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Course Description

islamic civilization and societies

Agora Course Schedule

Fine Arts

FA 214 The Art of the Silk Road

Offered Periodically

The seminar is intended to introduce students to the transcontinental ideas that occurred between China and the Mediterranean from pre-historic to modern times. The course encompasses a vast subject, both chronologically and geographically, treating the arts produced over some four millenia and one-quarter of the globe.
Sheila Blair

FA 280 Masterpieces of Islamic Art

Offered Periodically

A detailed examination of a dozen masterpieces of Islamic art ranging from architecture to ceramics, the seventh century to the present, and Spain to India. Emphasis on placing the works in their historical, social, craft, and visual contexts.
Jonathan Bloom



HS 208 Middle East in the Twentieth Century

Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement

Through the last eighty years the Middle East has been the site of many wars and conflicts. More recently it has become the most important source of the world's energy. This combination of strife and economic power has made it a vital and sensitive areas for the entire globe.
Benjamin Braude

HS 326 Modern Iran - Fall:3

Cross Listed with PO 420

Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement

The objective of this course is to analyze the trends and transformations in the political, social, and cultural history of Iran from the late nineteenth century to the present. Particular emphasis will be placed on the following topics: Iran's encounter with the West in the 19th century and its impact on the country's economy and society; social and religious movements in the 19th century; causes and consequences of the Constitutional revolution of 1905-1909; Iran's modernization and political development under the Pahlavis (1925-1979); the causes and consequences of the Iranian Revolution of 1979; Iran's post-revolutionary experience as an Islamic Republic.
Ali Banuazizi

HS 343 Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire- Spring: 3

Satisfies Cultural Diversity Core requirement

The Ottoman Turks founded an empire spanning the three continents of the eastern hemisphere and enduring for nearly three-quarters of a millennium. Despite nomadic origins they established a stable political structure, which grafted the high traditions of Islamic culture onto an ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse society. This course explores the evolution of this remarkable enterprise from its origins on the frontiers of Byzantium and Islam through its heyday under Suleyman the Magnificent to its military decline and first steps toward reform.
Benjamin Braude

HS 344 History and Historiography of the Arab-Israeli Conflict - Spring: 3

This course introduces students to the history of the Arab-Israeli conduct from the inception of the Zionist movement in the 19th century until the end of the 20th century. Given that history itself is a site of contention in this conflict, the course will focus equally on the various and conflicting historical narratives and will explore fundamental issues in the relationship between history writing and ideology, especially the use of history as a tool for the shaping of collective identities and for legitimizing and justifying nationalist claims.
Dana Sajdi

HS 365 Odysseys in the Western and Islamic Traditions (Spring: 3)

Offered Periodically

Fulfills Non-Western Requirement for History Majors

Bridging the traditional divide between "East" and "West," "Christendom" and "Islamdom" and viewing cultural production as rooted in the human experience, this course focuses upon similar literary and intellectual trajectories across Europe and the Middle East from antiquity to the late eighteenth century. We will examine a series of parallel texts that span the genres of epic, poetry, biography, autobiography and travel narrative. Students will be asked to read these texts in two ways: as an individual perspective (male or female) and as an odyssey - a literary repository of socio-cultural transformation and exchange.
Sarah Ross
Dana Sajdi

HS 575 Terror and the American Century - Spring: 3

The aim of this course is to show how terror and violence have affected the United States from the late 19th century up to 9/11 and through the current U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It aims to show that while differing in scope and human loss, the latter events, including the so-called Global War on Terror, have certain antecedents in the U.S. experience. The course will concentrate on the theme of terror, both domestic and foreign, and examine the government response to terror and subversive groups aiming to overthrow the government or inflict harm upon its citizens.
Charles Gallagher, S.J.



