New Course | Intro to the Middle East

This course, offered at Teachers College, will provide a foundation of frameworks to read, study, teach, and think critically about the Middle East. In today’s Trumpian era, misinformation about the Middle East and Islam is rampant. This course will attempt to de-excpetionalize and de-mystify the study of the Middle East. It will provide a historical overview of the region as well as discuss its most pressing social, historical, and political issues. It will primarily offer content knowledge for pre-and-in-service teachers but will also cover suggestions for age-appropriate readings and pedagogical approaches for teaching grades 7-12 students.

We will discuss key contemporary issues in the Middle East from historical, political, and cultural perspectives. The focus of the course will cover both thematic and country-specific issues including the role of religion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egypt, Syria and the Arab Uprisings, the role of the United States and its strategic interests in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf. At the end of this course students will gain an acute understanding of what are perceived and real conflicts in the Middle East, the role of the media in portraying the region, and will posses a general understanding of the pluralities and specificities of the peoples, religions, histories, cultures, and politics of the region as it relates to a global context.  

For more information, visit the Teachers College Course Directory.


Sonia Ahsan is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Saltzman institute at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She obtained her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in May 2015. Her dissertation entitled States of Honour: Sexual Ethics and the Politics of Promiscuity, critically engages the relationship between Islam, honour, and feminism through a historical and ethnographic study of a feminist movement in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2012 she conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Afghanistan as an anthropological scholar. Her work has been funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation, A.M. Foundation Research Fellowship, Sheldon Scheps Fellowship for Research, American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, and Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She has taught courses on Islam, Violence, Gender, and Film Theory, in the Anthropology department. In addition to teaching and research, she also worked as a Franz Boas Fellow in the Anthropology department of Columbia University. She has published “When Muslims Become Feminists” in Afghanistan’s Islam and “Engendering the Taliban” in Modern Afghanistan