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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


4. Introduction to Arab Culture (Identical to Arabic 10)

09S: 11 10S: 2A

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, Smolin.

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

Not offered in the period from 08F through 10S

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 integrates anthropological approaches to understanding Islam with textual and social historical ones. The anthropological approach values the study of sacred texts and practices as they are locally understood throughout the world and in different historical contexts. This course focuses on Islam as practiced in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, Africa, Central Asia, and in Europe and North America. It assesses the contributions of religious leaders and activists as much as ordinary believers, showing the multiple ways in which Muslims throughout the world have contributed to the vitality of the Islamic tradition. Many different people and groups claim to speak for Islam. This course suggests ways of re-thinking increasingly vocal debates concerning “authentic” Islam and who speaks for it. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI. Eickelman.

8. Introduction to Islam (Identical to Religion 8)

09X: 12

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 08F through 10S

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 10W: 10

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 (Identical to Korean 10)

08F, 09F: 10A

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.

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

09W, 10W: 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)

09S, 10S: 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. Washburn.

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

08F: 10 10S: 11

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)

10S: 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)

Not offered in the period from 08F through 10S

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.

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

09S, 10S: 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

09S, 10S: 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 08F through 10S

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.

20. Japan’s Linguistic Modernity: The Anthropology of Japanese Language and Society (Identical to Anthropology 50.6)

09W: 11

Western and native folk views of the Japanese language and Japanese society emphasize uniqueness, homogeneity, and adherence to tradition. Linguistic Anthropology argues, however, that areas of Japanese Women’s Language and Honorific Register, long thought to be exemplary of these sociolinguistic traits, have in fact emerged historically through Japan’s engagement with the West, and through the production of social difference within Japan. This course takes up the social and historical relation between these Japanese linguistic forms, speech practices, and the production of Japanese cultural identities and differences. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI. Ball.

21. Topics in Korean Studies

09W, 10W: 2A

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, drawing connections between comedic works and the Korean context while working both to understand the meaning of the “comic” or “humor” through 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 in the contemporary period. Students should emerge 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. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW. Hanscom.

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

09S: 2

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 and scholars. Dist: SOC, WCult: NW. Craig.

33. Discovering an Islamic City

09S, 10S: 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. Vandewalle, Higgins.

40. Topics in Interregional Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (pending faculty approval)

09S: 11

In 09S, Sacred Architecture of Asia. This course uses sacred architecture to provide an introductory survey of religious beliefs and practices in Asia. This is not an architectural history course. Rather, emphasis will be on the relationship between the form and function of architecture and religious doctrine, ritual practice, and community. Examples include Buddhist monasteries, Hindu and Jain temples, Mughal mosques and tombs, Chinese funerary architecture, and Shinto shrines, as well as the sacred dimensions of political authority as manifested in palaces and city plans. Case studies will represent all of Asia’s major national and regional cultures. The pan-Asiatic nature of some religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) affords an excellent opportunity to examine local and sectarian adaptations of both architectural and ritual practices. With guest lecturers from across the program. Hockley.

54. Arabic as a Cultural System

09S, 10S: 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. Vandewalle, Higgins.

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

09S: 3A 10S: 10A

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 09S, Asia, the Middle East and the Cold War (Identical to History 96). Miller.

In 10S, Family and Society in Asia and the Middle East, 1500 to the Present. WCult: NW. Abouali.


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 outside the AMES/DAMELL office in Bartlett Hall or downloadable from the web site.