PL 407 Medieval Philosophy - Spring: 3

Far from being repetitive, the Middle Ages were a period during which multiple solutions tried to make sense of the world by combining philosophic and scientific knowledge with religious views. The aim of the course is to provide an accurate image of this diversity of thoughts. We will study a wide range of Christian authors, from St. Augustine to Ockham, as well as Islamic and Jewish thinkers. The course will highlight the essential concepts that were formed in the Middle Ages and have been transmitted to modern philosophy in metaphysics and ontology, theory of knowledge and consciousness, ethics, etc.
Jean-Luc Solere


Political Science

PO 363 Muslims in U.S. Society and Politics - Spring: 3

An examination of the demographic, social, cultural, religious, and political forces that are shaping the emergent American Muslim community. Inter-generational family dynamics, Muslim schools, mosque governance, civil religion in America, advocacy group politics, and voting patters will be examined. So will ethnic, linguistic, national-origin, and sectarian differences among immigrant-origin Muslims, particularly their political implications. African-American Muslims will also be considered, especially their relations with immigrant-origin Muslims. Attention will be paid both the impact of Muslims on American society and to the impact of American institutions and policies, especially post-9/11 initiatives such as the Patriot Act, on Muslims
Peter Skerry

PO 414 Politics & Society in Central Eurasia - Spring: 3

This course explores political systems and contemporary society in Central Eurasia and devotes special attention to ethnic relations among the various peoples of the region. Greater Central Asia constitutes the western part of Inner Asia, stretching from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang Province in China and from Chechnya in the north to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the south. It belongs culturally to the Islamic world. The region has been impacted by the imperial policies of the Soviet Union and China, the rise of nationalism, and religious radicalism, terrorism, and war. Reform strategies and models will be discussed.
Kathleen Bailey

PO 444 Intellectuals and Politics in the Middle East - Spring: 3

This course examines the role of intellectuals, both religious and secular, in several Middle Eastern countries in analyzing the key problems of their societies, articulating visions for change, supporting or challenging the political status quo, and at times acting directly as agents of social change. The main themes to be explored in the words of a number of prominent Middle Eastern intellectuals include: the conflict between tradition and modernity; the encounter with the West and the quest for authenticity; secularism, human rights, minority rights, and democracy; and reformist versus radical strategies for political, social, and cultural change.
Ali Banuazizi

PO 502 U.S.-Iran Relations since World War II - Spring: 3

This course examines the domestic, ideological, and strategic dimensions of the troubled relationships between the United States and Iran since the Second World War. After a brief overview of the relationships in the pre-war period, it will focus on the war-time occupation of Iran by the Allied powers and the subsequent onset of the Cold War; Iran's oil nationalization crisis and the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup; U.S.'s unstinting support for the Pahlavi monarch after the coup until his fall in 1979; and the state of mutual distrust, tension, and hostility between the two countries since the Islamic Revolution.
Ali Banuazizi

PO 638 Islamic Political Philosophy - Spring: 3

What is the relationship between philosophy and Islam? Does the divine law (Shari'a) need to be supplemented with purely rational reflections on the nature and purpose of political life? What is the place of toleration and individual rights in the Islamic legal and philosophic tradition? We will explore these and similar questions by focusing on two particularly fertile periods of Islamic thought: the encounter of Islam with Greek philosophy in the classical period and its encounter with the modern secular west in late modernity.
David Di Pasquale

PO 700 Muslims and American Institutions - Spring: 3

Will Muslims integrate successfully into the American regime? How do we define success? What does such integration—or lack thereof—tell us about contemporary American political institutions? What challenges does Islam pose for our understanding of the place of religion in America, or in liberal democracies generally? Such questions will be addressed by examining the institutions Muslims in America are building for themselves—for instance, mosques, schools, political advocacy groups. To what extent are these shaped by values and ideas—religious or political? To what extent by overseas actors? To what extent by American social and cultural forces?
Peter Skerry


Slavic and Eastern Languages

SL 232 Literature of the Other Europe in Translation - Fall:3

Cultural Diversity Core Credit

A survey of outstanding and influential works of and about the political and social upheavals of the 20th century in Eastern/Central and Southeastern Europe. These works often share the themes of frontier, identity, exile, and apocalypse, issuing directly from the experience of the borderlands of four empires—Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and at the other end of the 20th century, Soviet—and four religions—Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Yet, the authors' concerns often also resonate with what we can identify as "universal" issues of the twentieth century.
Cynthia Simmons

SL 249 Gender and War in Eastern Europe - Spring: 3

A study of the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and ideology in the Russian Revolution, the World Wars in Eastern Europe, and the recent Yugoslav wars. In World War I women confronted their duties to nation against the backdrop of an on-going struggle for equality. In World War II women in communist Eastern Europe were liberated by their nations’ ideology to fight, against tradition, on all fronts. More recently in former Yugoslavia, women, particularly Bosnian Muslim women, flouted tradition in a different way—by organizing and fighting for peace.
Cynthia Simmons

