An image of rolling hills, shrubs and light blue sky looking over the Syrian border
An Islamicate room with arches, a skylight and red tiles surrounding a fountain in Barranquilla

American Constructions of the Middle East

As reported in December 2015, Public Policy Polling showed that 30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats supporting bombing “Agrabah,” the fictional city of Disney’s Aladdin. Among Trump supporters, the tally was even higher, as was their support for the “Muslim ban” and outlawing Islam in the US outright. How do we reconcile many Americans’ limited knowledge of the MENA region with their certainty that they must ban Muslims, bomb Agrabah, or legislate against “shariah law”? This course historicizes and interrogates various perceptions of the “Middle East” to better understand the emotional and material investments Americans hold for the region. In a moment in which expertise is uniquely devalued – and truthiness, to borrow from Stephen Colbert, seems to matter as much as fact – this course seriously considers how and why we feel so much about the Middle East. Exploring an expansive archive to include legislation, film, history, music, fiction and critical theory, the course embraces Melani McAlister’s insight that culture and foreign policy are mutually constitutive sites of meaning-making. These insights will guide mastery of material for this course, while also providing an overview of critical debates and methodologies in American Studies writ large.

An upward-facing view of a sandstone Islamicate building with pointed vault, and the sun shining

MENA American Autobiography

Moustafa Bayoumi’s How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? has become one of the most commonly assigned high school and university required readings. Nonetheless, few readers or scholars have paid careful attention to the long and rich history of autobiographies by people of MENA descent in the Americas, in spite of the prominence of autobiography in Middle Eastern and European literary studies. This course aims to rectify that oversight by considering a range of autobiographical works by MENA Americans, while also interrogating autobiography as a historical archive. Moving chronologically, this course examines the varied forms and beliefs these autobiographies articulate, to foreground diaspora as an essential facet of Middle Eastern and American identities, as well as to trace changes and continuities in the Americas’ relation to the region.

A sepia tone image of the psychologist, theorist and activist Frantz Fanon, from a Martinique park

Selected Topics in Global Studies: Critical Theory and Race

This course provides a solid foundation in key theorists for contemporary Humanities scholarship on race, establishing cross-disciplinary connections as well as productive tensions. By pairing a brief - though rigorous - theory excerpt with a full monograph each week, this course will hone students' ability to identify critical concepts as well as how race scholars have utilized theory. For the most part, weeks build on one another, but that does not indicate strict chronology or “progress.”