History of the Modern Middle East

Apr 2021

Overall, pretty solid class; not the easiest, but a doable A with lots of time and effort. This is a super popular class because it fulfills the Global Core requirement, Prof. Khalidi is the best in his field, and the subject matter is relevant and important to current affairs. It's such a big class that you'll likely have a couple, if not 10-15 friends in the class too. Professor Khalidi is an awesome lecturer. I found his lectures engaging and extremely informative. It was refreshing to learn about the Middle East from an actual Middle Eastern professor/someone who's lived there – he throws in personal anecdotes about famous heads of state and events we learn about, like meeting King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and his fathers' work in the UN. It's pretty cool to learn from someone whose own life experiences and family background is ingrained in what we're learning. Grading is entirely based on discussion sections that happen once a week. The midterm and final are each two papers written over a five-day period – so they're definitely very time intensive and require prior knowledge (cramming during the five days is hard – I tried doing that for the midterm and got a B+). If you do the readings, pay attention to lectures, and talk to your TA, you should be okay. Make sure to participate in your discussion sections. I ended up with an A overall in this class, although it did take a lot of work. If you're looking for a really easy global core, take something else. But, if you're interested in knowing more about the MENA/Greater Middle East region, especially in how the US/Europe created a lot of the conflicts we see today, take this class. It really opened my eyes!

Jan 2021

I think this course is really overrated. The lectures were really poorly organized. Perhaps, this was because of the online format but Khalidi lectures without a PowerPoint and wasn't writing on a board or anything, so it was not super coherent. He would lay out what he was going to say at the beginning of the class, but often he wouldn't follow it or would jump back and forth between topics. Khalidi's family is clearly very important in the Middle East, but some of his anecdotes about his family history came off a bit like brags (he talked about how he was brought to see the king of Saudi as a teenager when he was about to go to Yale for no apparent reason). The readings were quite uninteresting and for the most part very textbook-y. There was also a strangely (considering Khalidi's politics) biased pro-Israel history of Israel text. We also read the entirety of his book on the Cold War which was really badly written (he quotes the same passage twice in 20 pages) and he often quoted his own book when discussing this topic. I agree with the other review that said this is not a comprehensive history of the Middle East class, we barely talked about pan-Arabism, north Africa, or countries apart from Turkey/the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Iran, Israel/Palestine, and Saudi at the end. Another thing I did not like about the class was the grading. It was 20% Section Participation (Based on weekly discussion questions and participation) 30% Midterm (5 days to write 2 6 page essays) and 50% Final (5 days to write 2 8 page essays). It was basically just 4 essays but because they were done in this short time frame and as an exam there was very little opportunity to improve and/or get advice from your TA. This seemed unnecessarily high stakes when the same amount of work could have been distributed as 4 normal essays, though I believe that this kind of setup is pretty typical in the history department, so maybe not Khalidi's fault. But despite all the negativity if this is a topic you are really interested in, the class is still probably worthwhile because Khalidi really is an important figure and you will learn some stuff. I just was disappointed especially considering all the hype and feel it could have been taught considerably better.

Dec 2020

Professor Khalidi is such a joy to learn from! His lectures are so much fun, he teaches history like a storyteller. Every once in a while he does these hilarious little impressions woven into the lectures, all of which are packed with information. They can be slightly disorganized if I'm being honest, and the readings, though interesting, aren't the most tightly aligned with the lectures, but overall I learned SO. MUCH. and as a lecturer, he's fun enough to listen to that I would 100% recommend. I personally think anyone who wants to say word 1 about the middle east has to take this class first, especially Americans/Europeans. It's such an eye-opening course.

Dec 2020

I usually don't write reviews on Culpa but Professor Khalidi is worth the trouble. Not only is he an organized, coherent and easy to follow lecturer, but the content of his lectures is incredibly interesting and very important. I 100% recommend this class! Granted, you have to have a certain interest on the subject to enjoy an 8:40 lecture. Especially if you're European or American it's a great way to really comprehend the impact of western colonialism/ imperialism on the region and demystify a lot of the misunderstandings that are causing the issues facing the Middle East today.

