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Course Spotlights: Fall 2017

July 19, 2017

Ross Brann, Deborah Starr, and Chris Monroe, are offering new courses this fall! It's not too late to register. The class ADD period begins on August 15.

- The Middle East in the News: Politics, Society, Religion and Culture (NES 1998) - Ross Brann

The peoples, cultures, religions, and politics of the Middle East are never far removed from the front pages of the most influential journals and newspapers. This course will engage students in discussing current religious, political, and socio-cultural concerns and issues in the Middle East, including the intersection of American interests and policies in the region.

- Cosmopolitanism, Tolerance, and Coexistence (NES 4708) - Deborah Starr

What does it mean to call individuals, cities, or societies "cosmopolitan?" What are the implications when one invokes tolerance to resolve conflict? Do appeals for "tolerance" and "coexistence" redefine or reinforce existing power relations? To address these questions, we will begin by reading and discussing Kant's writings on hospitality, and then consider writings of contemporary theorists such as Martha Nussbaum, Bruce Robbins, David Harvey, Wendy Brown and others. To further our understanding of the implications of these terms, in the second half of the course, we will examine representations of modern "cosmopolitan" Alexandria. The Egyptian port city, has a long history of rich cultural interaction, immortalized in literature and film. Readings and discussions will interrogate the relationship between the city's cosmopolitan character and its colonial history. We will read works by: E. M. Forster, Constantin Cavafy, Lawrence Durrell, Edwar al-Kharrat, Yitzhak Gormezano Goren and Randa Jarrar. We will also discuss Youssef Chahine's semi-autobiographical Alexandria film, Alexandria Again and Forever.

- Liminality in Near Eastern and World History (NES 4914) - Chris Monroe

In this seminar students apply Victor Turner's conceptions of liminality and anti-structure to early civilizations, network formation, Mediterranean connectivity, ethnicity, and various cross-cultural interactions from the Bronze Age to the present. We will illuminate the transformative roles played by foreigners, travelers, frontiers, borders, and bodies of water by interpreting the materials and texts of history through a liminal lens that reveals potent forces harnessed for political and economic ends. We pay special attention to bodies of water, which historically have created highly transformative thresholds--full of opportunities and risks--for experts to exploit in an almost shamanistic manner. We look at rites of passage on a political level, and see how liminal agents foster emergence, complexity, internationalism, and collapse. By observing past attitudes toward the marginalized, we hope to gain insight into how present and future cultures might embrace liminal agents and conditions in a more cooperative spirit than has occurred.

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