ARST-464 History of Minorities: Arab World
Spring for 2017-2018
In January 2016, President Obama claimed that conflicts in the Middle East “date back millennia.” The media paints the Middle East in two opposing ways: as religiously and ethnically homogeneous (Muslim/Arab), or as fraught by in-fighting between its diverse religious and ethnic groups. This class aims to critically examine the history of minorities in the making of the modern Middle East. It traces the shift from an ethnically and religiously diverse Ottoman Empire to a system of nation-states defined by ethnic or religious exclusivity. The course opens with a discussion of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of diversity in the modern Middle East. The first half of the course will cover topics that examine the Ottoman millet system, the emergence of modern notions of citizenship and sectarianism in the nineteenth century, the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the role of colonialism in the politicization of ethnic and religious groups in the post-Ottoman period, as well as the role of minorities in identity politics and the formation of unifying ideologies. The second half of the course will examine the role of minorities in the states of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Iraq. Finally, the course will end with a discussion of the rise of the Islamic State and the future role of minorities in today’s Middle East.
By historicizing the question of minorities in the Middle East, the course asserts the creation of minority groups is a phenomenon rooted in the modern period. In doing so, the course seeks to deconstruct sectarianism, as well as challenge exceptionalist narratives about the Middle East as essentially prone to conflict.
Other academic years
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