Dec 2020

Amelia Spooner was an AMAZING TA. Her knowledge of the subject (to which she doesn't specialize) was amazing. Her section was well organized and extremely useful. As a TA she was amazing at explaining and helping with any minor or major queries you had with the context. She was very understanding and prompt to respond to emails - her feedback was one of the best I've had at Columbia. She was a fantastic section leader and a very calm yet passionate woman who often displayed extensive knowledge. Very engaging. TAKE HER CLASS!

Nov 2020

The professor's lectures were very focused and informative, providing a solid framework through which to understand the reading material. It is important to get a good TA for the discussion sections. My TA Jennifer Goetz, was excellent at maintaining and driving informative discussions that reviewed parts of material we were weak on.

May 2020

Honestly, this class was 100% based off of the TA you got. My TA was Nada Khalifa and when I tell you this was the worst TA experience I've had at Columbia, I'm not kidding. She was unnecessarily strict, boring, and honestly a bit rude and stuckup. Khalidi's lectures were okay but definitely not worth waking up at 8:40 for. All the information from lectures were in the books, and if you read them then there was no point to the class. This class isn't really history of the modern middle east, it's basically an Egypt and Iran class with bits and pieces of other places like Palestine. Honestly this class is overhyped. The MESAAS department has a legacy of "dudebros" and Khalidi is one of them. Wouldn't recommend taking the class to anyone. If you're actually interested in the middle east, read the books on the syllabus on your own time and don't waste it taking this class. Way too overhyped, and biggest regret of mine at Columbia.

Nov 2019

amazing, wonderful, smart, intelligent, brave seriously the best prof ever his lectures are super interesting, he's incredibly knowledgeable (has been called the foremost US historian on the Middle East) isn't afraid to say what he thinks

Dec 2016

This guy is my God. He is just a fantastic lecturer and honestly a very calm yet passionate man who has extensive knowledge and experience of the Middle East. Sure, his views can be slightly biased but you have to understand where he is coming from... just read his wiki page and you'll see what I'm saying. Also, as someone who is highly influential in historical discourse, he definitely takes time to listen to your questions and respond to them thoughtfully. His lectures, although at 8:40am, are great. Very engaging if you really wanna know about this part of the region that has been misinterpreted significantly. His rare but golden criticisms of certain political leaders are legendary and his family ties are impressive too (his uncle was the frigging mayor of Jerusalem, like wtf man) 1 midterm 1 final Both were essays. Not bad. But a LOT of readings - no one did everything though.

Dec 2014

I would agree with a lot of the reviews below - Khalidi is a good lecturer, and I feel that my knowledge of the Middle East is much expanded, though I admittedly was woefully uninformed before. The readings are valuable and interesting, but they are very broad and we practically never touch a primary source. The readings for the 20th century were quite unchronological, which got pretty confusing at times. Itwas kind of hard to work things through in discussion section because there was so much information in the readings for a single week (and my TA wasn't great at encouraging participation). I recognize that these are structural issues of a course spanning so many centuries though. Khalidi says at the beginning of the course that he's really not interested in grades/testing, and that's true. However, I think the TA's are unnecessarily harsh with grading on the extremely broad essay questions that constitute the midterm and final.

