Islam and the West: A Clash of Civilizations?
Division II; Exploring Diversity Initiative;
This is not the current course catalog
“This idea that all religions share the same values is bulls**t and we need to call it bulls**t,” the popular political commentator and critic Bill Maher has said on multiple occasions. “If you are in this religion [Islam], you probably do have values that are at odds [with American values]. This is what liberals don’t want to recognize.” Maher has acquired a reputation for making strong statements like this about the need for Americans (and liberals in particular) to stand up for their secular liberal values, which are in conflict with and superior to the values of Islam. Maher’s comments are only one recent manifestation of a long line of pundits making such claims. This is best exemplified by Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, which famously predicted that there would inevitably be a violent clash between the Islamic and Western Civilizations. This course investigates such ideas about the inherent conflict between Islam and the West. How should we understand the nature of Islamic and Western civilizations and the relation between them? What is the history of this relationship? What has given rise to these standard representations of Islam and Muslims? What are the political stakes and consequences of these representations? How should we understand the phenomenon of “Islamophobia”? We will explore these questions through an in-depth and critical investigation into the history of Euro-American nationalism and colonialism, the concepts of “civilizations” and “religions”, the history of modern Islam, and the nature of Orientalism and secularism.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: regular reading responses, 5- to 6-page midterm essay, group social-media project (research-based, creating a video essay), final 7- to 8-page essay
Enrollment Preference: none
Distributions: Division II; Exploring Diversity Initiative;