Are politics and religion inseparable in Islamic societies? Are the problems facing the Middle East today attributable to a lack of a robust tradition of secularity? For many scholars, the failure of Islam and politics to disentangle themselves in the early modern period (1400-1800) represents a key divergence in the historical trajectories of the Middle East and the West?a divergence that helps to explain Western stability versus Middle Eastern crisis. In contrast to such assessments, this course will question whether we have underestimated the scope and the significance of changes to the relationship between political and religious authority that occurred in the Middle East in the early modern period. Instead of presenting the region as a place where politics and religion were inextricably joined and destined to remain that way, this course will focus on the abrupt discontinuities of the period and the reconfiguration of what was deemed religious versus what was deemed political. The course is primarily chronological in organization. We will survey transformations in the institutions, social movements, political writings and imperial policies of the Ottoman Empire and Iran from roughly 1400 to 1800. In particular, we will focus on the intersection of political dissent and popular piety, the emergence of a new Sunni and Shiite political identity, and the growth of new practices and conceptions of sovereignty. The main theme of the course is that constellations of religious and political authority are always in flux, always contested, and that trajectories are changeable. As we examine these changes, we will try to delineate the contradictory legacies that this period left behind and its impact on the present world.
The effects of global warming and its alarming potential to remake our planet have caused historians and other social scientists to think more carefully about how the environment has influenced the course of human history. For many scholars in this relatively new field of inquiry, the environment has played an underappreciated role in everything from economic patterns to political crises; and from cultural diffusion to nation building. In this class, we will examine the often neglected role of nature in the history of the Middle East. Frequently, religion and culture are presented as the crucial forces driving events in this region. Environmental history presents a very different analysis of change and continuity in the Middle East and North Africa and can enrich our understanding of what factors have shaped the region. The course is an introduction to the discipline of history and fulfills the General Education requirement in Historical Studies. As such, it emphasizes change over time and examines who or what is responsible for change. Students will explore how arguments about the importance of the environment make use of newly discovered primary sources as well as sources known to the field that have received innovative new readings. (Gen. Ed. HS, G)