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Course Info

  • Course Number / Code:
  • 21A.453 (Spring 2004) 
  • Course Title:
  • Anthropology of the Middle East 
  • Course Level:
  • Undergraduate 
  • Offered by :
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
    Massachusetts, United States  
  • Department:
  • Anthropology 
  • Course Instructor(s):
  • Prof. Susan Slyomovics 
  • Course Introduction:

  • 21A.453 Anthropology of the Middle East

    Spring 2004

    Course Highlights

    This course features a documentary by Prof. Slyomovics, as well as a wealth of photographs and folk art, in the study materials section.

    Course Description

    This course examines traditional performances of the Arabic-speaking populations of the Middle East and North Africa. Starting with the history of the ways in which the West has discovered, translated and written about the Orient, we will consider how power and politics play roles in the production of culture, narrative and performance. This approach assumes that performance, verbal art, and oral literature lend themselves to spontaneous adaptation and to oblique expression of ideas and opinions whose utterance would otherwise be censorable or disruptive. In particular we will be concerned with the way traditional performance practices are affected by and respond to the consequences of modernization.

    Topics include oral epic performance, sacred narrative, Koranic chant performance, the folktale, solo performance, cultural production and resistance.

    Special Features

    Technical Requirements

    QuickTime® Player software is required to view the .mov files found on this course site. RealOne™ Player software is required to run the .ram files found on this course site.


This course content is a redistribution of MIT Open Courses. Access to the course materials is free to all users.

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