SL 250 Conversion, Islam, & Politics in the Balkans

Through a study of fiction, works of scholarship, folklore, and movies, the course examines the conversion of Christians to Islam in Southeast Europe. It analyzes the most important cultural, social, and political implications of this change with the goal of identifying the various factors that promote cooperation or conflict among mixed Christian-Muslim communities.
Mariela Dakova

SL 251 Advanced Arabic I - Fall: 3

Prerequisite: SL 090 Intermediate Arabic II or equivalent

Satisfies Foreign Language Proficiency Core Requirement
Conducted in Arabic.

Advanced-level work toward a thorough proficiency in all aspects of modern standard Arabic, with an emphasis on composition, syntax, style, and careful translation of advanced texts.
Atef Ghobrial

SL 252 Advanced Arabic II - Spring: 3

This course is for students who have had prior formal exposure to modern standard Arabic. It is a continuation of Advanced Arabic ( SL25101). It continues the process of presenting grammatical structures, reinforces techniques for vocabulary building and extends reading skills, speaking and writing at the paragraph level and beyond. The course will emphasize intensive conversational practice and communication in context. Additional material prepared by the instructor will serve to supplement the textbook in such matters as conversations, grammar, vocabulary and listening skills/drills. Instruction will adopt a communication-based approach: emphasis is placed on the functional use of the language and on communication in context rather than on the conscious learning of grammatical rules. New vocabulary will be used and applied in class in various new authentic contexts such as by asking questions and engaging in various speech activities that necessitate the use of new vocabulary and structures. Some grammatical structures for further elucidation and/ or emphasis will be selected, whenever necessary or needed. However, the course emphasizes the acquisition of grammatical structures by application rather than explanation.
Atef Ghobrial

SL 272 War and Peace in Yugoslavia - Fall/Spring: 3

A study of the numerous differences—ethnic, religious, linguistic, and historical—that, along with economic disparities, characterized Yugoslavia as a country situated “at the crossroads” of East and West, and of their role (real and “constructed”) in the dissolution of the nation and subsequent war. A consideration also of the Yugoslav conflicts, and their resolutions, as successful (or unsuccessful) models for the response of the “international community” to strife among peoples of unstable nations and cultures.
Cynthia Simmons

SL 280 Society and National Identity in the Balkans

An overview of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity among peoples of the Balkans (Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats, Greeks, Macedonians, Romanians, Serbs, Slovenes, Jews, Turks, and gypsies ). It is a study of what constitutes the various parameters of identity: linguistic typologies, religious diversity (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islam, and Judaism), culture, and social class. An analysis of the origins of nationalism, the emergence of nation-states, and contemporary nationalism as a source of instability and war in the Balkans will be considered.
Mariela Dakova

SL 291 Near Eastern Civilizations

This course investigates the rise and development of civilization in the Middle East, from the beginning of settled life (ca. 10th millennium BC), and into the establishment of modern state-system in the early 20th century. The course themes examine the political, social, economic, religious, and intellectual underpinnings of the rise, growth, faltering, and downfall of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt, Israel, and Carthage, evaluate their contributions to the rise of classical civilization (Greece and Rome,) and their influence on Western Civilization, monotheistic traditions, and the modern Middle Eastern state-system.

SL 382 Business Arabic

This course is intended for students who have had at least five semesters (approximately 200 hours) of Arabic study or equivalent. Otherwise, the permission of the instructor is required. Students are introduced to the specialized structure and vocabulary of business Arabic, beginning with the analysis of headlines and telegraphic language and messaging, and continuing into video, radio, film, and web- based content. They will examine extensive and varied as well as authentic and recent media Arabic materials taken from different Arabic newspapers and media sources such as Al-Hayat, Al- Ahram and Al-Gazeera with a view to introducing them to a variety of stylistic features and terminologies pertaining to the conventional and specialized writing of Arabic business writing.
The course is divided into a number of modules organized around topical issues. These will include, though not limited to, “diplomacy and the economy,” “elections and the economy,” “terrorism and the economy,” “sanctions and the economy,” and “violence and anarchy and the economy.” Although emphasis will be placed on reading comprehension, translation and writing, language in context and listening will be emphasized, as they are key to helping learners later navigate the universe of authentic Arabic talk shows and broadcast news.
Atef Ghobrial