Aug 2014

As someone who came to Columbia partly to study under Professor Khalidi, I must say that I am really dissapointed with his teaching style, and as I revisit it, his scholarship. The second point is important because Professor Khalidi has quite high regard for his own work: he assigned Sowing Crisis in its entirely, and felt the need to lecture from the text verbatim. The lectures are not bad until you realize that they contain nothing unmentioned in the texts. The generally high quality of assigned texts is the best part of this course, and the required reading list is supplemented by an extensive bibliography pointing to specialized texts on various subtopics. Though I learned much by reading some of these, I learned almost nothing from the lectures. Despite being a fairly diligent student I just couldn't bear to keep attending monotonous and unoriginal lectures by the time midterms began. The TA discussions will obviously vary based on class and the TA him/herself. I had Susanna Ferguson who attempted to start interesting discussions but was prevented from doing so by the fact that basically no one read. Seeing as the lectures were uninteresting, on the whole this made for rather dull discussions which primarily consisted of Susanna summarizing the week's readings. As for Professor Khalidi himself: I was really appalled when I went to meet with him and he had the temerity to advise that I read him as an objective source. When one asks a scholar for reading recommendations, one would expect reference to leading authors in the field other than the scholar with whom one is speaking. I have read most of his work but find that this arrogance is reflected in the tone of his texts ("as I will demonstrate" "as I have shown here" etc., etc.) as well as his lectures -- just reading his books out loud. For someone who is not familiar with the history and geopolitics of the region this course can serve as a good introduction. But anyone looking for a rewarding learning experience or a brillant lecturer, let alone in-depth knowledge of the region, ought to turn elsewhere.

Dec 2013

I feel strange about this class - it has a lot of different things going for it. The material is interesting and very relevant. I felt embarrassingly underinformed about the region and left with a fairly good base of (very important) knowledge. Khalidi's lectures are engaging and he is clearly very passionate about the material. Still, because of certain structural issues with the course, I can't really recommend this course to anyone. Three major problems I had with this course: - In lecture, we were taught to treat things with a certain amount of subtlety - "The Middle East is made up of different countries with different histories" "Political Islam can take many different forms". But then we it came time for the midterm and final, we were presented with ridiculously broad questions you couldn't even write a PhD thesis on - "What happened between Europe and the Middle East during the 19th century (talk about economic, political, social changes)?" - 5 pages. "What's going on with oil in the Middle East after WWII?" - 6 pages. My instructor berated people for not having clear theses when it was evident that there was no way to tackle these issues without purposefully leaving a great deal of material out. - For that matter, TA sections were not just bad - they were disastrous. My TA was unacceptably unprepared and almost incoherent in my section and I received my midterm grade nearly a month after my friend received hers. The same friend told me that her TA instructed them not to use the lecture material in their midterm/final responses because "he didn't attend the lectures". Another friend showed me a hilariously supercilious email her TA sent her section. A really good discussion section could have been truly helpful - Khalidi's lectures give you a basic framework but don't detail many specific events (they also lagged the readings by quite a bit) and the readings don't always match up with each other. Unfortunately, my section was useless. - I am not a history major and it appears a very intelligent person below has detailed their own reservations in that regard. I will say this though: the readings felt strange to me. They are extremely synthetic texts, you will never really deal with a primary source document in this class. Again, the person below speaks better to this than I can - but as a non-history major, I felt that I was never really thinking throughout this course since I had spent the entire semester effectively "taking someone's word" for vast swaths of history. Again, this makes writing papers complicated - since the best you ever can do is just to recapitulate someone else's reading and say "Well, Rogan says that this happened."

