This page contains course descriptions for AMIDEAST Area Studies courses which are periodically offered in Cairo. Please note that not all courses are offered every semester. The course descriptions listed here are intended to give students a general sense of the scope and focus of the program. Students have the opportunity to select Area Studies courses prior to the start of the program. Approximately 6-8 weeks before the start of the semester, students are sent information regarding the courses that will be offered during the upcoming term and they indicate their preferences. Based on student preferences, including overall enrollment in specific courses, AMIDEAST staff places each student in two or three courses, as appropriate. Students who need course syllabi from past semester to assist with course pre-approval at their home institution should write to EdAbroad@amideast.org.
What makes contemporary Egyptian culture and religious practice distinct from that of other Middle Eastern countries? This course will explore the role that Pharaonic Egypt played in shaping Egyptian folklore and social customs until today and the way in which Muslim and Christian traditions have been interwoven with the ancient culture and changed or reinforced it.
The topics explored in this course include popular religion, traditional medicine and magic, material culture, language and oral traditions, cuisine, agriculture, vernacular architecture and the performing arts. Frequent field trips during class time will allow students to explore the topics they are studying firsthand.
This course weaves together lectures, discussions and museum and site visits to give students a stylistic as well as an organizational understanding of ancient Egyptian art from the prehistoric through Roman periods and its influence on modern art and issues surrounding its protection today. This will be done while learning the basics of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script and simple grammar.
This course offers an introduction to the historical development of Cairo, one of the most architecturally-rich cities in the Islamic world. Students will learn to appreciate art by understanding Islamic architecture of Egyptian culture and society. Founded in A.D. 969, Cairo developed into an urban center with its architecture changing with every new consecutive dynasty. Historic documents and surviving monuments help us understand the architectural, artistic, and urban development of the once capital of the Islamic world. The course will trace this development from the Arab conquest in A.D. 640 up to the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha in the mid-nineteenth century. Frequent fieldtrips to various districts in the city will show students how each dynasty had its own architectural style, contributing to the continuous development of Cairo and its architecture.
This course will explore issues relating to social, economic and political development in the MENA region through a multidisciplinary lens. And, as the course also aims to address the practical side of implementing development, it will depend on augmenting the classroom activities with field visits to and guest speakers from a variety of organizations working in the field of development. Students will be given indicative readings on the topics and encouraged to explore them more widely, especially by using examples of practical problems and policy questions, seeking primary data sources and reports. There are no particular prerequisites for this course; however elementary social science studies obtained in disciplines such as economics or politics or an interest in contemporary Middle East issues can be considered as foundational assets for the student. The course may also be of interest to students who are undertaking disciplinary social science degrees and who are interested in “Third World” politics or economics.
The course explores the complex social, economic and political fabric of Egypt in the beginning of the 21st Century. It focuses on the main challenges and potential paths for the Egyptian economy in the post-Mubarak era. An important element is an examination of the opportunities and challenges confronting economic and political reform initiatives, highlighting the role of the informal economy and the global context of the developmental process. The course begins with an overview of the political economy of the Egyptian state from the beginning of the modernization period in 1805 until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak and his regime in 2011. In doing so, it explores a wide set of themes that include: the nation-state project of Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century, the liberal period in the first half of the 20th century and its impact on the Egyptian economy, the Arab socialist phase under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Infitah, or economic “opening” under President Anwar Sadat, and the structural alterations of the socioeconomic setting and the neoliberal reformulation of state-society relations that took place during the Mubarak era. There are no particular prerequisites for this course; however previous study of social science in disciplines such as economics or politics or an interest in contemporary Middle East issues is important background for students in this course.
This course introduces students to the culture of ancient Egypt from the 5th Millennium BC to mid 3rd Millennium BC. A cradle of civilization, Egypt played a crucial role in world history, profoundly contributing to the rise of the state, monumental constructions, monotheism, technologies, and sciences. The course focuses on the development of the social and political organizations of ancient Egyptian culture. Religious, artistic, linguistic and archaeological aspects will also be introduced all within the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of cultural evolution. The course begins with an introduction to ancient Egyptian culture in space and time, through an overview of its physical and historical settings. It then delves into the emergence of urbanism and reaching the stage of a “state-level society,” including the crucial concept of the divine kingship and the administration system. In addition, it highlights the relationship between the invention of writing, its monopoly by the intellectual bureaucratic elite, and the rise of complex administration system. In studying the architecture of ancient Egypt, it traces the development of sacred and profane structures as well as the utilization of their walls as surfaces on which the interaction between art and aspects of Egyptian religion are portrayed.
This course is designed to enhance students’ critical and analytical intercultural communication skills with the aim of developing intercultural competence. This is accomplished through course work and practical engagement and interaction with host country society in private, official, and semi-official spaces. Guided and facilitated by the course instructor, students are expected to spend approximately six hours at their community placement work-site each week and submit journal entries reflecting on their experiences. At the end of the semester they design and deliver a final service learning project to be shared with a larger audience. Through their intercultural experiential education, students develop their intercultural competence which is a valuable asset in the global marketplace.
This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of political Islam and politics in the Arab world. It examines the reasons, implications, and consequences of the reassertion of religion in the Arab and Islamic political sphere. It aims to show that socio-political issues related to political Islam take place in the realm of modernity and globalization; hence many lines of comparison can be drawn with other social movements in different religious traditions drawing on religion as a source of legitimacy. The course challenges the students to understand the paradoxes and limitations of modernity with regard to the Islamic world, covering the development of political Islam and the push for democratization in the Middle East.
