time fighting ISIS? This course answers these questions by exploring how the concepts, theories, and paradigms from the field of International Relations can be used to analyze the politics of the Middle East. This class provides students a toolbox for understanding current and future developments in the ever-changing relations between the region's states.

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 170A – Arms Control in the Middle East and Asia
Prof. Gary Samore

This advanced research seminar examines the challenge of nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East and Asia, with a focus on nuclear weapons programs of Israel, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea. The first part of the course deals with nuclear weapons design and development, the connections between nuclear power programs and nuclear weapons development, the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation, concepts of nuclear deterrence and stability, and the international arms control and nonproliferation regime. Through historical case studies, the course will then explore the motivations of specific countries in the Middle East and Asia to acquire nuclear weapons, the strategies they have pursued to develop the technical means to build nuclear weapons, and the consequences for regional and international security. The case studies will also examine efforts by the U.S. and other countries to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Professor Samore will augment theoretical and historical analysis with insights from his practical experience as a senior White House official responsible for U.S. nonproliferation and arms control policy.

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.

POL 213B – Graduate Seminar: Selected Topics in Comparative Politics
Prof. Eva Bellin

This course is designed to provide graduate students with an introduction to some of the central debates in the field of Middle East politics today including: the puzzle of persistent authoritarianism, the prospects for democratic transition, the dynamics of contentious action and protest, the political impact of institutions and civil society, the logic of Islamic social movements, the politics of cultural change, the interaction of gender and politics, the political economy of development, and the symbolic construction of power. Students will be exposed to a variety of methods and approaches to the study of Middle East politics including: comparative historical analysis, case studies, rational choice, survey research, ethnographic studies, and discourse analysis. The course will link the study of Middle East cases to larger theoretical questions in the field of comparative politics and practice students in the professional skills of the discipline.