Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern studies at Hampshire allows our interdisciplinary focus to come to the fore.

Students concentrating on the Middle East will likely take several history courses to gain a foundational understanding of the structure and cultural identities of the region.

This strong base in the social and political history of the Middle East is then built upon and directed in any number of ways. A student may choose to focus on a specific conflict, religion, or leader, or analyze the region in terms of gender, class, or ethnicity.

Interaction between the Middle East and the West is often a source of analysis, while the art, science, philosophy, and literature of the Middle East may also provide the substance of a concentration.

Student Project Titles

  • Cities of Salt
  • The Processes of Political Islamism
  • The Materiality of Belief in Islam
  • Agriculture, the State, and the NGO in Egypt
  • American Exceptionalism and the Bush War Doctrine
  • Iranian Nuclear Defiance and the Geopolitical Environment of the Middle East
  • Myths and Moudjahidat: Algerian Women in Relation to Colonial, Nationalist, and Fundamentalist Projects
  • A Genealogy of Shi'a Islam

Sample First-Year Course

The Middle Eastern Economies

This course is an introduction to the Middle East. Some questions we will be exploring in the course are: How can we reconcile the existence of massive natural resources with the levels of poverty and underdevelopment throughout the region? Is this contradiction a result of inward orientation of the regimes or other cultural pre-dispositions, as is widely repeated in popular discourse? How have the processes of de-colonization, the clash of the various nationalist projects, and reoccurring wars, sanctions, and occupations hindered human development? By exploring novels, films, and scholarly articles we will examine the interaction between the various social actors, state structure and policy, and structural transformation. The course will focus on the case of Syria, a country in transition from a state-socialist to a market-oriented economy.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • Affinities and Discontents in the Middle East: The Chemistry of Islamic Challenge
  • Colonial Encounters
  • Comparative Middle East Politics: Islam-State Interaction
  • Islam and Democracy
  • Islamic Modernities
  • Israel and Palestine: The Clash of Nationalisms
  • Nationalism in the Middle East
  • Politics of Gender and Identities in Muslim Countries and Communities
  • Societies and Cultures in the Middle East
  • Sociology of Islam
  • The American Encounter with Arab Nationalism
  • Theories of Social Change and Middle Eastern Societies
  • Unpacking the Myth of 9/11: Muslim Diaspora in the United States

Through the Consortium

  • Critical Perspectives on the Modern Middle East (UMass)
  • Egypt in the 19th Century (SC)
  • History of the Oriental Carpet (UMass)
  • Introduction to Islam (MHC)
  • Just War and Jihad: Comparative Ethics of War and Peace (MHC)
  • The Modern Middle East (UMass)
  • Muhammad and the Qur'an (AC)
  • Near Eastern Civilization I and II (UMass)
  • Sources of Islamic Political Philosophy (SC)
  • Women and Gender in Islam (MHC)

Facilities and Resources

Five College Certificate Program in Middle Eastern Studies
Hampshire students studying the Middle East can be certified through the Five College Certificate Program in Middle Eastern Studies. Benefiting from the wealth of courses available through the consortium, students must take two introductory courses providing a historical overview of the medieval and modern periods, and five courses in religion and philosophy; history, literature, and art; and social science.

In addition to the courses offered through each of the five institutions, students are encouraged to spend time in the Middle East, learning Arabic and other languages in order to immerse themselves in the culture of the area. Knowledge equivalent to at least two years of college study of a language of the region is necessary. Arabic and Modern Hebrew are currently taught in the Five Colleges, but in consultation with an advisor, other languages of the region may be substituted.

Along with the administration of the Middle Eastern Studies Certificate, the interdisciplinary Five College Middle Eastern Studies Committee sponsors cultural programming and a cooperative Arabic language program.

Hampshire College's Annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture Series
The annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture Series focuses on issues of the developing world and honors the teaching, scholarship, and activism of the late Eqbal Ahmad, a long-time professor of world politics at Hampshire College. The event has attracted many notable speakers, such as Secretary-General Kofi Annan; renowned professor and author of Orientalism and The Question of Palestine, Edward Said; Palestinian doctor and recent candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority, Mustafa Barghouthi; Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Middle East Institute, Columbia University; as well as New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.