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Study Questions

Study Questions for the first exam:

  1. There is a common assumption that “the Middle East is a unique case, quite different from the rest of the world and incomprehensible to outsiders”. “The Middle East is not like other parts of Third World: its dynamics, conflicts and patterns of behavior are different.” How do you respond to this assumption? As compared to other parts of the world what are the particularities of the Middle East? What are the major characteristics of the Middle Eastern societies that, in general terms, they share with other regions of the Third World?
  2. How do you define Middle East in geographical terms? Which part of the world (regions and countries) does your definition of ME include? What about the alternative terms like ‘Near East’, ‘South Western Asia’, and ‘Middle East and North Africa’?
  3. Write an essay discussing the relative roles of nationalism and European intervention in the demise of the Ottoman Empire?
  4. What is the role of the Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans and the Arab Middle East? Can we explain present political conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East by referring to their Ottoman past? If so, in what sense? Why study Ottoman history in a twentieth century Middle East history course?
  5. In the years immediately following World War I, both Turkey and Iran cast out their existing monarchies and embarked on vigorous programs of state-sponsored reform. Compare the westernizing and secular reforms of Kemal Ataturk in Turkey with those of Reza Shah’s in Iran during the interwar period. What are the similarities and contrasts? What makes the secular reforms in Turkey relatively successful as compared with similar reforms in Iran? In what sense these societies differ from each other?
  6. “The primary internal cause of conflict is the strict application of the Kemalist concept of nation in Turkey, which defines the Turkish nation as a sum of citizens without consideration of ethnic identity and negates in its legal interpretation the existence and protection of ethnic minorities.” Write an essay evaluating the above statement regarding the primary cause of the Kurdish problem in Turkey? What are the historical causes of the Kurdish problem? What are the more immediate social and economic causes?
  7. Can the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 be explained by reference to a set of religious doctrines, or some fixed social and political entity called ‘Islam’? Is ‘fundamentalist Islam’ as a concept useful in explaining the Iranian revolution? In what sense, according to Abrahamian, the concept of ‘populism’ is more appropriate in explaining the revolution in Iran? What are the ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ aspects of the Iranian Revolution?
  8. Write an essay discussing social, economic, and demographic transformations in Iran since the revolution? What are the major social forces that make political reform a necessity in Iran? What is the significance of Khatemi’s election as president in 1997?
  9. In Algerian independence war Islam as an ideology played a significant role. Write an essay comparing the role played by Islam in the revolutions in Algeria and Iran.
  10. How do you explain the rise of a radical Islamic opposition to the political regime in Algeria during the 1980s and 1990s?

Last Updated: 8/12/16