This course is designed to introduce the key concepts, themes, perspectives, and methodological approaches that provide students with tools to understand and critically reflect on social, cultural, political and economic complexities and dynamics that characterize the contemporary Arab world. Concepts such as identity, ethnicity, nationalism, gender and gender roles, exchange, the state and society, political organization, social stratification, kinship and family, religion and ritual, fundamentalism, development, democracy, political activism, minorities, and human rights will be reflected upon in the context of different Arab countries. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on a variety of contributions of both native and Western scholars from various social sciences and humanities (anthropology, sociology, political science, media studies, sociolinguistics, cultural studies, gender studies, postcolonial critique, literary studies) and discuss the interpretative strength of a number of theoretical positions and epistemic relevance of several methodological orientations in learning about the contemporary Arab world. Students in the course are encouraged to compare material covered in lectures and readings with their own social and cultural knowledge acquired through living in Egypt and on the two field trips included in the course.
This course examines the different kinds of hard and soft threats that prevail in the Middle East and North Africa in the post cold war era to enable students to analyze and be able to predict objectively the effects of these hard and soft threats on the regional and international systems. Specifically, the course will focuses on the major issues of hard and soft threats that have a bilateral and multilateral nature in the region. It will examine threats that have direct short-term and long-term devastating consequences that are measurable in number of casualties, demolition of infrastructure, and other long-term effects not only on regional but also international peace and security in post cold war era.
The Middle East region has been the scene of more crises and stirred more emotion in the West than any other region in the world. Events such as the on-going Arab-Israel conflict, the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, the 9/11 attacks, and the Iraq war have all reinforced the idea of the Middle East as a region of conflict. What is it that makes the Middle East so prone to violent conflict? In an attempt to answer this question, students in this course will probe the geographical, historical, and religious dynamics of the Middle East. They will then examine different themes including the nature of contemporary politics in the region, the complex regional state relations, the political economy of oil, Islamist and Arab nationalist politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the region’s civil society and relationship with democracy.
This course offers students a comprehensive understanding of contemporary Egyptian politics and society. Students engage in a wide range of onsite lectures, starting with the founding of modern Egypt by Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century, continuing through British occupation and the Egyptian monarchy up to the revolution in 1952. The course traces the development of the republican government through the presidencies of Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak, the 2011 revolution and the post-revolutionary period. Lectures will also focus on Egypt’s regional and international role, Egypt's political economy, the system of governance, elections, civil society, gender and human rights, political parties, Islamic movements, social and youth movements and media. The objective of the course is to understand the historical, cultural, economic, social, and political forces in Egypt today as the shape of the post-revolutionary Egyptian political system emerges. Guest lecturers come from civil society organizations, think tanks and political groupings, and students will visit key organizations as well.
This course introduces students to major themes in contemporary Egyptian Politics and Society. In the political sphere, events leading up to the 25 January revolution, the protests that brought down the Mubarak regime, and the challenges that are facing Egypt in the aftermath of the revolution are the major foci, as well as the principal actors currently shaping Egyptian politics, the discourses they use and their methods of mobilizing resources and support.
On the social level, youth movements and youth culture, gender, the role of media and new media, civil society, and the role of Copts and other religious and ethnic minorities are highlighted. Finally on the cultural level, important trends in Egyptian art and culture, including new trends in film, literature and performance arts are studied.
It is no exaggeration to point out that the claimed conflict between the history and culture of the Islamic world, on the one hand, and the values of modernity, on the other, represents one of the most important - and indeed contentious - issues of our time. One hears voices insisting on the irreconcilability of the two traditions and an eventual "clash of civilizations." This course addresses both the theoretical underpinnings and the practical manifestations of this supposed divide. Students are presented a historical overview of the emergence of modernity in the Muslim world (with special reference to Egypt), its effect on Muslim political and legal institutions, as well as a range of responses to this new reality. In order to make the theoretical concepts as clear as possible, as well as to tackle head-on some of the most fraught issues in the debates between Muslims and westerners, four separate concepts will be treated throughout the semester: democracy, human rights, jihad, and gender.
What is Shariah? What are its components? What are the different approaches to study it? What does it mean to 'apply' Shariah? Who is responsible for that? And what do different political/social groups mean when they speak about “applying Shariah?” It is no exaggeration to claim that these questions are amongst the most pressing in the Arab world in the period since the revolutions in 2011. This course examines the notion of Shariah, its components, the different Sunni schools of theology and jurisprudence, and Sufism and its relationship with Shariah. The course will scrutinize the debates over the meaning of Shariah and the significance of its application, with special emphasis on the contemporary attempts to embed Shariah in the legal system by Islamist movements.
With more than 17 million people in the metropolitan area, the city of Cairo is made up of a complex web of public and private spaces which are defined by a vast array of historical, social, and political dynamics. These dynamics are ever changing as we have seen in the example of Tahrir Square since the January 25 revolution in early 2011. The narrative and imagery surrounding Tahrir has morphed and currently this square represents a romanticized image of political agency, public space and social and cultural change. The course will use multiple academic lenses in order to understand the contemporary city of Cairo. Students will examine the main historical junctures in the formation of the city, look at particular public spaces in the city which evoke certain memories, nostalgia, and contribute to the creation of local heritage. Further, the course will examine the recent creation of desert cities and gated communities, spaces of consumption, governance in the city, and informal settlements. Lastly, this course will provide students with the opportunity to study issues of power, resistance, the politics of presence in Cairo, and artistic representation of the city. Through ethnographic exercises students and the instructor will be able to probe critical questions about the urban experience in Cairo. Moreover, this course aims to familiarize students with "Cairo" as a space and object of study in the increasingly growing interdisciplinary literature.