CONFLICTS: REGIONS AND RELIGIONS
Professor Gil Anidjar
Prior to “conﬂict resolution,” there is conﬂict. But what is conﬂict and how do we understand it? This introductory lecture course proposes to explore the history and geography of “Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies” by way of the concept of “conﬂict.” We will inquire into the nature of conﬂict as well as into the kinds of conﬂicts that operate, or seem to operate, perhaps even to structure, the “regions and religions” that are within and under the purview of the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. We will attend to the solidity and fragility of geographic divisions (regional and trans regional conﬂicts), their history (modern / premodern, colonial / pre- and post-colonial), the pertinence of religions (religious strife and violence), their relation to political associations (religion and politics, religion and nationalism) and to other social and/or economic divisions (race, class, gender). We will interrogate the analytic and descriptive value of keywords like war, enmity, dispute, division, partition. We will also reﬂect on disciplinary tensions and divisions toward an understanding and perpetuation of conﬂict. Finally, we will think about the possibility and impossibility of “speaking with the enemy.”
THE INTERSECTIONAL POLITICS OF RELIGION
Professor Sayori Ghoshal
Instead of taking our understanding of ‘religion’ for granted, this course explores precisely that concept and its history. It asks: is religion a universal category that has remained unchanged across time periods and in all societies? Are the relations between various ‘religions’ equal? How do debates around the question of religion inform other categories in our social life – race, gender, community history? Mainstream Western theories tend to focus on faith, scriptures, holy texts and rituals as universal components of all religions. However, a body of critical scholarship, demonstrates how the various orientalist and colonial encounters between the west and the non-west produces ‘religion’ as a universal, constant which can be found in all societies. This course will explore both the mainstream and the critical scholarship on religion, as well as examine what role this critical re-formulation of religion plays in questions of race, gender, caste, culture, secularism and history-writing in South Asia.
RENAISSANCE, ANNIHILATION AND SURVIVAL: THE HISTORY OF ARMENIANS IN TURKEY FROM THE TANZIMAT TO THE PRESENT
Professor Ohannes Kılıçdağı
The history of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from the early nineteenth century to the Genocide a century later is a tale of ebbs and flows, hopes and frustrations. Their history in modern Turkey, on the other hand, is about the struggle to survive and a silent resistance to annihilation. The course examines this oscillation between hope and despair and the subsequent effort among Armenians to exist in their homeland. It explores how they invented in Republican Turkey a ‘third way’ of being Armenian, distinct from Armenian existence in the diaspora and in the Soviet and post-Soviet republics of Armenia. To provide the context for what happened, the course will situate this history within Ottoman-Turkish politics and society, The course is divided historically into five parts: the Ottoman Tanzimat (Reorganization) and Armenian Zartonk (Awakening); Sultan Abdulhamid II and setbacks for the Armenians; the 1908 Revolution and Armenian hopes; War and the Armenian Genocide; and the Republic of Turkey and the survival and mutation of Armenian life.
EROTICS AND ASCETICS: READINGS IN SANSKRIT LITERATURE
Professor Shiv Subramaniam
Again and again, the literature of classical India shows us characters driven by passion alongside characters who feel called to a life of renunciation and reflection. This course offers an introduction to Sanskrit literature by tracking these two figures of the erotic and the ascetic in the writing of four canonical poets: Asvaghosha (1st-2nd century), Kalidasa (4th-5th century), Bana (7th century), and Bhavabhuti (8th century). After briefly familiarizing ourselves with Sanskrit epic literature (selections from Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata), our main task will be to read closely eight works of these four writers: Asvaghosha’s Life of Buddha and Handsome Nanda; Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Shakuntala, The Cloud-Messenger, and The Origin of the Young God; Bana’s Kadambari; and Bhavabhuti’s Rama’s Last Act and Malati and Madhava. We will be interested, among other things, in how these writers conceive of the relationship between ascetic and passionate life; in how they understand the allure of asceticism; in what value they seem to place on average everyday existence; and in what kinds of obligation their characters feel to each other and (in the case of ascetics) the worlds they have left behind. All texts will be read in translation, but students with knowledge of Sanskrit are encouraged to consult works in the original language.