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BA Arabic Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

Unit code MEST10092
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

The study of the cultures of the Middle East and Africa (MENA) is the main focus of this course. Starting with a set of lectures on the meaning of culture and an insight into the specificity of the region in terms of land, people and their social customs, the course will then focus on the MENA family and will examine gender roles in both the public and private spheres, the role of patriarchy in shaping gender roles and family ties, and the region’s never ending dilemma of struggling between tradition and modernity.

Other topics include marriage as a site of cultural celebrations, New year celebrations with case studies from Israel (Rosh Hashanah) and Iran (Nowruz); Male circumcision as practiced in the MENA according to Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions; the celebrations of Muslim religious festivals including the Mawlid (Prophet Mohammed’s birthday). The Hajj (Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca, will also be studied with a focus on how local cultures influence religious practice. 

Aims

It is the aim of this course to:

  • Introduce students to the study of the cultures of a rapidly changing Middle East and North Africa from a multidisciplinary angle.
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of MENA cultures from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • Debunk preconceived stereotypical ideas they might have acquired through the media about a region mostly typified as an area rife with conflict and not as a land of rich and diverse cultures.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain knowledge of the cultures of the diverse and ever changing MENA societies
  • Gain an informed understanding of the MENA region and its people beyond media stereotypes
  • Understand and discuss theoretical issues behind the study of MENA cultures from a multidisciplinary angle
  • Have appropriate command of key concepts and terminologies related to the multidisciplinary study of MENA cultures

Syllabus

Lectures:

Week 1: General Introduction to the Course and Assessment

Week 2: What is ‘culture’?

Week 3: The Middle Eastern Family: Patriarchy and Gender Roles between Public and Private Spheres

Week 4: Middle Eastern Marriage: Conditions of Marriage and its Socio-Cultural Meanings.

Week 5: Cultural Patterns of Marriage Celebrations: A Struggle between Tradition and Modernity or a Compromise between Religion and Customs?

Week 6: Male Circumcision between Religious and Pagan Cultures

Week 7: New Year Celebrations: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year & Nowruz: The Persian New Year

Week 8: The Mawlid: Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday.

Week 9: The Hajj: A Religious Duty or a Cultural Ritual of Commemoration?

Week 10: Ashura & Karbala

Week 11: Revision Session and Preparation for Written Exam.

Tutorials:

Students will be assigned to small groups for weekly tutorials. These will be used for assessed seminar presentations.

Teaching and learning methods

·         Lectures

·         Seminars

·         Directed Reading

·         Course work

·         Blackboard E-Learning

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain a good understanding about the diversity and wealth of MENA cultures and societies
  • Gain a good understanding of the resistance of cultures to religions, and how the former influence the latter,
  • Build awareness about the diversity which distinguishes the MENA as well as its Cultures, religions and populations.
  • Gain access to the study of a range of specialist areas within the discipline

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Develop their analytical and critical thinking
  • Gain skills in synthesis and analysis of data and information
  • Develop advanced skills of written and verbal communication
  • Improve their abilities of organization and expression of ideas

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Increase their discussion and debating ethics
  • Use library, electronic and online resources
  • Improve their reporting skills
  • Develop their group ethos
  • Engage in self and peer review/evaluation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain skills in independent learning
  • Develop their abilities in co-operative learning and team work
  • Develop their time management and punctuality skills
  • Gain skills in debating and presentation
  • Apply Subject Knowledge
  • Understand group dynamics and intercultural backgrounds in the use of negotiating skills to reach objectives.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical thinking and analytical skills
Group/team working
Discussion and debating ethics
Innovation/creativity
Organisation and expression of ideas
Project management
Time management and punctuality
Oral communication
Presentation skills

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Length

Weighting within unit

Essay

Seminar presentation

Examination

1 x 2000 words

20 minutes

2 hours

40%

15%

45%

Formative Assessment: Seminar Presentation on a selected topic to supplement the lecture topics. Feedback will be given by tutor and peers.

 

RE-SIT ASSESSMENT

Assessment task

Length

 written examination

 2 hours

 

Feedback methods

  • Written and oral feedback on seminar presentations
  • Written feedback on final exam and essay
  • Additional one-to-one feedback: Lecturer’s 2 weekly office hours are the chief venue for feedback. This is a walk-in, i.e., no prior appointment is required. 

Recommended reading

1.      Herzig, S., Jewish Culture and Customs, Bellwamr, 2012.

2.      Khalaf, S., & R.S. Khalaf, Arab Society and Culture: An essential guide, London: Saqi Books, 2010.

3.       Koultaki, S., Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran's Culture and Customs, Intercultural Press, 2010.

4.      Mir-Hosseini, Z., Marriage on Trial:  A study of Islamic family law, I.B. Tauris, 1993.

5.      Rosen, L., The Culture of Islam: Changing Aspects of Contemporary Muslim Life, The University of Chicago Press,            2002.

6.      Triandis, H. C., Culture and Social Behavior. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Zahia Smail Salhi Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Lectures

The opening Lecture will introduce students to the module components in terms of content, assessment, weekly reading and tutorials. Subsequent lectures will be devoted to covering the detailed syllabus.

Lectures will introduce the topic of the weekly reading which will then be discussed in the weekly tutorials.

Readings will be distributed ahead of the lectures/tutorials, and uploaded to the blackboard.

Students will be expected to come to their lectures and tutorials well-prepared and to participate vigorously in class discussions. It is essential that they complete all the required readings before the lecture/tutorial.

Students will be expected to take notes on the lectures which will constitute additional materials to be used for revision for their written exam.

Tutorials

Lectures will introduce the topic of the weekly reading, which is then discussed in the tutorial of the subsequent week.

Students are expected to prepare the reading so that they can better engage with the lecture and contribute critically to the discussion of the compulsory reading in the tutorial group.

Readings will be assigned in advance for students to prepare their 15 minutes seminar presentation.

The weekly reading assignments require regular work outside classes and in advance of the tutorials, including close study of assigned texts, note taking, summarizing or excerpting, as well as the creation of texts in note form. Readings will be contextualized and discussed during classes.


 

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