Population and Geography of the Middle East

GEA 3635, U01A.  Summer A 2012


Class Location: PC 438  Time: 12:30-3:15 pm.  Tuesday and Thursday

Instructor:  Benjamin Smith   Email: bsmith@fiu.edu

Office: SIPA 305 Office Phone: 348-2074

Office Hours: Before class, after class and during break (in the classroom) or by appointment.

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

Where to Get the Supplemental Readings: http://ecampus.fiu.edu (choose Moodle Login)


There is More to the Middle East than the Headlines


2011 was a momentous year in the Middle East – several long standing regimes fell, signs of protests became more visible in many parts of the region.  This year has the potential to be much the same.  Yet for as much as the region has been in headlines here in the US for the past decade, it 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, lifestyle, 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, technology, politics 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. 


Notes on a Summer Course


A short course is a strange creature – I want you to learn everything a student in a full semester would learn, but I also recognize the time limitations.  So there are two big changes from the way I would teach this in Fall or Spring:


1.      There are two tests not three.   I cannot be testing you every few days.   BUT… each test is worth more, which means you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BOMB the first exam, or you will have dug yourself a deep hole.   Furthermore, we cover EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF MATERIAL as the normal semester class, so if you do not study a little bit, multiple times a week, you will be in bad shape.

2.      The semester project usual involves writing a country/city report along with an accompanying travel guide (see below).   Instead, you will either do the country/city report OR the travel guide.  This is about half the work, for the same amount of points.


Required Texts


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


Supplemental Readings http://ecampus.fiu.edu


Important Dates


Thursday, May 17 – Guest Speaker

Tuesday, May 29 –Exam One

Thursday, June 14 – Project Due

Thursday, June 21 – Exam Two




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


  75 points: Attendance and Participation 

100 points:  Travel Guide

155 points: Exam 1

170 points: Exam 2____       

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.


There are slight differences between the two exams – besides the fact that they cover materials from different lectures.    The first exam will have two map sections – one covering physical features and one covering cities (study lists will be provided).  You will be given a list of features, and given a map covered in letters.  You find the letter that corresponds to the feature.    On the second exam, there will be only one map section that will ask you to label all the countries in the region (a list will again be provided).    However, you will only be given a numbered map – it will be up to you write the name of the country.   Also, there will be one 14 point essay question which requires you to summarize big ideas from the course (it will be clear what this question is later).


Exam 1: 155 pts

Exam 2: 170 pts.


Country Report/Travel Guide


While more specifics will be given soon, you will be required to produce is EITHER one travel guide OR one country report covering somewhere in the Middle East.  Professor Smith will randomly choose this place for you.  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, what everyday life is like) 2) help you appreciate that there is more to the region than violence (and, in fact, that many people in the Middle East actually do enjoyable things) 3) to give you the point cushion usually provided by a research paper.    It will be due on Thursday, June 14 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.   This is even more true in the compressed summer semester.  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.  Sometimes, I will just have you sign in.  These are meant to be low stress, and providing everyone makes a good faith effort (and attends), these points should be easy to get.


However, these points can also be taken away, at the instructor’s discretion, in extreme circumstances, due to repeated 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.



Office Hours & Making Contact

If you are having trouble at all, I strongly encourage you to come talk to me before or after class (or during break), 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 promptly via e-mail, but realize that apart from teaching this class, I am writing up my research and being a husband/father.  Calling my office is the least good way to get a hold of me – please just email.  If you e-mail me, please put “GEA 3635” or “Geography of the M.E.” in the subject line – so I know why you are emailing.   Also, pretty please put your name in the email, so I know who I am replying to.


Earning the Grade You Want

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 test PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come talk to me 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.  In the summer there is little room for error.


Academic Integrity, Cheating and Plagiarism:


Cheating and plagiarism are done by pathetic and desperate people – don’t be one of them.    If you cheat on an exam or assignment – you will receive at minimum a zero on that assignment.    If you find yourself in a desperate situation while taking a test, do the best work you can do at the time.  Getting a 50% 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.



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 1 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 and give you attendance credit.


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.


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.