SC 150 States and Minorities in the Middle East - Spring: 3

Cross Listed with SL 150 and PS 153

Offered Periodically

A broad-based overview of the role of language choice plays in the construction of national and cultural identity in the Middle East. We will examine the role of Modern Standard Arabid (or Fus-ha) in the elaboration of Arab Nationalism, and the role of local dialects in the conceptualization of competing national identities and territorial nationalisms. In particular, and in addition to Arab Nationalism and Zionism, we will examine the ideas of Greater Syria, the Egyptian Pharaonic idea, Lebanonism, Mesopotamianism, and the Canaanite movement in Israel.
Fanck Salameh

SC 367 Human Rightsd and Social Justice in Israel and Palestine - Fall:3

A study/immersion trip over winter break is required of participants.

This seminar, using a human rights framework, is designed to prepare students to better understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by comparing historical narratives, evaluating the most discussed political solutions (the one vs. two state debate), assessing the possibilities of an "economic peace" absent a political solution, and evaluating the role of religious ethics in conflict resolution.
Eve Spangler



TH 116 Medieval Religions and Thought

The medieval world of philosophy and theology was a multicultural world: Arabian, Jewish and Christian thinkers from the three great religious traditions adopted, adapted and shared the philosophical riches of the classical world and the religious resources of the biblical heritage. This course introduces students to the great Arabian thinkers: Alfarabi, Avicenna, Algazel and Averroes, the respected Jewish authors: Saadiah Gaon, Moses Maimonides and Gersonides, and the famous Christian writers: Anselm, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas and the intellectual challenges from the Greek intellectual world that they met and faced in the Middle Ages.
Stephen F. Brown

TH 351 Faith Elements in Conflict - Spring: 3

Religious differences appear often to figure in the dehumanization of enemies and rationalization of violence. This course will look at the way key concepts such as revelation, election, and universality in various religions, especially in sectarian guise, affect the origins and progress of violent conflicts, and will ask to what extent such employment of these concepts betrays the religions themselves. It will also examine how far the institutional interests of religious bodies make them vulnerable to manipulation by other parties engaged in any given conflict, and how the religious elements and loyalties relate to other interests that figure in such conflicts.
Raymond Helmick, S.J.

TH 352 Israelis and Palestinians - Fall: 3

The parties in the Middle Eastern Conflict came, in 1993, to a watershed agreement, which had eluded them earlier, to recognize one another's legitimacy as peoples. The agreement has been difficult to maintain and to withdraw, and has figured massively in the turbulent events in the region since that time. This course examines how, in the whole history of the conflict, the elements of ethnicity and faith have contributed to the hatreds and resentments of these peoples, and the extent to which mutual acceptance and respect at these levels of faith and ethnicity can contribute to healing the conflict.
Raymond Helmick, S.J.

TH 441 Ibn 'Arabi and the Islamic Humanities: Islamic Philosophy and Theology - Spring: 3

This new seminar—based entirely on English readings and open to students at all levels, without any prerequisites—has two primary aims: First (weeks 1-7), to introduce one of the deepest and most influential Islamic thinkers and writers, who was at once a poet, philosopher, theologian, jurist, and seminal spiritual explorer. Secondly (weeks 8-14), to introduce some of the key strands of his extraordinary influence, through all of the Islamic humanities in a wide array of languages and artistic and social forms, in shaping later Islamic civilization and making possible the development (subsequent to the Mongol invasions and prior to the colonial onslaught) of Islam as a truly world religion. At the same time, both these complementary historical dimensions of the course should help to suggest and illuminate the many ways in which Ibn „Arabi has recently become a central resource for contemporary thinkers, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, poets and artists developing his ideas and emphases in our own emerging global civilization.
James Morris

