Instructor: Ian Straughn
Office: 309 in 70 Waterman
Office Hours: Thursday 10-12 and by appointment
Course Times: T/TH 2:30-3:50
Classroom: Wilson 203
Course Website/wiki: http://proteus.brown.edu/islamiclandscapes/home
OCRA reserve password: landscapes
The physical, emotional and imagined spaces in which we live can be both intensely fulfilling and profoundly alienating. This course seeks to investigate these opposed responses and the shades of gray that lie between them within the context of diverse Muslim societies and the landscapes which they have inhabited. As our readings and discussions range across history and geography we will ask the following: What does it mean to dwell, and how are our practices of dwelling constructed by the material and social conditions of our existence? Is this patterned by shared belief systems and transmitted across time and space?
The various landscapes which we will examine each week provide us the object of a broadly construed archaeological investigation of social relations, political organization, religious and ethical values, as well as the emotional and symbolic parameters through which Muslim societies are formed. I consider this an archaeological project not simply because we will be dealing with specific sites, but also because our attention will primarily be concentrated on practices of dwelling as expressed in the architecture, landforms, pathways, ornamentation, site lines, and general embodied experiences (via the senses) of our lived environment. One of our chief concerns throughout the course will be to consider these landscapes from multiple perspectives – that of the individual, the state, institutional actors, minority groups, and outsiders – in order to tease out how these landscapes are produced and reproduced, experienced and, above all, represented, understood, and made knowable.
This course is intended to run as a seminar in which students will provide much of the discussion of the weekly readings. That said, there is significant background to the weekly topics which will require me to provide short lectures in order to give you an entry into the readings, their importance and the key themes. This will generally take the shape of a preview of the coming week at the end of our Thursday seminar. Most weeks are designed as case studies in which we will discuss a particular topic or site. The first couple of weeks are intended to provide some of the theoretical and thematic lenses through which we will further elaborate through out the course (notions such as: What is a landscape?; Why are they important?; The problems of representation; place versus space; etc.).
There are no prerequisites for this course other than an interest in probing the relationship between people and their lived environment and the societies of the Muslim world. I will not assume that students have backgrounds in the history, religion or anthropology of the Muslim world or archaeology more generally. Those students who do will have the added responsibility of sharing their backgrounds with those in the class that will bring other skills and bodies of knowledge to this course.
Among the more lofty and noble of this course’s goals is that it will train students to become more cognizant of the landscapes which they inhabit and produce through the lens of those places less familiar and therefore more open to critical analysis. To ask for cognizance is probably to vague, however, what it encapsulates is the understanding of how we make the world in which we live and share it with others. This can happen through even the most banal actions, such as the paths that we follow on our walk to class or the way in which we might respond emotionally and physically (perhaps constructively but also even destructively) to the objects in our landscape. What I hope that you will gain from this course is an awareness that a landscape is less a product but a process, one that requires us to maintain a vibrant and changing relationship to our material surroundings.
A more specific goal of this course is to provide students with significant knowledge of varied Muslim societies, their archaeology, history, beliefs and cultural patterns. Undeniably the Muslim world has become a major topic of discussion in contemporary discourse and it one of the aims of this course that you will have more than a passing understanding of a few much abused tropes (jihad, fundamentalism, civilizational stagnation, etc.) propagated in the speeches of pundits and politicians, east and west.
Finally this course aspires to a number of more practical, skill-oriented goals which should serve students throughout their future in the academy and beyond. In particular I will put great emphasis on your abilities to read carefully the materials for this course and use them to articulate coherent arguments in your written work. The ability to marshal evidence and follow a clear logic of argumentation is an invaluable skill which we will aspire to master in this course. However, this skill is in many senses secondary to your ability to draw out the important themes of the readings rather than simply come away with information that lacks categorization or an ordered hierarchy that articulates why it is useful or interesting beyond the idiosyncrasies that you bring to the table. Throughout this course I will ask you to pay attention to these recurring themes and how they are discussed and debated in the various studies which we will encounter. These themes will become the basis from which you will analyze material of your own choosing later in the course.
Class Participation 15%
Essay 1 – 20%
Essay 2 – 30%
Essay 3 – 35%
Class participation (15% of your final grade) will be assessed in terms of both the volume of your participation in discussions and the quality and thoughtfulness of that contribution. This is invariably a subjective measure, but it is important that you come to class with questions about the readings, and particular passages that you think deserve greater attention that comes from group discussion. What I particularly want to see is that students demonstrate close reading skills by drawing on the texts themselves and offering analysis of an author’s argument. We will strive to be balanced between both critiques of the readings and highlighting their valuable insights about the relationship between societies and the environments they construct and inhabit. Contributions to the discussion might come in the form of a debate over whether the archaeological evidence supports the substantive claims of an article, or to ask for clarification of technical terms or theoretical concepts.
Included in the participation grade will be the short presentations of the readings which each student will undertake beginning Week 3.
