Unique in the landscape of Middle Eastern Studies departments, the Culture and Representation track offers a specialization in the transdisciplinary field of Cultural Studies. Since its inauguration in the spring of 2005, the track has been offering an innovative curriculum that addresses issues, discourses, and practices related to the cultural politics of the Middle East. The track seeks to provide a coherent academic framework for exploring a range of overlapping fields of inquiry, including popular culture, media studies, visual culture, museum studies, cultural policy, and cultural anthropology. It also aims to highlight critical theory (narrative theory, performance theory, and political theory) and methodologies (textual analysis, discourse analysis, and institutional analysis.) The purpose of the track is also to familiarize the student with the broader intellectual debates, including Orientalism, transnationalism, and postcolonial critique.
Some of the courses within MEIS include: “Representing the Middle East: Issues in the Politics of Culture;” “Middle Eastern and Islamic Cultures, Societies, and Economies;” “Middle East Media and Cultural Politics;” “Repertoires of Representation and the Middle East: Civilization, Humanism, and Branding the Nation;” “Prisms of Cultural Critique and the Modern Middle East;” “Cities of the Middle East;” “Forced Migration, Biopolitics, and the Culture of Memory: The 1923 Greco-Turkish Population Exchange;” “Imaging Palestine and Israel: Issues in the Politics of Representation;” “Arab-Jews and the Writing of Memory.” To bolster their inter-disciplinary training, students can also enroll (after consultation with C & R advisor) in related courses offered via such departments as Art & Public Policy; Media, Culture and Communication; Anthropology; Comparative Literature; Cinema Studies; Performance Studies; and Social and Cultural Analysis.
All students in this track must fulfill the department’s basic requirements for the doctorate (see above). The students must pass two comprehensive (take-home) exams—the major exam, in the field of “Culture and Representation,” and the minor exam, in a subfield. The preparatory reading will emphasize landmark texts related to key debates, but can also include bibliographical references selected according to the individual student’s specific academic interests.