Population and Geography of the Middle East

 GEA 3635, U01.  Spring 2013


Class Location: PC 213 Time: 12:30-1:45 p.m. Tu Th

Instructor:  Benjamin Smith   Email: bsmith@fiu.edu

Office: SIPA 305 Office Phone: 348-2074

Office Hours: Thursday 2:00-4:00 (also see me before or after class)

Teaching Homepage Which You Must Check Frequently: http://www.fiu.edu/~bsmith/teaching.htm

Supplemental Readings: http://ecampus.fiu.edu 



There is More to the Middle East than the Headlines


The last couple of years in the Middle East have been momentous:  several long standing regimes fell to be replaced by elected officials, while signs of protests became more visible in many parts of the region.    Yet, as much as the region has been in headlines here in the US for the past decade, the region (and especially its diversity) is still little understood here.  This is going to be the theme of this course.  


In this course, while we will address issues that grab headlines – the Arab Spring, Israel/Palestine conflict, the state of Iraq, etc. – the majority of this course will focus on the more mundane, extremely diverse, day to day living that goes on in the region.    People work: we will talk about that.  People watch TV: we will cover that.    There are environmental issues: not just political and religious ones.  Yes, the issues and challenges that those in the region faces are real and severe, but that is not the whole story.


We will also do all this from a geographic prospective.   On the one hand this means a grab bag approach – environment, politics, economics and culture are all fair game.   On the other hand, this also mean paying attention to geographic perspectives such as how humans interact with the natural and built environment, how ideas and people diffused through the region over time, and how the region came to be defined as it.


The Goals of the Course


1.      Develop an understanding of the diversity of the Middle East.   The “Middle East,” no matter how you define it, is a diverse place – with people of different ethnicity, religion, economic situation, history, and most certainly, opinion.   Therefore, one of the goals of this course is to introduce you to this diversity – thus you must be prepared to learn about many people, places and movements.


2.      Understand how the Middle East is very much a part of, not an exception to, global processes.  There are many thinkers out there who swear up and down there is something called globalization and the Middle East is not part of it.   In this course, you will learn how things such as development, trade, migration, and pop culture impact the region, just like they impact other regions.


3.      Be able to critically examine what you hear about the Middle East.  This course is not about you indoctrinating you to any particular perspective on the Middle East.   What it is about is for you to try to understand some of the many perspectives that exist on the region, so that you can critically evaluate what you hear.    This is about becoming an active and open, not a passive and closed, consumer of information. 


Required Texts


Middle East Patterns: Places, People and Politics, 5th or 4th Edition.  By Colbert Held.  Westview Press.   ISBN: 0813341701


Supplemental Readings


Important Dates


Tuesday, February 5  Exam One

Thursday, March 7 – Exam Two

March 11 thru 15 – Spring Break

Thursday, April 4 – Travel Guide Due

Tuesday, April 23 – Final Exam, 12-2 pm (NOTE: THIS IS A GUESS, SINCE OFFICIAL SCHEDULE IS NOT OUT)




There will be 500 total points available in this class, broken down as follows:


100 points: Travel Guide

  75 points: Attendance and Participation 

100 points: Exam 1

100 points: Exam 2

125 points: Final Exam  

500 points Total  


The grading scale is A = 100-93%, A- = 92.9-90%, B+ = 89.9-87%, B = 86.9-83%, B- =82.9%-80%, C+ = 79.9-77%,  C = 76.9-73%,  C- = 72.9-70%, D+ = 69.9-67%, D = 66.9-63%, D- = 62-60% F = 59-0%, which translates to, in points:


A :  500 thru 465 points

A-: 464 thru 450 points

B+: 449 thru 435 points

B:   434 thru 415 points

B-:  414 thru 400 points

C+: 399 thru 385 points

C:   384 thru 365 points

C-:  364 thru 350 points

D+: 349 thru 335 points

D:   334 thru 315 points

D-:  314 thru 300 points

F:   299 thru 0 points        




Each exam will be a combination of multiple choice, matching, map identification, and short answers/miniature essays, drawn from lectures, readings, videos, etc. – basically anything covered in class or assigned in reading.


The first two exams are non-cumulative, meaning they cover material not previously tested.   The Final Exam, however, is slightly different – mostly, it is an exam over new material covered since the second exam; but it also will have one 10 point essay which summarizes the course, and an expanded map section that requires you to label all the countries in the region – which should be easy by that point in the semester.  So the Final Exam is basically the same as the other exams, just with one comprehensive question and a few more map items.


Exam 1: 100 pts

Exam 2: 100 pts.

Final:       125 pts


Travel Guide


While more specifics will be given soon, you will be required to produce one travel guide covering somewhere in the Middle East on a place (or places) randomly chosen for you by Prof. Smith.  This will be worth 100 points.   The reason this is being assigned is threefold 1) to make you think about the everyday, very material geographies of the Middle East (what to eat, how to travel, where to stay, what to do) 2) help you appreciate that there is more to the region than oppression (and, in fact, that many people in the Middle East actually do enjoyable things) 3) to help those who are not great test takers, with some non-test points    It will be due on Friday, April 6 at the beginning class, and must be submitted in both physical form (typed and stapled) and electronically via turnitin.com.    You will lose 10 points for every day it is late.


Attendance and Participation Points, Reading & Classroom Etiquette


There will be oodles – oodles I say! – of information covered in this course.  You need to be in class to learn it all. This is especially true because lectures, while drawing on the readings, will expand upon them as well.   You will not do well on the tests unless you come to class.


