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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


4. Introduction to Arab Culture (Identical to Arabic 10, pending faculty approval)

08S, 09S: 12

This course will provide a broad introduction to the historical, literary, artistic, and popular cultures of the Middle East, from pre- and early Islamic times to the present. The aim of the course is to give students an appreciation of Arab and Arabo-Islamic culture, but also to examine ways in which prevailing historical, political, economic and social conditions have impacted cultural production and expression in the Middle East. Sources and texts will include, but not be limited to, selections from the Quran, hadith, Arabic poetry and literature, historical chronicles, and film. Dist: LIT; WCult: NW. Abouali.

5. Thought and Change in the Middle East and Central Asia (Identical to Anthropology 27)

07F: 10A

The region’s wars, revolutions, and political upheavals echo a turbulent past in which religious perceptions of the world are inextricably bound up with politics. World economic and political currents shape, and are shaped by, the history, culture, and traditions of the Middle East and Central Asia. The Middle East, birthplace of three universal faiths, continues to be the setting for major developments that frame the course of human history. Newly independent Central Asian republics are restoring the cultural and economic ties that earlier linked them to the Middle East. This course introduces the region’s religions, societies, and politics. It also suggests how interpreting thought and change in the Middle East and Central Asia contribute to rethinking anthropology, related social sciences, and issues in social thought. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Eickelman.

6. Islam: An Anthropological Approach (Identical to Anthropology 19)

08F: 10A

This course challenges conventional approaches to the study of Islam. The anthropological approach values the study of sacred texts, critical historical moments, and influential activists, it focuses on Islam in practice, as it is lived by Muslims whose voices are seldom heard, who have little prominence in intellectual or political circles, and gives equal weight to the Muslim experience in the Middle East and to the majority of Muslims who live elsewhere and who have contributed to the vitality of the Islamic tradition. Ethnographic fieldwork and social history serve as our window onto the world of modern Islamic diversity and contested meanings and practices. Viewing religion “from the bottom up” thus contributes to re-thinking popular assumptions concerning what “authentic” Islam entails and who speaks for Islam. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI. Eickelman.

8. Introduction to Islam (Identical to Religion 8)

08X: 10

A survey of important topics in the study of Islam, including the Qur’an and the Prophet, Orientalism and the Western study of Islam, the role of Islamic mysticism, Islam and the state, Islamic law, and Islamic theories of family and person.

Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW. Reinhart.

9. Hinduism (Identical to Religion 9)

Not offered in the period from 07F to 08S

An introductory survey of the Hindu religious tradition of South Asia from 1500 B.C.E. down to the present day. Emphasis will be given to the historical development of elite, Sanskritic Hinduism and its constant interaction with popular and local traditions.

Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW. Ohnuma.

10. The Religions of China (Identical to Religion 10)

09S: 11

An introduction to China’s three major religions—Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—through the reading of classic texts. Also, a look at important elements in Chinese folk religion—ancestor worship, temples, heavens and hells, and forms of divination. Special attention will be paid to the importance of government in Chinese religious thought and to continuity and change in the history of Chinese religion.

Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW. Raz.

11. Introduction to Korean Culture

08W, 08F: 10

A multi-disciplinary introduction to Korean history, society, and culture, this course covers pre-modern and modern periods, tracing issues such as the rise of imperialism and colonial rule, the Korean War and national division, and the emergence of democracy in the post-war period. In addition to historical texts, the course examines modern Korean life through literature, religion, education, family life, gender relations, and popular media, in conjunction with political and economic transformations. Asking how and why historical events, periods, or people are represented in the way that they are will allow a critical perspective as we examine the formation of Korean culture and identity. All readings are in English. No prior knowledge of Korea or Korean language assumed. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI. Hanscom, Kang (08W), Hanscom (08F).

