What holds a society together? This course will explore one influential answer to this foundational question within philosophy and social theory, namely social contract theory as it developed within early modern European political philosophy. Modern assumptions about the relationship between individual and society, private property and ownership, rationality, economics and the market, and rights and responsibilities of citizenship have all been shaped by social contract theory. But, even though this theory has enjoyed great influence, it has been severely criticized as unrealistic and biased towards individualism and property holders. We will read the foundational social contract works in this course and try to understand their assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses. The works to be read will include: Hobbes' De Cive, Locke's Two Treatises of Government, and Rousseau's The Social Contract.
This course explores the historical and contemporary representations of the Middle Eastern cultures and societies in the Western imaginary. We will examine shifting representations of the Middle East in pre- and post-enlightenment European political and intellectual discourses, Western literary texts and travel literature, and contemporary US popular culture (films, advertising, thrillers, spy novels, romance fiction, etc.). We will also consider the interrelationship between popular cultural representations and the manner in which the Middle East is conceptualized in the academy and in "high culture" in general (e.g., theorized as Orientalism). It is an assumption of the course that a "post colonial" framework is key to interpreting not only the Middle East, but also the “West.” Readings may include: Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes ; Edward Said, Orientalism and Covering Islam ; Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East ; Jack Shaheen, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs ; Linda Khatib, Filming the Modern Middle East.500
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