Similarly, if you do not do the readings, you will not do well on the tests.   This is especially true on essays questions based on more conceptual readings – though we will cover the readings in class, you will not understand them fully unless you read and then re-read them. 


To reward you for reading and attendance, I will have various easy point opportunities throughout the semester.   Sometimes they will be announced tasks – like bringing three questions to class about the reading for discussion.  Other times, they will be unannounced – like having a quick individual quiz about the reading that asks a few, really simple questions.  If the reading is particularly theoretical, I will put you into groups during class so you and your classmates can hash it out together.  These are meant to be low stress, and providing everyone makes a good faith effort (and attends), these points should be easy to get.  Even easier to get are the points where I simply mark down everyone who is there and brought there name cards with them.


However, these points can also be taken away, at the instructor’s discretion, in extreme circumstances, due to regularly bad behavior.   Reasons for losing points include being aggressive, rude or dismissive towards your fellow students or the instructor.    Though people may express opinions different than your own in this class, you are free to disagree – providing you do so in calm, courteous manner.  This is especially important because we will be covering some sensitive, divisive subjects during this class.  Points can also be taken away if a student shows lack of engagement by talking to other students while the instructor, guest or another student is speaking, repeatedly reading the newspaper, using their cell phone or mp3 player, doing homework for other classes, or using their notebook computer for IM’s (not note-taking).  However, I doubt it will come to this.  So basically, respect everyone, and this should be a great semester.  If points are taken, the student will be notified as to why.   


Attendance quizzes and activities will contribute a maximum of 75 points to your final grade.   There will likely be more than 75 points made available during the semester, meaning if you miss a class or have an off day, you will still be able to receive full attendance credit.


Teaching Website, On-Line Articles, and Updates

At the top of this document, you will find the address for my teaching homepage, which is http://www.fiu.edu/~bsmith/teaching.htm .  There will be a copy of the syllabus there, as well as the course schedule and instructions for the paper and paper proposal.  Additionally, I will post study guides for the exams there and there only – meaning I will not be handing out copies of the study guides in class.   


Also, I will post supplemental on the ecampus.fiu.edu website – those should be posted shortly.


Office Hours & Making Contact


My office hours are posted at the top of this document.  If you are having trouble at all, I strongly encourage you to stop by or call during office hours, or make an appointment to do so.   My job is to make sure you learn the material, not just to assign grades.


I will also try my best to answer questions via e-mail, but realize that apart from teaching this class, I am also teaching a second course, doing research, and administrative work, thus the quickest, best way to get an answer is to see me right after class, or stop by or call me during office hours.  Please do not call outside of office hours, and just email instead – games of phone tag usually don’t end well.   If you e-mail me, please put “GEA 3635” or “Geography of the M.E.” in the subject line – so I know what class you are in.   Also, pretty please put your name in the email, so I know who I am replying to.



Earning the Grade You Want & (A Small Amount of) Extra Credit


If you are doing poorly in the class, the time to ask how you can do better is not right before, and especially not right after, the Final.  If you do badly on the first or second test PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come to office hours or make an appointment to see me as soon as possible after that test, and I will help you devise strategies to study more effectively.


However, there might be an opportunity to receive a small amount of extra credit in the course by attending lectures affiliated with the Middle East Studies Center, if any are offered this semester.  Each lecture will be worth two points each.  There will be no other extra credit opportunities. 


Academic Integrity, Cheating and Plagiarism:


Cheating and plagiarism are done by pathetic and desperate people – don’t be one of them.    If you plagiarize on your travel guide, or cheat on an exam – you will receive at minimum a zero on that assignment, which instantly drops your score for the course by about two full letter grades.    If you find yourself in a desperate situation while taking a test or up against a deadline – turn in the best work you can do at the time.  Getting an F usually means you will get some points – getting caught cheating means you get zero.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of the case, I can choose to pursue harsher penalties, including assigning an F0 for the course or pursuing your expulsion.


It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the FIU student handbook’s sections on cheating and plagiarism.  Also, if you need to know more about how to not plagiarize, please check out the following websites.


1) “Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (Indiana University)” at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/plagiarism.html

2) “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words (Purdue University)” at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_paraphr.html


Absences & Make-Up


Excused absences include serious illness; illness of a spouse or dependent; death of an immediate family member; University-sponsored trips; and major religious holy days.  It is your responsibility to inform me of the absence in advance of class by e-mail (and within 2 weeks of the start of class if it is a university trip or holy day), but no later than two class sessions after the missed class.  In order to have an absence excused, you must provide original documentation which I can keep.   If this is done, and I determine the absence to be excused, I will do my best make sure you make up what you missed.


Make-up exams will only be given in extreme circumstances.  The make-up exam will not be the same one given to those who took the test on the established date, and will be given during the final examination period, during which time you will take both the make-up exam and the final.    To sit a make-up exam, you must 1) provide documentation to me in class within two class periods of the missed exam addressing why your absence qualifies as excused 2) have that documentation accepted by me 3) email me asking to be given a make-up exam and 4) receive back an email from me confirming a make-up exam will be given.  PLEASE NOTE THE DAY AND TIME OF THE FINAL EXAM: NO MERCY FOR THOSE WHO TRY TO LEAVE TOWN BEFORE THE SEMESTER ENDS (ARGHHHHHH)!!!


Your choices to attend or not attend have consequences – just like they would at work.    I take my responsibilities and role as a teacher seriously; I hope you hold your role and responsibility as a student in equal respect.