Revolution in the Middle East

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Students will engage the seismic shifts in the recent history of the “greater Middle East," from Morocco to Pakistan. The course begins with a brief history of the rise, development, and expansion of Islam, the later ascendancy of Western imperialism in the region, and the emergence of both recently overthrown and (as of today) surviving regimes and philosophies. Serious attention will be given to the variations between and within different states and regions, as students grapple with essential questions: Why do uprisings begin, succeed, or fail, and what will be the nature of the new regimes? Student research and presentations will be a driving force in the class, which will adapt to the events as they are unfolding. This course is recommended, but not required, for students enrolled in Environmental Science and/or Politics.


Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources
Revolution in the Middle East
  1. What forces lead toward revolution, and to what degree do the recent revolutions in the greater Middle East conform to these patterns?
  2. Which states are stable, and why?  Are we headed toward a significant reshaping of borders?
  3. How are Shi'a/Sunni and ethnic divisions shaping new states and the region as a whole?
  4. What impact are the revolutions having on the foreign policies of Iran, Turkey, the United States, and Israel?
  5. What is the next stage for countries who have seen revolution, particularly regarding individual liberty, economic policy, the role of religion in society, and gender roles?
  1. Background:  Review of core historical development and principles of Islam, geography, demography, and key ethnonational groupings
  2. Theories of liberty and economic development
  3. Background:  The colonial legacy, Ataturkism, and the ossification of the Nasserist state
  4. Background:  Petropolitics, U.S. intervention, and the remaking of the Greater Middle East
  5. Theories of liberty and economic development
  6. The rise of Islamist politics
  7. Country analysis
  8. Projecting the future

Oral and written analysis of complex phenomena, with an eye toward developing one's own essential questions

  • Analytical Essays
  • Research Papers
  • Presentations
  • Contemporary News Analysis
  • Participation
  • Quizzes

Selected Texts:


Ansary, Tamim.  Destiny Disrupted:  A History of the World through Islamic Eyes.  New York:  Public Affairs, 2010.


Held, Colbert G.  Middle East Patterns:  Places, Peoples, and Politics.  Fourth Edition. Boulder, Col.:  Westview Press, 2006.


Khalidi, Rashid.  Resurrecting Empire:  Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East.  Boston:  Beacon Press, 2005.


MacFarquhar, Neil.  The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday:  Unexpected Encounters in a Changing Middle East.  New York:  Public Affairs, 2009.


Nasr, Vali.  Forces of Fortune:  The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World.  New York:  Free Press, 2009.


_______.  The Shia Revival. How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future.  New York:  W. W. Norton and Co., Inc., 2006.


Rashid, Ahmed.  Descent into Chaos:  The U.S. and the Disaster in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.  New York:  Penguin Press, 2009.


Shadid, Anthony.  Night Draws Near:  Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War.  New York:  Picador Books, 2006.


Wright, Robin.  Rock the Casbah:  Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2011.