TH 544 Prophetic Tradition and Inspiration - Fall: 3

For Advanced Undergraduates and Graduates

Using English translations, this seminar surveys the ways the corpus of Prophetic hadith has inspired every area of Islamic life, including spiritual devotions and practices; theology, cosmology and eschatology; family, social and economic life; models of proper behavior (adab); the interpretation of the Qur'an and sacred history; and later disciplines of Arabic learning. Focuses on acquiring familiarity with the structure, contents, and uses of major Sunni hadith collections (but including representative Shiite sources), as well as later influential short collections (Nawawi, Ibn `Arabi).
James Morris

TH 557 Introduction to Islamic Philosophical Traditions
Spring: 3

This seminar is designed to provide a chronological introduction—based as much as possible on English translations of key treatises, with some basic contextual studies—to the most important figures, themes, and schools from across the broad spectrum of Islamic philosophical traditions, while also illustrating the many fundamental ways that these learned traditions of philosophy, science and medicine helped to shape and inform much wider areas of Islamic civilization, society, and the Islamic humanities (politics, poetry, architecture, etc.). Given the limited time and introductory level of this course, a number of important Muslim philosophers and schools of thought could not be included here: e.g., the earlier Neoplatonists and al-Kindi, the wide range of Ismaili Shiite thinkers, parallel Jewish philosophers writing in Arabic (such as Maimonides) , and Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of culture and history.
James Morris


Summer Abroad Courses

HS 135 The Jordan Connection: The History and Culture of the Middle East from Ancient to Modern Times - Summer 2009

Jordan (officially, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) came into existence in the 1920s. While it is a relatively young country whose borders were drawn by the colonial pen in the aftermath of World War I, it has historically "housed" many civilizations and political entities. Situated strategically near the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the rivers of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Jordan was a crossroad for trading and pilgrim caravans in pre-modern times and a safe haven for various war-torn communities in modernity (e.g., Circassians, Chechens, Bosnians, Armenians, Palestinians, and Iraqis). Jordan, then, has always been a connection point and a gateway for various cultures and communities, each of which left an indelible mark not only on local culture but also on the country’s very topography. Taking advantage of the abundance of important historical and archeological sites, this course will offer a sweeping "eyes-on" multi-century history tour of the Middle East. We will visit Mount Nebo, where the prophet Moses was first shown the "Promised Land" Jerash, one of the most complete extant examples of a Greco-Roman city; Petra (recently officially pronounced as one of the Seven Wonders of the World), a Nabatean city carved in rose-red stone; Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John the Baptist lived and baptized; the Madaba Mosaic, a unique Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land; the Early Islamic Palaces of Amra and Hallabat (known as the Desert Palaces); and the Crusader castles of Karak, Shawbak, and Rabad. But between the historical sites where Roman legionaries, Nabatean traders, Byzantine ladies, Templar Knights, Umayyad Caliphs, and even Jesus himself treaded there are breathtaking deserts, forests, natural terrains, and an unusually salty lake (The Dead Sea, where it is impossible to drown). Throughout our visit, we will stay in a series of well-equipped and comfortable eco-lodges and campsites situated in natural reserves throughout the country.
Dana Sajdi

PO / IS Politics and Oil in the Gulf States - Summer 2009: 3

This course addresses the problems of state formation, state-society relations, democratization, the rise of Islamism and regime stability in Kuwait and other oil-rich Arab Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia. It also assesses the implications for foreign policy, oil export levels, and regional balancing of the GCC states. The impact of oil on domestic politics and foreign policy are examined—in particular, the ruling family’s success in the trade-off of wealth for regional power and political continuity. Despite this pact, pressures for political liberalization and civil society formation are growing, and have resulted in an independent National Assembly as well as an increased number of groups (Islamist, women’s, professional, human rights) outside of state control.
Kathleen Bailey, David Deese

TH Exploring the Religious Worlds of Istanbul and Anatolia - Summer 2009: 3

This summer course will provide a firsthand acquaintance with many of the central features of Islamic religious and devotional life (pilgrimage, sainthood, poetry, music, architecture, iconography and ritual), along with an initial introduction to key sites and institutions of Eastern Orthodox Christianity—with readings focusing on the fascinating mosques, shrines, Sufi tekkes, and churches of historic Istanbul/Constantinople. We will also travel to major religious shrines, monuments, places of worship and centers of pilgrimage—often shared by Muslims and Eastern Christians—in Konya, Ephesus (Mary's house), Bursa, Edirne, and Cappadocia.
James Morri