Vassar Today


History 384: Islam, Social Movements, and the West

Assistant Professor Joshua Schreier

Course Objective

This class explores power’s role in the production of knowledge. Students will trace how Middle Eastern history has been written over the last century or so, along with methods for finding, recording, and synthesizing historical information. In the first part of the course, students read a number of important historical texts in an effort to contextualize and understand the birth and development of Orientalism and its intellectual legacies. The second part of the course will cover a selection of theoretical and historical studies from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s that threw many “givens” of the discipline of Orientalism into doubt, while establishing the field of postcolonial studies. The final part takes a more focused approach to questions in Middle Eastern history, allowing the class to evaluate how (or if) recent scholarship on Islam and the Middle East has benefited from these theoretical debates.

Recommended Reading

Contending Visions of the Middle East by Zachary Lockman

Orientalism: A Reader by Lyon Macfie

Colonizing Egypt by Timothy Mitchell

Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction by Robert Young

Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon by Elizabeth Thompson

Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said

Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East by James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni

Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East by Lila Abu-Lughod

Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation-Building and History Denied by Toby Dodge

Joshua Schreier received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. at NYU. He started teaching in 2001 at Colby College, and came to Vassar in 2002. He is currently writing a book about gender, Jews, and the meaning of “civilization” in the French colonial context.