12. Introduction to Chinese Culture (Identical to Chinese 10)

08W, 09W: 12

The aim of this course is to provide students with the knowledge necessary to begin to understand Chinese culture. The course will examine the development of traditional Chinese culture from the earliest Chinese dynasties, dating back more than 3500 years, to the present day. Through readings of literary texts in translation students will be introduced to the topics in language, history, literature and art, philosophy and social and political institutions. Open to students of all classes. Dist: LIT; WCult: NW. Blader.

13. Introduction to Japanese Culture (Identical to Japanese 10)

08S, 09S: 11

Japanese cultural history through a broad survey of literature, art, social and political institutions, and popular culture. Modern conceptions of Japan and formations of Japanese identity have evolved under the pressures created by radical swings between periods of wholesale appropriation of foreign cultural forms and periods of extreme isolation. The course will trace the evolution of Japanese culture by examining the ways in which cultural types are distinguished in Japan. These types include: warrior, aristocrat, nurturing woman/ demonic woman, merchant, wanderer, peasant/laborer, and outcast. Taught in English. Open to all classes. Dist: LIT; WCult: NW. Dorsey, Washburn.

14. The Eye of the Beholder: Introduction to the Islamic World (Identical to History 5.2)

08W, 08F: 10

This course provides an introduction to the history of the Middle East from the 7th century to the present; examines particular topics; and explores different interpretations in historical analysis. The course first focuses on the Prophet Muhammad and the development of the Islamic Faith, then shifts to Ataturk, the 20th century founder of the Turkish Republic; surveys Islamic culture; and ends with a comparison of the medieval and contemporary worlds, including issues of change, power, and religion. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW. Garthwaite.

15. Modern Islam (Identical to Religion 16)

08S: 10 09S: 12

An introduction to developments in religious thought and practice since 1800, with special emphasis on topics of current controversy, including the status of women, the nature of government, and the place of Islamic law.

Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW. Reinhart.

16. Tribes, Kingdoms, and Nation-States: An Introduction to Southeast Asia (Identical to Anthropology 26)

08W, 09W: 11

The cultures of Southeast Asia are remarkably varied, ranging from elaborate Hinduized civilizations (Bali) and modern city-states (Singapore) to “hill tribes” (e.g., the Meo of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam) and nomadic foraging bands (e.g., the Semang of Malaysia). This course is a survey of Southeast Asian societies focusing on the question of why their cultures take the form they do. This entails an examination of the modes of environmental adaptation of the various peoples, their integration into regional and world-wide systems, and the historical influences of the great civilizations of India, China, the Middle East, and Europe. The course looks at how Southeast Asians live and at the religions that give meaning to their lives. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Endicott.

17. Introduction to Hebrew and Israeli Culture (Identical to Hebrew 10 and Jewish Studies 16)

08S, 09S: 10A

This course is interdisciplinary, exploring the interaction of Hebrew literature, film, music, religion and society. For millennia, Hebrew has had a unique spiritual hold on both the Jewish and Christian imagination. We will focus on the Bible as wisdom, law and poetry, the Talmud of the ancient Rabbis, Kabbalah and Hebrew alphabet mysticism, war and the Israeli cinema, Hebrew folk and rock culture, and a modern political mystery: how today’s Hebrew was raised from the dead.

No knowledge of Hebrew is assumed. Dist: LIT; WCult: NW. Glinert.

18. History and Culture of Indonesia

08S, 09S: 12

The history and contemporary issues of the island nation of Indonesia—home to the world’s fourth largest population—will be examined in religion, politics, literature and language, with particular attention to the independence movement and the development of a national identity. Course resources will include readings in fiction and non-fiction, workshops in performing arts, guest instructors, and multi-media materials both by and about Indonesians. WCult: NW. Diamond.

19. Writing Gender in Islamic Space (Identical to Women’s and Gender Studies 49)

Not offered in the period from 07F through 09S

Belying Orientalist stereotypes of harems and veils, Islamic societies are engaged in a lively questioning of traditional masculine and feminine roles. We will follow this discussion in the work of writers and filmmakers in Egypt and the Maghreb, such as Nawal el Saadawi, Tahar ben Jelloun, Fatima Mernissi, Leila Ahmed, Rachid Boudjedra, Leila Abouzeid, Assia Djebar, Abdelhak Serhane, Ferid Boughedir, and Moufida Tlatli. Open to all students. Dist: LIT; WCult: NW. Green.

