Instructors: Samuel Dolbee and Patrick Whitmarsh
Meeting time: Monday, 3:00-5:45
The Middle East and the United States are often presented as separate and in conflict, whether through the notion of “clash of civilizations” or events like 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This course takes a different premise. It explores complex intersections—economic, ecological, colonial—by bringing together places not typically thought about at the same time, including Oklahoma and Mount Lebanon, American suburbs and Saudi oil fields, and the borders of the United States and Mexico and Iraq and Kuwait, respectively. Drawing on science fiction, memoirs, poetry, songs, travelogues, and podcasts, the course raises key methodological questions: how have literary and historical sources questioned authority through different genres or theoretical approaches? And what do inevitably flawed characterizations of “place” like the United States (a political entity) and the Middle East (a Eurocentric geographic designation born in the early twentieth century) even mean? In posing these questions, the course historicizes how the environment, gender, and race both put these regions in contact and have been used to divide them through conceptions of cultural difference.