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Viewing: NELC 330 C1: Univ Museum Middle East

Last approved: Tue, 02 Oct 2018 19:46:58 GMT

Last edit: Thu, 27 Sep 2018 19:37:56 GMT

First Name Last Name Userid Title Home School Org Short Name
Heather Sharkey hsharkey Professor Middle East School of Arts and Sciences Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
Spring 2019
Fall 2018
Univ Museum Middle East
This seminar explores how two kinds of institutions - the research university and the museum - developed in the United States as American scholars and philanthropists and the U.S. government engaged with the wider world. We will take the involvement of the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum in the Middle East as a test case for this history, while focusing on the period from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will approach questions in transnational intellectual, cultural, and political history through the lens of Penn's Middle Eastern engagements. For example, how did the university and its museum contribute to the construction of the Middle East as a zone of U.S. diplomatic intervention? How have American scholarly traditions shaped academic fields of inquiry including "Semitics" (a term used a century ago to suggest the study of biblical languages and traditions), "Oriental Studies" (a now-passe and politically loaded term suggesting connections to American traditions of Orientalist thought), "Islamic Studies", and "Egyptology"? How did Penn's archaeological expeditions to celebrated sites like Ur in the late nineteenth century influence the late Ottoman Empire's policies towards antiquities and museums? How did Penn's broader expeditions in the twentieth century, to Egypt, Iran, and elsewhere, shape nationalist imaginations in the United States and in Middle Eastern countries, while also informing international antiquities policies? Finally, how have institutions like Penn and the Penn Museum responded to changing American popular attitudes and U.S. foreign policy concerns relative to the Middle East, during the Cold War and post-2001 ("post-9/11") eras, and most recently, amid civil strife in Syria and Iraq? This seminar offers students an opportunity to consult Penn's phenomenal collections of Middle East-related materials as they pursue end-of-semester research. These collections include artifacts (museum objects), archival records (such as documents, drawings, and photographs), and rare books and manuscripts from the Penn Museum and Penn Libraries.
Every Other Year

Foundational Approach

Course offered spring; odd-numbered years
Cross Cultural Analysis
Standing Faculty
Standing Faculty

Methods of Assessment

2 book reviews: 3 pages each (6 pages total)
1 "object biography" (essay profiling Penn Museum object): 2-3 pages
preliminary paper proposal: 2 pages
preliminary introduction: 2-3 pages
final paper: 15-20 pages
Final presentation (oral).
Oral presentations on readings.

Cross Cultural Analysis

The course studies the history of the University of Pennsylvania including its founding principles and educational philosophy in light of its engagements in the Middle East – especially in archaeology. It uses this case study to understand the development of universities and museums as public institutions within the United States.
The study of art and religion is central to the class: art in the form of the materials excavated from sites abroad and assembled in museums (notably the Penn Museum); and religion (biblical studies and the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), considering it an impulse behind the American fascination and engagement with the Near East.

The class will consider how the university (Penn) and museum (Penn Museum) as social institutions in the United States intersected with U.S. foreign policy and the projection of American nationalism abroad, while also having consequences for the foreign policy and imperial and national cultures of the Middle East (the Ottoman Empire and its successor states, plus Iran).
We will be using material objects and archival records as core elements of the class, while drawing on the Penn Museum and also the rare books in Van Pelt Library.

Cultural Diversity in the US


Quantitative Data Analysis

Middle Eastern history survey

Formal Reasoning


Administrative Fields

Key: 813