By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director
The region known as the Middle East has been in upheaval for decades now, and trying to gain understanding and perspective on its complexities can be both difficult and daunting. The region includes many countries, with long histories, rich cultures, and varied interests. There are many different points of view on what’s been happening there and why. How do you make sense of it all?
A great way to start is by reading. But what should you read? There are countless books and articles on the Middle East, not all of them accurate, and many of them tendentious. How can you know what you’re getting into?
There is no better place to start than a reading list curated by an MIT instructor who has spent years studying and assessing key publications. Each one of the many OCW courses on the Middle East has a reading list, sorted into different topics.
Here is a sampler of courses with reading lists that might pique your interest:
“. . . a historical introduction to the Middle East in the late Ottoman period and the eve of imperialism at the beginning of the Twentieth century after World War I . . . the establishment of nation-states in the Middle East . . . the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . . . the rise of political Islam and the Iranian Revolution . . . the debates regarding Islam and democracy, and Islam post 9/11 . . . the 2011 revolts in the Arab world . . . today’s realities in the Middle East.”
“The first half discusses the Ottoman Empire by exploring how this multiethnic, polyglot empire survived for several relatively peaceful centuries and what happened when its formula for existence was challenged by politics based on mono-ethnic states. The second half of the course focuses on post-Ottoman nation-states, such as Turkey and Egypt, and Western-mandated Arab states, such as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Finally, the course concludes with a case analysis of Israel.”
“ . . . The sixth section applies the course theories and methods to the Arab Spring and current conflict in Mali.”
“ . . . the dilemmas, misperceptions, crimes and blunders that caused wars of the past; the origins of these and other war-causes; the possible causes of wars of the future; and possible means to prevent such wars, including short-term policy steps and more utopian schemes.” Sessions 22 – 23 discuss the Israel-Arab conflict and the 2003 US-Iraq war.
“. . . ideational, institutional and material foundations of the state of Israel; Israeli national identity, Israeli society, economy, and foreign and security policies.”
“How do Islam and media technologies relate? What kinds of practices of inscription and transmission characterize Islam in all its varieties across time and place? How might Islamic thought and practice be understood in light of databases, networks, and audiovisual sensation?“
- 17.586 Warlords, Terrorists, and Militias: Theorizing on Violent Non-State Actors, taught by Professor Fotini Christia
“[This course’s] aim is to examine why non-state actors (such as warlords, terrorists, militias, etc.) resort to violence, what means and tactics they use, and what can be done to counter that violence.”