BRI0002 - Major Themes in Contemporary Middle East
IRI – USP 2019
Lecturer: Karabekir Akkoyunlu
PAE: Maíra Fedatto
This course introduces the major themes, key actors, prevalent developments and pressing issues facing the states and societies of the modern Middle East. The historical scope of the course spans from the decline and collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the long 19th century to our turbulent 21st century. With the exception of the first two lectures, which provide a general historical background, the course is organised thematically rather than chronologically. The course takes a multi-disciplinary approach, investigating linkages between history, sociology, politics, international relations, economics and anthropology. The lectures cover topics such as the legacies of empire and colonialism; nation-building and nationalism; political Islam; geopolitics of energy; environment, urbanisation and migration; workers’, women’s and LGBT struggles; democracy and authoritarianism; the failure of the “Arab Spring”; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Kurdish question.
The large and culturally, politically and historically diverse region referred to as the Middle East has long been an object of curiosity for the outsider. During late modernity, the region evoked in the western mind a highly exaggerated and imagined sense of exoticism and mysticism, captured in the Orientalist depictions of the harem, the mysterious section of the Muslim household reserved for wives, concubines and female servants. Since the 20th century, the region has drawn international attention for its seemingly unending ethnic and religious conflicts, political upheavals and humanitarian crises. Yet popular explanations for these have often focused excessively on factors such as the role of Islam or the prevalence of oil.
The aim of this course is to give students a lucid yet nuanced and critical understanding of the region’s complexities without resorting to over-simplifications and cultural clichés. Students will be introduced to diverse perspectives, sources and accounts on the evolution of nation-states, societies and non-state actors in the region. At the same time, by employing a comparative approach and exploring common themes such as urbanization, climate change, socio-economic inequality or democracy, the course aims to dispel the idea that the Middle East is a foreign “other”, operating in fundamentally different ways than the rest of the world.
Louise Fawcett (ed.) International Relations of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2016 (4th edition).
Selected chapters, additional reading and other material will be uploaded to Moodle.
Assessment for undergraduate students:
Attendance (10%): Students are expected to attend all lectures, having done the assigned readings in advance.
Reading Responses (10%): For each lecture, students will pick a question at the end of the Fawcett reading for that week, and write a one-paragraph (or up to half a Word page) response. These will be emailed to Maíra Fedatto before class.
- The answers will not be graded, but we will check for authenticity and plagiarism.
- 10 responses (out of 11) will receive full 10 points. 9 points for 9 responses, 8 for 8…
- For weeks without Fawcett reading, questions will be uploaded on Moodle.
Two Exams (40% each): In-class written mid-term and final exams consisting of three parts (Multiple Choice, Short Answers, Essay Question).
Assessment for post-graduate students:
Mid-term Exam (30%)
Final Paper (30%)