21. Topics in Korean Studies

09W: 10A

Selected subjects at the discretion of the instructor. Each course offering will examine a theme, author, period or genre in the context of Korean cultural history, often from a multidisciplinary and comparative perspective.

In 09W, Humor in Twentieth Century Korean Literature and Film will examine the genre of comedy against the backdrop of Korean political, social and cultural history. In this course, we will draw connections between comedic works and the Korean context, working both to understand the meaning of the “comic” or “humor” through theoretical sources—various thinkers’ perspectives on wit, jokes, farce, humor, and so on—and to examine deep connections between this oft-neglected genre and developments on the peninsula over the course of the twentieth century. Students should emerge from this course with a set of analytical tools for understanding comedic works as well as a general sense of the trajectory of modern Korean literary and film histories. This course includes a strong writing component. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Hanscom.

26. Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalayas (Identical to Anthropology 32)

08W, 09S: 12

This course introduces students to the peoples and cultures of Tibet and the greater Himalayan region (Nepal, northern India, Bhutan). We examine the cultural, ecological, political, religious, and economic interfaces that define life on the northern and southern slopes of Earth’s greatest mountain range. In addition to learning about Himalayan and Tibetan lifeways, we will also learn about how these mountainous parts of Asia have figured into occidental imaginings, from the earliest adventurers to contemporary travelers. Dist: SOC, WCult: NW. Craig.

33. Discovering an Islamic City

08S, 09S: D.F.S.P.

This course analyzes the historical and contemporary urban life of a traditional Islamic city as seen through the eyes of the town’s scholars, planners, educators, writers, and crafts people, as well as scholarly readings that have shaped discussions in anthropology, history, and the history of religions. Fez is the locus of classical discussions of urbanism, public space, and civic life in the Muslim world. Participating in the life of the city, students have an opportunity to experience first hand its educational, economic, religious, kinship, and political institutions. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Eickelman, Vandewalle.

54. Arabic as a Cultural System

08S, 09S: D.F.S.P.

Examines the historical and cultural factors and forces that have molded and continue to mold colloquial Moroccan Arabic. This course includes an appreciation of the nonverbal aspects—gestures and body language—of communication and identity in the Moroccan setting. It also offers a minimal functional mastery of practical communicative skills—the sound system, basic sentence patterns, and everyday vocabulary of colloquial Moroccan Arabic—as well as a knowledge of the Arabic script, a key element of Islamic civilization and identity. WCult: NW. Eickelman, Vandewalle.

85. Independent Research

All terms: Arrange

Independent research under the direction of members of the staff. Students should consult with a member of the staff in the term preceding the term in which the independent work is to be done.

86. Advanced Independent Research

All terms: Arrange

Advanced independent research under the direction of members of the staff. Proposals must be developed by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor and must be approved by the Steering Committee by the fifth week in the term preceding the term in which the independent study is to be taken. This course is a possible substitute for AMES 91.

87. Honors Thesis

All terms: Arrange

Open only to AMES majors who are participating in the Honors Program. See guidelines under “AMES Honors Program”.

91. Senior Seminar: Research Topics in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

08W, 09S: 3A

Open to AMES majors, this is the normal culminating course for majors. All participants will complete research projects related to their specialization within AMES. If space permits, non-AMES majors may enroll after obtaining permission of the instructor.

In 08W, Nationalism in Asia and the Middle East. WCult: NW. Rudelson.

In 09S, Asia, the Middle East and the Cold War. WCult: NW. Miller.


All departmental and program courses that have been approved for credit toward the AMES major are listed by area of concentration on the AMES web site:, or on the planning sheets available in the AMES office in Bartlett Hall or downloadable from the web site.