This course familiarises you with the major issues in the politics and international relations of the contemporary Middle East region. The countries covered include all Arab states and non-Arab states such as Iran and Israel. Deliberately, the course will start with a hard look at the contemporary picture in the region and, from that, ask the questions about how we got there. Digging back will include a broad introduction to the people, society, history and politics of the Middle East. The course will then explore the interplay of factors such as religion, ethnicity, gender and class in the politics of the region; the role played by internal and external actors; issues of conflict in the region; political economies; foreign policies of major states and the perception of what those policies might be; regional integration; the concepts of political Islam and the challenge of democracy and Islam.
The aim of the course is not in the first place to cover in detail all of the most recent events, and it will be assumed that you follow current affairs in the region. Rather, the aim is to undertake a deeper exploration of the region: to help you understand and analyse the dynamics involved in these events and processes. In other words: why did things evolve the way they did, why are they what they appear to be today, and what does this tell us about where they are likely to go in the future? This will be done through guided reading, seminar discussion, and your own research and writing. The topics covered in the course include:• The Middle East after the Arab Spring(s); the shi’i/sunni pulls for influence • “Political Islam” and the concept of the state; the “war on terror” • Where did all this come from? People, society, tribes, money and politics • Voices of the Middle East: religion, ethnicity, gender and class, salafis, language and the Qur’an • Internal and External Actors in the Middle East; diplomacy • Political economies of the region: oil power or dependency? • The Arab-Israeli conflict• Wars now in the region; containment, intervention and persuasion • Democracy in the Middle East; shi’a and sunna; the “gates of ijtihad” Select Bibliography:Mark Allen, Arabs: A New Perspective (Continuum, 2006) Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam (Harvard University Press, 1994)Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (I. B. Taurus, 2006)Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-first Century (Random House, 2009)Marc Lynch, The Arab Uprising: The unfinished revolutions of the New Middle East (Public Affairs Books, 2012)Joumana Haddad, Superman is an Arab: On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous interventions (Westbourne Press, 2012)Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Bloomsbury, 2010)Wen-chin Ouyang, Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel: Nation-state, modernity and tradition (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)Charles Tripp, The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East (CUP, 2014) John Gray, Al Qaeda, And What it Means to be Modern (Faber & Faber, 2003)