Jul 2011

This is a caution to anyone considering this course. Note, it is not meant to deter students from enrolling in it. Altogether, I think it was a valuable class that I do not regret taking. The point of what follows is to offer constructive criticism and to make sure that students have some helpful expectations and mindsets before they go in. One of the problems in many of the History department's regional surveys -- history of the modern middle east, the modern Caribbean, etc - is that to square the breadth of the subject matter with the time constraints of a lecture course, instructors tend to prefer secondary survey texts over primary documents. This can happen to reading lists and to lectures. In a class with a more focused topic, many lecturers scatter primary materials to demonstrate the process of writing history and the idea that history is a continuing argument. In regional classes, lectures tend to be more like an oral textbook, simply providing the narrative that the lecturer prefers. For those considering Khalidi's course, be advised that it leans very heavily towards the "secondary" side of the spectrum. The reading list was exclusively secondary texts, and the lectures were exclusively his narrative. Why does this matter? For one thing, the appeal of a history course on the Middle East is that it could enlighten very difficult political conflicts that are rooted in blurry and challenged readings of the region's past. The problem I had with Khalidi's lectures, and with several of the texts he chose, is not that they were one-sided (history is an argument and the writers will inevitably land on a side), but that they so insistently failed to attend to the other side. Khalidi (and Rogan and Gelvin, who are the principal textbook authors on the syllabus) are very good at assertion. Khalidi's content presentation is impressively incisive, but also, on occasion, disputatious. And a common vibe I felt - and explicitly observed in others leaving the room - was confusion about whether we had just witnessed a history class or a polemical diatribe. Very rarely would you encounter -- in either the texts or lectures -- phrases like, "one might reply that," or "to this view some have objected that," or "those who disagree with me on this issue point to the..." or, "this is just my view; if you want to compare it with a different one, you could read...." Without these nods to the bare existence of disagreement, of the fact that Khalidi's is just one of many perspectives, one feels more inclined to ask, "how is he so sure?" and one cannot help wondering if such a confident aura of certainty has any relation to Khalidi's active engagement in the politics of the region right now as a commentator. This is not to say that these engagements are wrong or inappropriate, but only that a professional historian should be sensitive to the challenges they can pose to impartial research and teaching. I am sure that admirers of Khalidi who read the last sentence will respond something like this: "No historian is objective; objective history is a myth; and you are faulting him for not doing something that is impossible for any historian." I would concede the first two of these points, but not the third. I am not faulting Khalidi for not being objective nor am I saying that fully unbiased history is possible. But that is is not the issue. The question is whether, admitting that we will never completely suppress our biases and interests when we do history, we *still try* to be impartial, conscious of multiple perspectives, and sensitive to the dangers our own interests may pose to our view of the past. This is the sensitivity I deeply missed in Khalidi's course, all of its many merits and his own eloquence, passion, and erudition notwithstanding. How can this be addressed? First, Professor Khalidi could add uniquely controversial primary documents to the syllabus, and advise students to read these documents before they read the secondary interpretations of them. In lectures, he might spend five minutes showing that the documents have been read and used in more than one way. Second, in each lecture, he could spend five minutes pointing out one alternative interpretation to the narrative he had presented, and explain why he had rejected it. Third, he could more explicitly map his "suggested reading list" and the texts that he writes on the board during class to point out perspectives that substantially differ with his own. Fourth, he could emphasize explicitly - say it out loud - that his is one view among many and that students should actively question that view. One might object that the breadth of material in a class on the entire Middle East does not permit these indulgences; there is too much to cover. First, as it is, the class still does not cover all the material and a course this broad will never cover "all" the material. Moreover, the gains to students' critical thinking, sympathy for opponent, and mindset about history which these changes can bring, will dwarf the benefit of a few extra factual details here and there. I believe that the best history courses do not teach facts and events, but how to deal with them critically. If you enroll in Khalidi's course, I suggest trying as hard as you can to make it such a course.

May 2011

If you are interested in the Middle East, I highly recommend this class. Prof. Khalidi is a wealth of knowledge, a great lecturer and a wonderful teacher. Beginning from the 18th century Ottoman Empire to the recent war in Iraq this class covers the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural modern history of Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and more. Its a lot of information, but totally worth it. Go to the lectures. The reading can be overwhelming, but Prof. Khalidi is very good at unpacking the material to make it comprehensible and entertaining. His classes are big and discussion sections are mandatory, so choose your TA wisely, since your grade completely depends on your TA.

May 2011

Avoid this TA at all costs. If you have a choice between jumping into a pool with man-eating piranhas, or, having Farbod as a TA do not hesitate to jump. He is the worst TA at Columbia University. He will not help you understand class material; he will not answer emails nor will he grade fairly. He does not attend the lectures, rather he relies on the students to “fill him in” on what the professor discussed that week, which makes going to discussion sections completely worthless. He does not bother to take attendance ; his expectations for the class are vague since nothing is written down, and worst of all, his grades are completely arbitrary. However, this is not a reflection on the class, since Prof. Khalidi is a great teachers and really knows his stuff.

