The Middle East and the United States: A Social History of Foreign Relations from the American Revolution to the Arab Spring

History 103U.002

Fall 2012
Day & Time: 
M 12-2P
Faiz Ahmed is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a former Fulbright Scholar to Egypt, and recently returned from conducting dissertation research on legal reforms in Ottoman Turkey, British India, and Afghanistan during the long nineteenth century. His teaching and research interests revolve around the social history of everyday people - especially students, scholars, and travelers in the Middle East and South Asia - while exploring the interconnections between law, education, and politics in these extremely diverse and overlapping regions. In addition to his historical inquiries, he has published widely on contemporary legal and political affairs in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. He also holds a J.D. from Hastings College of the Law.

The goal of this course is to explore - from a social historian’s perspective - the evolving relations between the diverse states and peoples of the Middle East and the United States of America.  From Morocco being the first country in the world to recognize the new American republic in 1777, to President Obama’s landmark speech at Cairo University and recent policy vis-à-vis the “Arab Spring,” the seminar is organized chronologically and will provide a general political history including major issues and debates in US relations with the Middle East.  We will begin our weekly readings and discussions by tracing US-Mideast relations amid a backdrop of overarching forces that have shaped the modern Middle East: ethnic nationalism and the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the discovery of oil and other prized natural resources, regional tensions and the Cold War, religious revival and Islamist politics, and military interventions by the US and other world powers.  But we will not stop there.  As an advanced Middle East and American history seminar, we will read closely for social, economic, and cultural processes often ignored by conventional political histories that dwell exclusively on watershed events, key personalities, violent confrontations, or formal peace accords.  In addition to critically examining selected classics in the historiography of US-Mideast foreign relations, we will also utilize travel diaries, memoirs, biographies, and other social literatures to explore relations between “ordinary” people in the Middle East and the United States, including migrant workers, refugees, and other émigrés.  From Arabic-speaking slaves in the Antebellum South to New England missionaries in Ottoman Syria, from a Pennsylvanian doctor in nineteenth century Afghanistan to Persian immigrants in Los Angeles following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, our goal will be to recognize how US-Mideast relations are far more complex, rich, and deep-rooted than is generally assumed.