Spring Special Topics Courses Cover International Relations, Conflict Issues

Posted: November 18, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

With the fall semester already past the halfway mark, it’s time to think about spring. One sign of the coming season is the appearance of Mason’s spring 2005 Schedule of Classes, and students have already begun to pore over the course selections. In addition to the “standards,” a variety of special topics courses will be offered. A few that address international relations or issues of conflict are highlighted below.

Mark Katz, professor of public and international affairs, will be teaching a new Government 444 Issues in International Studies course. Central Asia: Politics and International Relations will cover the internal and international politics of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics, as well as Afghanistan and Xinjiang, a province in western China with a sizeable Muslim Uighur population. Katz says the course is the “direct result” of a U.S. Department of Education grant received by the new Global Affairs Program.

Katz is also teaching Government 447 Comparative Revolutions, which will provide students with an overview of a wide variety of 20th century revolutions, as well as revolutionary movements throughout history. “The course begins with an overview of the history of revolutions, including Marxist-Leninist, Arab nationalist, democratic, and Islamic fundamentalist,” says Katz. “The course then discusses different theories about why revolutions occur, why conflict takes place between revolutionary regimes and status quo powers, why relations among revolutionary states are usually poor, and how revolutionary regimes gradually evolve into permanent regimes.”

Sumaiya Hamdani, assistant professor of history and coordinator of the Islamic Studies Minor Program, will offer a History 387 Topics in Global History course, Culture and Conflict in the Islamic Mediterranean. The course, which explores Islam’s relations with other world religions, will focus on the Mediterranean region from the 7th to the 17th century. The regions covered are Islamic Spain, North Africa, Mamluk Egypt, the Crusader states in Syria, and Turkey under the Ottoman Empire. “The topic of Islam’s relations with other groups has been one of enduring interest, and even more particularly after September 11, 2001,” says Hamdani. “The course, which begins with the rise of Islam and ends during the height of the Ottoman Empire, investigates a variety of themes dealing with cultural interaction, such as trade, minority relations, and Islamic law. In the process, students hopefully will find it interesting to note that Islam’s relations with other faiths is complex and not always negative. This is one of the main points of the course.”

James Snead, assistant professor of anthropology, will be teaching Warfare, Violence, and Sacrifice in Antiquity, an upper-level anthropology course, which he originally conceived while pursuing research and considering current events. “War is obviously on our minds a bit these days,” says Snead. “Most of my courses are on archaeological subjects, and it’s sometimes difficult to make the case that they’re relevant to modern issues. When the Iraq war began, I often opened up my class discussions to let students talk about their thoughts and experiences. This made me realize that anthropology offered another way to look at the subjects of war and conflict and would provide a good teaching opportunity.”

Snead was also inspired by his current fieldwork, which focuses on the Ancestral Pueblo people that once lived in northern New Mexico. The work and includes directing excavations at Burnt Corn Pueblo, a community of a few dozen families destroyed in the early 14th century A.D., possibly because of war.

“This course is both the response to student interest and my own desire to understand the causes of conflict in human society and how we can study this process through material remains,” says Snead. “We’ll discuss whether or not humans are innately ‘violent’ and whether war has always been a part of our society or whether it only occurs under particular circumstances. We’ll also talk about what sort of evidence we would expect to find for these different conditions.” The course will cover a variety of archaeological case studies examining societies ranging from small-scale agricultural communities to states and empires. The concept of sacrifice as “socially sanctioned killing” will also be examined, as will several 19th century battles, including Little Big Horn in the American West and Isandlhwana in present-day South Africa.

Cynthia Fuchs, associate professor of English and director of film studies, will offer Fear and Security, an upper-level Special Topics in Film course. “The course is a visual media analysis course,” says Fuchs. “So we’ll look at films and television shows concerning issues of fear and security, specifically having to do with domestic, personal, national, border, and other anxiety issues.” Although she is currently finalizing the course syllabus, Fuchs hopes to include issues such as the Iraq war and the “War on Terrorism,” as well as a variety of television programs, including Alias, The Shield, and 24.

To view the entire spring 2005 Schedule of Classes, go to Patriotweb.

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