Accueil > History of boundaries in the middle east : from ghajar to waziristan (19th c.- 2015)

BHIS 1745A - “At the Edge of the Nation”: a conceptual History of Borders and Boundaries in the MEA

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The purpose of this course is to study the historical evolution of the notions of borders & boundaries in the Middle East and Africa since Medieval times. What are the differences between a political border and a social boundary? How did Early Muslim Geographers or Zionist Settlers represent the edge of the territorial entity on which they lived or envisioned to live? And what is the definition of Otherness? To answer these questions – among others! - we will rely on multiple case-studies, which will borrow theoretical approaches from various fields of research, such as history, geography and political science, but also sociology and anthropology. Questions, comments and other ideas for discussion are always more than welcome. Participation in class is strongly advised!


CIMINO, Matthieu L. (Chercheur)

Pedagogical format

PART 1: THINKING AND THEORIZING BORDERS & BOUNDARIES Session 1: A Conceptual History of Border Theory(ies) Session 2: Social & Symbolic Boundaries: how do we define and study Alterity? Session 3: Building Frontiers, tuġur & ribāṭ: a perspective on Medieval Muslim & European Geographies (IXth – XIIIth C.) Session 4: “Pioneering the Land”: American and Zionist Settlers & their Representations of the Peripheries of the State (XVIIth-XXth C.) *** PART 2: BORDERS, SPACES & TERRITORIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA Session 5: The “Scramble for Africa” (1885) Session 6: B/Ordering the Middle East: Alternative Accounts on the Durand Line (1893) & the Sykes-Picot Agreements (1916) Session 7: Transnationalism and the Search for a State: the Palestinian Movement Session 8: Territorial disputes & boundaries: a case study of Ghajar, the Shebaa Farms & the Cooch-Behar Enclaves *** PART 3: DEFINING, IMAGINING, AND REPRESENTING OTHERNESS Session 9: Gender boundaries and sexual identities in the Arab world: the cases of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia Session 10: From Wadi Abu Jamil to Bab Toma: Categorizing Minorities in the Middle East Session 11: Other(ing) the Prophet: Islam in the eyes of European Nationalist Movements Session 12: Territorial & Spatial ideology and nation-building process in militant Islam: the case of Dā'ish (2013-2016)

Course validation

Requirements and grading: - In-class participation (10% of course mark); - Presentation (20% of course mark); - Mid-term exam (30% of course mark); - Final exam (40% of course mark).

Required reading

  • 1st : Benedict ANDERSON, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 2006, 240 pp.
  • 2nd : Jean GOTTMANN, The significance of territory, Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1973, 186 pp.
  • Eugene ROGAN, The Arabs: A History, London: Basic Books, 2011, Chapters 7-14. (exchange students only)
  • 3rd : Bertrand BADIE, The Imported State: The Westernization of Political Order, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, 296 pp.

Additional required reading

  • Peter SAHLINS, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, 372 pp.
  • Eric HOBSBAWM, Terence RANGER, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 324 pp.