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.