Attendance is absolutely mandatory. After the first two weeks of shopping period you will have one unexcused absence. Each additional unexcused absence will result in 2 points subtracted from your final total out of 100. Absences due to illness or personal/family emergency will be excused (a note from the Health Services is expected). Excessive tardiness (10 minutes or more after the start of class) will result in 1 point subtracted from your final grade. You will learn very little from this class if you do not show up.
Writing Assignments – General Overview
There will be three written assignments for this course, each of approximately 2000-2500 words (6-8 pages). The first two essays will be responses to questions which I will provide and are intended to tackle themes and issues raised in the readings and course discussions. These will not require any additional reading, or if they do that reading will be provided as part of the essay question. The third paper will give you more freedom to explore a landscape of your own choosing in which you will do a limited amount of outside research. This might involve reading an archaeological site report, the examination of Islamic cartographical representations, reading sections of a Muslim geographer, or research on a particular city or monument.
The major goals of these writing assignments are: 1) to provide you with another forum in which to reflect upon the course themes, 2) to develop your skills in producing polished academic arguments, and 3) assess how well you have digested the material from the class and understood the key concepts.
Further details of these assignments will be provided as the semester progresses.
Note: While it goes without saying, plagiarism will not be tolerated. Any incidents of dishonest work will be reported to your academic advisor and the appropriate dean. These are serious matters. If you feel that you are headed in this direction, see me immediately and we can solve this together, before it leads down the road of disciplinary action.
Several of the texts for this course have been order through the bookstore and are available for purchase if you choose. However, all readings will be made available either through regular reserve or through the OCRA e-reserve system. There may however be a few exceptions and these will either be given as handouts or posted as pdfs on the course wiki.
The Following books have been purchased for this class:
D. Fairchild-Ruggles – Islamic Gardens and Landscapes
I. Bierman –Writing Signs: The Fatimid Public Text (also available as an ebook at
Abdelrahman Munif – Cities of Salt
Shahadeh – Palestinian Walks
Rory Stewart – The Places in between
There are a number of texts that cannot be made available as e-reserves (because they are too long and this violates copyright) leaving only one copy available on regular reserve. These are works that are also out of print or prohibitively expensive to ask you to purchase. My suggestion is that you should collectively order these books from other libraries through Borrow Direct or ILL so that we will have a number of copies available. These texts are marked in the syllabus with an *. To execute this system effectively will require a certain amount of planning as it does take time for these books to arrive. So keep aware of what is coming up in future weeks.
CLASS SESSIONS – Topics, Readings and Assignments:
Week 1 – Introduction: Landscapes and Representation (9/4)
Look at the landscape paintings of David Roberts at:
Concentrate on walls 16-20 – Consider the tropes that constitute these almost iconic Orientalist visions of an Islamic landscape?
For those wanting a closer look, there are a number of original prints on display in the lounge of the Institute for Archaeology.
Week 2 (9/9 and 9/11) Traveling Through Muslim Lands
Readings for 9/9 and 9/11:
Ibn Battuta (T. Mackintosh-Smith ed.) 2002. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. Picador (Read Ch 2 “Syria” pp 25-42, Chapter 7 “Turkestan and Afghanistan” 137-148)
Malcom X’s 1964 account of the hajj in One Thousand Roads to Mecca, ed. M. Wolfe, 1997, Grove Press: New York; pp 486-503
Rory Stewart. 2006. The Places in Between. Harcourt (note this was the text given to all incoming Brown freshman) Read 1-14, Part I, (for Tuesday) 56-58, Part IV, and V (for Thursday) – though I highly recommend reading the whole thing in order to get the full sense of the narrative and the journey.
Week 3 Senses of Place – Landscapes and Dwelling
Readings for 9/16:
Basso, K. 1996. “Wisdom Sits in Places: Notes on a Western Apache Landscape.” in Senses of Place. Ed. S. Feld and K. Basso. SAR Press
Pamuk, Orhan. 2004. “Hüzün” in Istanbul: Memories and the City. 90-107. New York: Vintage International
Readings for 9/18:
Smith A. T. 2003. The Political Landscape. U. California Press (Introduction: “Surveying the political landscape” pp 1-29)
Shehadeh, Raja. 2007. Palestinian Walks: Notes on a vanishing landscape. London: Profile Books (Intro and Walk #2 “The Albina case”)
Week 4 February 13 – Early Islamic Cities I: Amsar
Readings for 9/23:
Northedge, A. (1992). “Archaeology and New Urban Settlement in Early Islamic Syria and Iraq.” The Byzantine and early Islamic Near East: Land use and settlement patterns. G. R. D. King and A. Cameron. Princeton, NJ, Darwin Press. 2: 231-266.
