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Muslims in a Global Context: Anthropological Approaches

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2020-2021

Please note: The course information for next academic year has not yet been updated. Below you will find the course information from last academic year. As soon as we have an update we will immediately change this information.

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), or MA International Relations.

The number of places available in this course are limited. Therefore, read the information below under registration carefully.

Students who are not admitted to one of the abovementioned programmes can only be admitted to the course, if there are places left. Interested students may mail the Student advisor mentioning the course title, their name and their student ID number in the subject line. If they are admitted, they will be enrolled for the course by January 31 at the latest.

Students without prior knowledge of the Middle East are expected to have read before the first class: Bowen, John R., A New Anthropology of Islam. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Description

We live in a moment in which Muslim societies face an intensification of scrutiny from a variety of media, policy, military, and academic actors. Anthropological perspectives in particular have become increasingly prominent in studies of the Muslim world. According to Edward Said, they might serve as an antidote against essentialist and static views of older “orientalist” approaches. This seminar aims to give an anthropological overview of key issues that structure the lives of Muslims around the globe, while placing them in historical perspective. Our starting point will be the seminal essay by Clifford Geertz, “Islam Observed” (1968). Following this lead, the comparative study of Muslim societies is understood to be central. The first meetings are dedicated to a general introduction to anthropology, its theories, complicated history, concepts and methods. Special attention will be given to combination of the study of written sources with fieldwork. The different styles of report and writing ethnographies will also be analyzed.

In addition, the in-depth discussion of these texts will allow us to engage with practical questions about anthropological methods of participant-observation, interviewing, writing field notes, and more. What role can anthropology play in framing not only popular perceptions of Muslim societies but also broader policies and programs? Should that be the role of ethnographic writing, and how well does this genre lend itself to cross-disciplinary dialogue? As such, the anthropological approach itself will be subject to scrutiny, by placing it in its social and historical context, in which the colonial past looms large. The second half of the semester is focused on a systematic study of thematic issues using case studies from a variety of locations around the globe. We will compare monographs from regions with Muslim majority populations (for instance the Arab World, the South Asian subcontinent, South East Asia and/or Sub-Saharan Africa) with recent work on Muslim communities in Europe and North America, focusing on central anthropological themes, such as piety, gender, pilgrimage and ritual, but also more recent themes such as youth and Islamic fun, consumerism and banking, politics and the public sphere.

Course objectives

  • A sound overview of the main issues and public debates that define the lives of contemporary Muslims across the globe from an anthropological angle.

  • An introduction to anthropological theories and methods in the context of Muslim societies.

  • A critical reflection on the history of anthropological approaches to the study of Muslim societies placed into a socio-political context.

Timetable

Timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. This is a class based on collaborative dialogue. As such, being prepared to participate in discussions is a course requirement. This entails having read, annotated, and thought about the weekly themes carefully before class starts. Furthermore, you must bring your copy of the text to class every week – in either paper or pdf form. Since we will be engaged in closely examining the texts we read and the language that they use, if you don’t have your text then you are not prepared for class, even if you have read the assignment.

The conveners need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours 280 hours
Attendance of lectures and seminars: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks 24 hours
Studying the compulsory literature 100 hours
Assignments (presentation and participation) 46 hours
Write a paper (including reading / research) 110 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 25%
Presentation 25%
Final paper 50%

The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.
Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends.

(The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convener of the course.)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Resit

Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam/paper results, an exam/paper review will be organized.

Blackboard

Blackboard

Reading list

Selections from:

  • Deeb, Lara and Harb, Mona. 2013. Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi‘ite South Beirut. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Fishcher, Johan. 2011. The Halal Frontier: Muslim Consumers in a Globalized Market. London: Palgrave.

  • Ghodsee, Kristen. 2010. Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
    Hamdy, Sherine. 2012. Our bodies belong to God: Organ transplants, Islam, and the struggle for human dignity in Egypt. Oakland, CA: Univ of California Press.

  • Kreinath, Jens. ed., 2012. The Anthropology of Islam Reader. Routledge.

  • Tarlo, Emma. 2010. Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith. London: Bloomsbury.

  • Varisco, Daniel. 2005. Islam Obscured. The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Some additional readings. A definitive reading list will be made available at the beginning of the course

Registration

Students MA Middle Eastern Studies

  • Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who have been enrolled in the MA programme in September 2019 or earlier can register through uSis starting from 1 December. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

  • A number of places has been reserved for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who will start in February 2020, including those coming from a Leiden BA programme. They are kindly requested to fill out the form on the right side of the MA MES page and send it in as soon as possible and Friday, January 31 at the latest to the study coordinator. Make sure you mention in the subject line “MA MES, [your name, student ID number]”.

Students MA Middle Eastern Studies (research)

  • Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) are strongly advised to opt for the Research MA version of the course. For those opting for the regular MA version the principles mentioned above for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies apply.

Students MA International Relations

To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. You can also have a look at the FAQ. (Tip: use the search term “uSis”.)

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

Dr. C. Strava

Remarks

Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.