Recent KABOBfest post.
This past semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to TA a political science class on the Middle East. While an introductory ME class at the 300 level, intended for really anyone other than straight outta high school first years.
The following is a list of tips for those of you planning on taking any class on the ME. Some are general tips, applicable to any class, but these are primarily to help you not only pass any ME class but also not look like a bigot doing it. And yes, these are all based on actual experiences (minus one or two).
Tip 2: Good idea not to declare Islam as the root of all the persisting problems in the ME on your final exam, knowing that at least one of your TAs is a Muslim. And with an IQ over 90.
Tip 3: When discussing Orientalist scholars, do not cite Edward Said as a leading example.
Tip 4: Avoid using the following words: “renege,” “hodge podge,” “oppression” (or any variant of it), “problematize,” and “fingering.”
Tip 5: When asked about a contemporary issue regarding a specific ME country do not go into great irrelevant detail regarding the country’s history. I’m glad that you are well aware of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim’s ascension into power in 1021, but how is this relevant to Lebanon’s sectarian divisions and confessional system of governance?
Tip 6: WMDs hasn’t been the ‘right’ answer for a long, long …long time.
Tip 7: Your handwriting does determine your final grade. The equations are rather simple in this case:
Clear, double-spaced writing + tired grad student with other responsibilities = Good grade + tears of joy
Sloppy writing resembling semitic languages + tired grad student with little time = Bad grade
Tip 8: Use more than 1.5 exam booklets and die.
Tip 9: Flirting with your TA will not get you a better grade or a date. It will, however, get you a spot in her next tweet.
Tip 10: Make sure that if you’re writing a 15-20 page research paper in which Israel comprises a major chunk of your discussion, don’t spell it “Isreal” every ..single ..goddamn time.
Tip 11: I’m glad you’re passionate about your religion/ethnicity/nationality/birth/existence/brainwashing, but what does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with family status laws in Algeria?
Tip 12: Daniel Pipes is not really a legitimate source (unless we’re talking about the slave soldier military system in Islamichistory, then he’s really one of the only people to have written extensively on that topic. How unfortunate.)
Tip 13: I’m glad you spent a summer in Lebanon/Israel/OPT/Iran/Jordan/Egypt. This, however, is a research paper not a travel log.
Tip 14: Emailing your TA with a topic proposal for a 20 page term paper two days before its due is really not a good idea. At all. We will give you bad advice. On purpose.
Tip 15: Be aware (and prepared) that your papers/exams will possibly have coffee/hummus/bodily stains when returned.
Tip 16: Okay, seriously, Hosni Mubarak is not leading Egypt towards a democratic future. Seriously where is this coming from?
Tip 17: It’s too soon to do an analysis of the so-called Iranian Green Revolution. And don’t cite Twitter.
Tip 18: Pakistan and Afghanistan do not make up the Middle East. They comprise the AFPAK region, with the former a part of South Asia/Sub-continent and the latter a part of Central Asia. There. Now you are pretty much as well informed as the US Republicans and Democrats are about the region.
Tip 19: When discussing the political war between Hamas and Fatah (and general elite politics) and how it is detrimental to Palestinian statehood aspirations, its probably a good idea to mention Israel. Even just once. In some capacity. Anywhere.
Tip 20: Sadat did not initiate the intifida. It was the infitah.