GBST 320
The Nile Fall 2023
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed ENVI 335 / GBST 320 / ARAB 308 / AFR 350 / HIST 308

Class Details

For millennia, the Nile River has sustained civilizations in eastern and northern Africa. It was on the banks of this river that the great Egyptian empires were founded that led to the building of some of humanity’s most astounding structures and artworks. While the Nile seems eternal and almost beyond time and place, now in the 21st century, the Nile River is at a historical turning point. The water level and quality is dwindling while at the same time the number of people who rely on the river is ever increasing. This alarming nexus of demography, climate change, and economic development has led to increasingly urgent questions of the Nile´s future. Is the Nile dying? How has the river, and people´s relationship with it, changed over the last century? This course will consider the history of the Nile and and its built and natural environment. After a brief overview of the role of the river in ancient Egypt, we will explore the modern political and cultural history of the Nile. By following an imaginary droplet flowing from tributaries until it makes its way into the Mediterranean Sea, we will learn about the diverse peoples and cultures along the way. We will evaluate the numerous attempts to manage and control the Nile, including the building of big dams, and the continuous efforts to utilize the river for economic development such as agriculture and the tourism industry. At the end of the semester we will consider the relationship of the major urban centers with the Nile and whether the tensions among Nile riparian states will lead to “water wars” in East Africa and the Middle East.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 15
Class#: 1954
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: short papers and final project/paper
Prerequisites: none, though background in Middle East history is preferable
Enrollment Preferences: History and Arabic Studies majors
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI 335 Division II GBST 320 Division II ARAB 308 Division II AFR 350 Division II HIST 308 Division II
DPE Notes: The course fulfills the DPE requirement because it evaluates the differing experiences of the Nile among different cultural groups. It will evaluate how the central government is constantly trying to change how people use their water and therefore over-determine how people interact with their natural environment.
Attributes: HIST Group E Electives - Middle East
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern

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