Undergraduate and Graduate Courses

From Harems to Terrorists: Representing the Middle East in Hollywood Cinema

This course explores the ways in which Arabs and the Middle East have been represented in Hollywood Cinema. Through an examination of Hollywood films over the last century, such as “The Sheik” (1921), “The Ten Commandments” (1956), and “The Siege” (1998), a shift in stereotypes is traced from the rich Arab sheik with harems of women to the Arab terrorist. Through examining one film per decade, starting in the 1920s, the course examines the connection between representations and the historical-political moment in which they are created and disseminated, from European colonization of the Arab world to 9/11. How have international relations, political events, and foreign policy influenced representations in Hollywood filmmaking? How do representations in film and media become part of American culture? Through examining these questions, we will develop an analysis of the changing landscape of race, gender, and American identity in film. We will also examine the counter-current of filmmaking and other genres, such as documentaries, low budget films, and stand-up comedy.

Introduction to American Studies

This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to American and Ethnic Studies. The principal goal is to help students understand how people in the United States live in and think about their country, and in particular, debates over who counts as an American. The first part of the course focuses on history, with an emphasis on how inequality was entrenched through the colonial dispossession of Native Americans, the enslavement of people of African descent, and restrictive immigration and citizenship policies at the same time that that U.S. nation was being defined as a democracy. The second part of the course looks at current events such as the “Muslim ban,” Trump’s proposal to “build the wall,” controversy around the use of Native American mascots, and the Black Lives Matter movement. These case studies will offer the opportunity to develop an analysis of ever-changing racial politics in the United States. Throughout this course, students will gain a vocabulary to thoughtfully engage in some of the most pressing political issues of our time pertaining to immigration, citizenship, and democracy, especially in relation to racism and its legacies.

Race and Mixed Race

This course examines how conceptions of race and mixed race have been historically shaped through law, science, and popular culture. In addition to examining the ways in which race has been socially constructed and how its meanings have changed over time, the course focuses the politics of interracial marriage, contemporary mixed race identities, and trans-racial adoption. Through an examination of historical, sociological, and autobiographical texts, the course explores a variety of themes including: census classifications, affirmative action, notions of colorblindness, questions of appearance, “authenticity,” community belonging, and the debates around the mixed race movement.

Why Do They Hate Us? Perspectives on 9/11

How has the debate on U.S. national security during the War on Terror been framed? How might our perceptions of Arabs and Islam limit international security and cooperation? What impact do U.S.-Middle East relations have on Arab and Muslim American communities? “Why Do They Hate Us?: Perspectives on 9/11” explores key debates in the War on Terror, including over the causes of terrorism, the clash of civilizations thesis, civil liberties vs. national security, militarism and patriotism, and immigrant rights and racial profiling. The course seeks a comprehensive view of how scholars, politicians, citizens and non-citizens have understood and experienced 9/11 and its aftermath. We will explore materials such as scholarly writings, media representations, cultural and artistic work, government policies and laws. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach that brings together readings from cultural studies, media studies, political science, postcolonial studies, U.S. race and ethnic studies, and gender studies, revealing the interplay between debates at home and policies abroad.


Hate crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans have multiplied since September 11, 2001. The U.S. government and local police departments have developed surveillance programs to monitor Muslim Americans who are perceived as a potential threat to U.S. national security. What is the impact of such policies and practices on Arab and Muslim American communities, on conceptions of American citizenship, and on conceptions of democracy and multiculturalism? This course will examine the phenomenon of Islamophobia from several angles. First, it will focus on the origin of the term and debates as to whether or not Islamophobia is an adequate term to use to capture the phenomenon of seeking to target or exclude Muslims from multicultural nations. Second, we will focus on several case studies of Islamophobia in the U.S. and Europe, including the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy in the U.S. and the Prophet Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark to identify the specific forms that Islamophobia takes. Third, we will briefly consider how Muslims have responded to Islamophobia through community organizing and various artistic forms.

Introduction to Arab American Studies

This course provides an introduction to Arab American Studies through an interdisciplinary approach to the following questions: What are the historical circumstances that have shaped Arab immigration to the U.S.? Where do Arab Americans “fit” within the U.S.’ racial classification system? What is anti-Arab racism? How has it shifted throughout Arab American history? What is the significance of gender and sexuality to anti-Arab racism? How did September 11th impact Arab American communities? What is the relationship between socioeconomic class and cultural identity among Arab Americans? How have Arab Americans used the arts for cultural and political expression? What is the significance of religious affiliation to Arab American identity formation? How has U.S. foreign policy impacted Arab American histories and experiences? These questions will be explored through anthropological, historical, literary, and visual materials.

22 Ways to Think About Race

“Twenty Two Ways to Think about Race” is a course designed for the LSA Race Theme Semester, Winter 2013. The objective of the course is to introduce students to a variety of ways to approach the study of race by inviting speakers from different disciplines, for example, biological anthropology, linguistics, psychology, law, women’s studies, urban studies, complex systems, medicine, etc. The course will consist of about a dozen invited speakers from departments across the university. The remaining classes will be devoted to trying to make sense of the multiple approaches presented to the class and examining several exhibits about race.

Why 22 ways? “22 Ways” courses are designed for the Sophomore Initiative to provide the opportunity to experience different ways in which knowledge is produced. In this sense the course is multidisciplinary: it surveys different ways that human beings come to ask questions, think about problems, pursue answers, and organize our thinking. By encountering this rich diversity of human thought, directed at a single topic, students will develop a deeper understanding of different ways of thinking and producing knowledge.

Why race? The idea of race in the United States has a long and complex history. While the United States was founded on principles of freedom and equality, ideas about race were used to justify slavery, segregation, and to legalize inequality. Many point to the civil rights movement in the 1960s as a major turning point in beginning to resolve this contradiction. But to what extent does race continue to shape our social, political, and economic system, our interpersonal relationships, and our personal experiences? Our objective will be to explore how race is approached from a variety of disciplines. By the end of the semester students should have developed a broad understanding of race and its changing significance over the last century.

The Middle East in American Studies

In two decades since September 11, 2001, Arab American Studies and US Muslim Studies have become part of Ethnic Studies. This course traces the development of scholarship about Arab, Muslim, and Southwest Asian/North African (SWANA) racialization in the context of American Studies and Ethnic Studies. It surveys evolving scholarship on racialization in the war on terror, attending to scholarly turns towards feminist and queer analysis, towards including Latin America and Palestine within its frame, and towards a focus on the racialization of Muslims and Islamophobia. Given that Arab American Studies, Critical SWANA Studies, and US Muslim Studies are relatively new to Ethnic Studies, this course aims to provide students in this research area with solid grounding in the development of the field. For these students and for those in other ethnic studies areas, it offers the opportunity to think about questions of racialization, racial profiling, surveillance, the War on Terror, the national security state, US empire, resistance, and solidarities.  

Field Development Seminar

This seminar provides second year graduate students with the opportunity to develop their fields in preparation for their written and oral exams.