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Spring 2018

Kafka Goes to Palestine


March 24th - April 21st


Session I: 11am - 2pm

Session II: 6pm - 9pm

Course convener: A. M. Awad


For more than a century, Franz Kafka has posed a challenge to interpretation. Philosophers have debated his work while theologians have probed its mystical elements. Most recently, the legal battle over his physical papers confounded the Israeli state, unsettling the Zionist identity of religion and nationalism. At the heart of this history are two questions which remain with us today: what can literature do? and for whom does it belong?


We will begin the seminar by turning to Kafka's work. Guided by a selection of parables and stories, we will immerse ourselves in the intricacy of interpretation. How do we understand this world: of objects part-alive and bureaucratic mazes; of catastrophic events and narrative nonchalance? Along with Kafka, we will read his commentators - Benjamin, Adorno, and Arendt - dwelling upon their notions of beauty, failure, and hope.

In the second half of the seminar, we will follow Kafka to Palestine, gauging his ambivalence not only to religion and nationalism but also to literature itself. Considering Kafka's request to have all his papers burned, we will trace their fate as the literary property of a Jewish state. In doing so, we will ask how a piece of writing can make claims about justice, including its own right not to be owned.

Throughout the seminar, we will reflect on Kafka in the present. What does his work tell us about Zionism and settler-colonialism, about literature as a mode of resistance? In the context of contemporary society, how do we express communal heritage - whether linguistic, religious, or cultural - when it is claimed by the state? And if writing can ever be free of politics, can it also be free of another manipulation, that of the market? 

Tuition: 240 JDs. Scholarships are available to all those who cannot afford the full cost, regardless of age, nationality, or employment status. See the registration form for details.

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Summer 2018

    Social Science

       History, Theory, Critique

       July 28th - August 18th


               11am - 2pm


                6pm - 9pm 


Today's social sciences - from economics to anthropology - emerged under the historical conditions of modern Europe, where capitalist and colonial expansion relied on them for legitimacy. Since then, they have spread as formal disciplines to the rest of the world. Their tools and methods, their forms of expression, have diffused into society, informing how we structure our thoughts. As a result, the findings of social science appear as universal, as true.

In Social Science, we will consider the history, theory, and critique of this process. We will begin by linking the development of two disciplines - sociology and anthropology - with certain aspects of modern Europe, including the industrial revolution and urbanization; individualism and bourgeois relations; and imperialism. What historical purposes did these disciplines serve? How have they transformed in the centuries to follow?

We will then put the disciplines on trial, assessing their internal and external issues. Some post-colonial scholars, for instance, have discredited anthropology - 'until,' in one polemic, 'there are as many ethnographies of Manhattan as of Palestine.' Others have defended the selective usage of its tools, arguing that social science can help us to diagnose how non-western societies work. We will assess, in this light, the field of 'Middle Eastern Studies.'

In the second half of the seminar, we will interrogate the present, where 'expert' knowledge and social research have become dominant. How do these forms of knowledge operate colonially? How do they attend to questions of historical context? Our focus will be on Amman, where relative stability has inspired thousands of social researchers and dozens of institutions to produce knowledge about 'Middle Eastern' culture, politics, and religion.

Each week, we will grapple with our own trial: if social science has diffused into society, then how does our inquiry escape its influence? In pursuing this question, we will reflect on higher education in the Levant and internationally. How can resources from Arab and Islamic history inform social scientific research today? What might alternative modes of knowledge production look like, if the contingency of history can be taken into account?

Course convener: A. M. Awad​

Tuition: 200 JDs. Scholarships are available to all those who cannot afford the full cost, regardless of age, nationality, or employment status. 

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