AN 594  Sectarian and Ethnic Diversity in the Arab East

Spring 2005

Wednesday, 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Anthropology Seminar Room, 232 Bay State Road


Professor Augustus Richard Norton

152 Bay State Road, Rm. 440

Phone: 353-7808 (direct), 353-9278 (dept.)


Webpage: Blog:

Courseinfo page:


This seminar explores three complex societies in the Arab world—Iraq, Lebanon and Syria—with a view to identifying and analyzing the varieties of sectarian and ethnic identities, the modalities of inter-group toleration or conflict, and the patterns of interaction with state authority.  A variety of conceptual and theoretical frameworks will be assessed in terms of their validity vis-à-vis the societies being examined.


Requirements:  The major seminar requirement is an original research paper due not later than the last scheduled seminar session (May 4, 2005). The paper must be deal with the seminar theme from any of variety of disciplinary approaches including history, anthropology, political science, political economy or sociology.  At the graduate level of study it would be superfluous to set a minimal page length, but the body of the papers should not exceed 6,000 words. Appendices may be used for additional material, as well as supplementary tables, and charts.  No later than the fourth class meeting (February 9, 2005), each seminar member must submit a statement of his or her research topic, along with a bibliography of scholarly references.  All submissions are to be in typescript, double-spaced, carefully proofread and should conform to accepted scholarly standards. Footnotes, which are more convenient to the reader than endnotes, are required. (The basic guide is the Chicago Style Manual, or the more accessible handbook by Kate Turabian.)  Late submissions, except under exigent circumstances, will be docked one third of a letter grade per day. 


In addition to the writing of the research paper, each seminar participant will make two presentations. The first presentation is an analytical summary and critical evaluation of a recommended course reading, accompanied by a two to three page handout summarizing the salient points of the reading. The presentation will be no more than fifteen or twenty minutes in length, to be followed by questions and discussion. The second presentation is a summary of the research paper. 


Academic integrity:  Please read the Boston University Academic Conduct Code.  Handing in someone else's work or ideas as your own (even if you worked on it together as a group) constitutes plagiarism, as does using someone's ideas without attribution.  You must give a citation when you use an author's ideas in your paper, even if you do not quote the text word-for-word.  I will go over in class the correct procedures for quoting and referencing the work of other authors.  If you miss that class or if you have any questions, please ask. Any infraction MUST be reported to the Dean for resolution by the Academic Conduct Committee.  Be informed and be careful.  Since plagiarized work is the work of another, any paper determined by the Academic Conduct panel to be will normally receive a grade of zero. 


Finally, the professor preserves 10% of the course grade for participation. Since there are only fourteen class meetings, attendance is essential. Unexplained and unjustified absences will result in a deduction of point (out of 100 points) per absence.  Thus, the course grading will be distributed as follows:


Seminar Paper: 

Topic statement and annotated bibliography 10%,

Paper                                                                     45%

Presentations (2 @15 % each)                       30%

Participation                                                15%


Required Texts (available at BU bookstore, or on-line, which may be cheaper):

·         Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of Its Communists, Bathists, and Free Officers. (Princeton University Press or Saqi Books).
·         George, Alan. Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom (Zed Press)
·         Hashim, Ahmed S. "Iraq’s Chaos: Why the Insurgency Won’t Go Away." Boston Review 29, no. 5 (2004): 15-9. 

·         Hamzeh, Nizar. In the Path of Hizbullah.  Syracuse University Press, 2005.

·         Jaber, Faleh A. The Shi'ite Movement in Iraq. London: Saqi, 2003.

·         Khuri, Fuad.  Imams and Emirs: State, Religion and Sects (Saqi Books)
·         McDowall, David A Modern History of the Kurds 
Recommended Additional Readings (other readings will be posted on the CourseInfo page):


Fernea, Elizabeth W. Guests of the Sheikh. New York:
     Doubleday, 1965.
Fernea, Robert A. Shaykh and Effendi: Changing Patterns of
     Authority among the Shabana of Southern Iraq.
     Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Jabar, Faleh, ed. Ayatollahs, Sufis and Ideologues: State, Religion and Social Movements in Iraq. London: Saqi, 2002.

Nakask, Yitzhak.  Iraq’s Shi’ites.  Princeton University Press.

Norton, Augustus R.  Amal and the Shi’a.  University of Texas Press.

________.  Hizballah of Lebanon.  Council on Foreign Relations.




WEEK 1 (Jan 19): Course Introduction

Read:  Syllabus; and, Norton, “Lebanon’s Malaise” (PDF sent by email).


WEEK 2 (Jan 26): Religion and Sect in Islam

Read:         Khuri, part I.


WEEK 3 (Feb 2): Lebanon

                    Read: Hamzeh, Norton, Amal and the Shi’a.


WEEK 4 (Feb 9): Political mechanisms, oxymorons and the accommodation of difference.

Read: Khuri, part II, Barth, “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries” (on courseinfo    page)

Topic due, February 9.


WEEK 5 (Feb 16): The Syrian case

           Read: George.


WEEK 6 (Feb 23): Legacies of State Formation

            Read:  Bromley, reserve; Batatu; Nakash.



            Tribes in an Iraqi Context

                    Read: Robert Fernea; Elizabeth Fernea; Batatu.


WEEK 8 (March 16): Religious Symbolism, Ritual and Political Identity

            Read: Norton, “‘Ashura in Nabatiyya” (Mugar reserve/CourseInfo page); Jaber.


WEEK 9 (March 23): The Kurdish Question

              Read: McDowall


WEEK 10 (March 30): Iraq after the Toppling of Saddam Hussein

           Read: Hashim, and other materials to be provided.




WEEK 12 (April 13): paper presentations


WEEK 13 (April 20): Monday schedule, NO CLASS