Modern Middle East, Nationalism and Modernity | spring 2003
I. Course Description
The objective of this reading-, speaking-,and writing-intensive course is to familiarize students with the emergence of modern nations from the perspective of both history and critical theory. This course further aims to help students analyze the similarities, differences, and interactions between historically and narratively produced knowledge, to investigate differing cultural conceptions of nationality, and to understand the social effects of diverse narratives of national origin, identity, difference, and destiny.

As an illustration of the diverse patterns of imagining and narrating nations, we will focus on the nation states that arose from the disintegration of three extensive and globally consequential Islamic empires--Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal. This focus will introduce students to a significant segment of non-Western culture and to the history of a region that often appears, however reductively, in current American news media. We will gain an understanding of this historically, politically and culturally significant region from the narratives its people tell about themselves--in novels, newspapers, histories, images and anthems. For example, we will study how each nation emerging from the disintegration of these three empires constituted a specific period of the past as a Golden Age and constructed a particular plot to make sense of its struggles and sufferings. We will study how historical narratives functioned to establish the uniqueness of each national culture and construct an image of its identity, as well as how alternative narratives--often "forgotten" by history--have contested and altered those images.

In studying the transition from Islamic empires to modern nations, the course will probe the pre-conditions for the formation of Turkish, Arab, Armenian, and Kurdish nationalisms. We will study how, in the case of Arab nationalism, the collapse of the Ottoman empire led to the establishment of protectorates controlled by European powers, rather than a unified Arab nation. We will also explore how Arab national unity has nevertheless remained a powerful source of inspiration and how it in part motivated the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. We will further explore the Safavid Empire which was superseded with the modern nation-state of Iran and the disintegration of the Mughal Empire which was followed by a period of British colonization.

Students in this course will analyze not only how narratives may uphold a dominant, "official" image of the nation, but also how they contest and alter that image. Nationalists of Iran and Turkey, for example, formulated elaborate programs for purifying the national culture, language and history. These national purifications served to create an imaginary homogenous nation. Ethnic, linguistic, and religious narratives that did not support the national aspirations were thus suppressed and the voices and events of the past that did not fit the homogenizing plot of national narration were "forgotten." Armenian and Kurds in Turkey, like the Kurds and Azaris of Iran and Muslims of India, for example, represented heterogeneous plots that nationalists sought to obliterate. However, the marginalized peoples edited out of these narratives sought to articulate their own oppositional narratives that would resist homogenization and the obliteration of differences.

II. Course Requirements
1. Weekly analytical responses to course readings for a total of 10 one-page, single-spaced position papers designed to facilitate participation in the week's discussion. These responses should be made available to other students via e-mail ( 24 hours prior to class meeting.

2. Weekly on-line responses to points and issues discussed in class members' position papers for a total of 10 one-page correspondences spaced over the course of the semester. Dialogic interaction with other students is strongly recommended.

3. Research groups will lead weekly discussions over assigned readings. Groups should provide handouts for class members to facilitate discussion and participation.

4. A memo-proposal describing the final research project, with one-page working bibliography attached. Please include a carefully considered title to be used in the conference program. Due Feb. 12, 2003.

5. A final research paper (10 to 15 pages) making use of frameworks from the course. Students are expected to present their papers in the end-of-semester conference to be held on Wednesday, April 30, 2003.

6. A writing portfolio consisting of weekly position papers, e-mail correspondences, group presentation handouts, proposal and bibliography, and the final research paper. Due no later than Wednesday, April 30, 2003..

III. Grades
Students will be evaluated by attendance and participation in the course, cyber discussions, as well as by the quality of their written work. Students who miss more than four class sessions may not pass the course. Percentages will be assigned on this basis:

1. Weekly summaries/analyses: 20%

2. Weekly e-mail responses: 20%

3. Group presentations: 20%

4. Proposal and bibliography: 10%

5. Research paper and conference presentation: 30%

IV. Required Text
Course Packet, Nations and Narrations (Wright's Course Packet).
IV. Required Readings
To see a list of required reading materials for this course please download the corresponding word file.
copyright 2004 Mohamad Tavakoli Targhi