Wheatley, P. 2001. The Places Where Men Pray Together. U Chicago Press (pages 39-52, 263-269)
Readings for 9/25:
Kubiak, W. B. 1987 Al-Fustat: Its Foundations and Early Urban Development. AUC Press (pages 50-94, 121-131)
Week 5 – Early Islamic Cities II: The Urban System
Wheatley, P. 2001. The Places Where Men Pray Together. U Chicago Press (59-82)
Al-Muqadassi (10th c.)  The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions. Trans Basil Collins. Garnett Publishing. Pages (1-8, 23-30, 41-43, 53-114)
Paper #1 Due (in class)
Week 6 - Orientalism and the Idea of the “Islamic City”
Raymond, A. 2002. Arab cities in the Ottoman period: Cairo, Syria and the Maghreb. Ashgate (Chapter 2: “The Ottoman City: Islamic city, Arab city: Orientalist myths and recent views”)
Mitchell, T. 1988. Colonising Egypt. U. California Press. (Chapter 3 “The appearance of Order” pp 64-94) http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/sft587006k2/
Abu-Lughod, J. L. (1987). "The Islamic City--Historic Myth, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 19 (155-76).
Aslan, R. 2006. “Rescuing Cairo’s Lost Heritage.” Islamica Magazine. 81-87
Week 7 The Monuments of Empire I
Khoury, N. (1993). "The Dome of the Rock, the Ka'ba, and Ghumdan: Arab Myths and Umayyad Monuments." Muqarnas 10: 57-65.
Straughn, I. in preparation. Islam Emplaced. Chapter 3.
Readings 10/16: (no class)
Week 8: The Monuments of Empire II
Hillenbrand, R. 1982. “La Dolce Vita in early Islamic Syria: the evidence of the later Umayyad Palaces.” Art History 5:1, 1-35.
Genequand, D. 2005. “Umayyad castles: the Shift from late Antique Military Architecture to early Islamic Palatial Building.” in Muslim Military Architecture in greater Syria. ed. H. Kennedy. Brill
Grabar, Oleg. 1993. “Umayyad Palaces reconsidered.” Ars Orientalis. 23: 93-108
Robinson, C. ed. 2001. A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra. Oxford U. Press
Read: “Introduction” (Robinson, 9-20); The Palaces of the Abbasids at Samarra (Northedge 29-68); “The form of the Military Cantonments at Samarra” (Kennet 157-182)
Week 9: Imperial Signs of Fatimid Cairo
Saunders, Paula. 1994. Ritual, Politics, and the city in Fatimid Cairo. SUNY Press. (Ch 3 “The Ritual City,” pp39-82)
Week 10 The Edges of Empire
Glick, T. 1995 From Muslim fortress to Christian Castle. U. Manchester Press (Chapters 1, 2 and 6, pp 1-37, 127-166)
Nicolle, D. 2003. Historical Atlas of the Islamic World. Checkmark Books (Chapters 6 and 9)
Eaton, R. 1994. The rise of Islam and the Bengal frontier, 1204-1760. (Read Chapters 5 and 9: “Mass Conversion to Islam” and “Mosque and Shrine in the Rural Landscape” p 113-136 and 228-267)
Paper #2 due (in class)
Week 11 – Sufis in the Landscape
Meri, J. 2002. The Cult of Saints among Muslims and Jews in Medieval Syria. Oxford U. Press (Chapter 1 “Sacred Topography” pp 12-58)
Wolper, E. S. 2003. Cities and Saints: Sufism and the Transformation of Urban Space in Medieval Anatolia. Penn State U. Press (Intro and Chapters 1-3; pp1-59)
Week 12 – Islamic Gardens
D. Fairchild-Ruggles – Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (Selections TBA)
D. Fairchild-Ruggles – Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (Selections TBA)
Week 13 – Expanding the Dar al-Islam(11/25 only/Thanksgiving)
Holod, Renata. 1997. The Contemporary Mosque. New York: Rizzoli (Introduction and Chapter 6 “Islamic Centers in the West”)
Roy, Olivier. 2004. Globalized Islam: The Search for a new umma. Columbia University Press. (Ch. 5 “Islam in the West or the Westernization of Islam?” pp 201-220.
Week 14 – Neo-Imperial Peripheries: Or a periphery no longer
Readings 12/2 and 12/4:
Munif, Abdelrahman. 1987. Cities of Salt. Vintage: New York
Paper #3 Due 12/11 at 5pm
Potential Other Readings:
Edensor. T. 1998. Tourists at the Taj. Chapters 3 and 4.
Sayf Ben Dhi Yaqan. Jaytusi translation. AUC press edition.
Ikhwan as-Safa. Case of the Animals…
Contemporary Islamic Architecture:
Bukhash, Rashad. Architecture Re-introduced: New Projects in Dubai - United Arab Emirates. 2004. In Architecture Re-introduced: New Projects in Societies in Change. Jamal Abed (ed). Geneva: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Hassan Fathy, Architecture for the Poor.
Holod, R. The contemporary Mosque
Agha Khan Trust – The Space of Freedom
Islamic Gardens and Ecology (water):
Annemarie Schimmel, "The Celestial Garden," in Elizabeth MacDougall and Richard Ettingausen, eds., The Islamic Garden (Dumbarton Oaks, l976), 13-39.
Yasser Tabbaa, "The Medieval Islamic Garden: Typology and Hydraulics," in John
Yasser Tabbaa, "Towards an Interpretation of the Use of Water in Islamic Courtyards and courtyard Gardens," Journal of Garden History 7, 3 (1987): 197-220.
Dorowolska and Fahmy 2004. Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha and his Sabil. AUC press