May 2011

If you are interested in the historical roots of issues in the Middle East as well as events in the Middle East today, you owe it to yourself to take this class. The first half of the course is taken up by the history of the late Ottoman Empire, which doesn't seem all that relevant to the modern Middle East, but stick with it. In many cases, the Ottomans are more relevant to modern issues than they may seem at first. After the midterm, the course moves slowly toward the present. Khalidi often gets bogged down in issues of Nationalism and the Mandate system. Don't get me wrong, these are important and very relevant to the Middle East today but I would have preferred if Khalidi had covered more of the things in the assigned readings in lecture. To Khalidi's credit, at the end of each lecture he leaves 15 or so minutes for people to ask questions either on the lecture material or on events in the Middle East today such as the "Arab Spring." We ended up talking a lot about current events in the Middle East. Khalidi has mentioned that he will continue this practice in the future. Khalidi himself is an excellent lecturer at the top of his field. As other reviewers have noted, he sometimes pontificates about the news media and their horribly inadequate coverage of pretty much everything in the Middle East. Most people in the room probably agree with him, so he's basically preaching to the choir. I enjoyed going to class when I could drag myself out of bed at 9 AM. You can get away with not going to class sometimes so long as you do the readings, but you'll want to go to class as much as you can. As for the readings, they are hit or miss. Some are fascinating, like Rogan's The Arabs. Others are incredibly dry and border on irrelevant (I'm looking at you, Modern Middle East Reader). Sometimes the readings basically repeat themselves so you don't always have to do them. The worst aspect of this class by far is the required once-weekly 50 minute discussion section. I rarely had questions (readings and lectures explain things pretty well). I was never really sure what I was supposed to get out of it. Still it was only a minor annoyance This was easily one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken at Columbia. It is easily one of the best Global Core classes out there.

May 2011

Khalidi's class was throughly enjoyable and I learned a lot. I didn't know very much about the Middle East before I took this class, and now I feel solid about my knowledge about the region. Khalidi is a great lecturer, but he does go off on tangents and ramblings about certain issues. He can spend what feels like fifteen minutes emphasizing one point. It was also interesting to hear what he thought about the Arab revolutions and how he incorporated that with what he was lecturing about during the Spring 2011 semester. I honestly would not mind taking the course again in the Fall just to see how his opinion and events may have changed. Khalidi is also willing to talk with you outside of class to go over material that you didn't understand or even just talk about current events, so definitely take up the opportunity to do so! For section, Omar had us write weekly discussion posts that he called reaction papers for the readings, and for that reason, I did the readings. Maybe you could get away with not doing the readings, but to me, it seemed like something that would be difficult to write if one had not done the readings. But otherwise, Omar was good about summarizing the readings and we usually had interesting discussions about events relating to Middle East as well as our opinions.

Jun 2009

Proceed, but with some caution. As a freshman and found it possible to get a good grade without suffering, but not without three important things: 1) go to class, I can't repeat it enough, or at LEAST borrow notes, because you're more likely to know the info that will show up on a test; 2) DO attend the discussion sections, because those boost your grade 10% even if your TA sucks, 3) worker smarter rather than harder when it comes to readings--Bulliet subtracted most of the books on the syllabus (except his own and Khalidi's, big surprise*.*) and added books right before the midterm as well as the final. Therefore, don't waste your time buying books early, count on him to switch, make changes, and if you can, buy books from Barnes and Noble's general section (not the textbook section) so that you can read up and return it, having not wasted money you don't have. Although reading is heavy, pay attention to what he talks about in class and the terms that TAs give you before the exams, and the material is there. No homework of course except for readings as well as discussion readings and discussion attendance. You only have a midterm and a final, but both--especially the latter--are very rigorous, involving several essays (some of which may be based on the reading) and IDs (identifying a group of terms, like "intifada" and "PLO", and explaining how it relates to other terms). Those of you who have taken AP US or English, but especially AP World, will be grateful they have taken these classes, because you will have been used to the demands of writing an essay on the spot. However, if you aren't a good writer it doesn't matter--it's logic that counts. The class is large (150 people I think), and you will find that the first 10-15 minutes and especially the last 20 minutes are, what Bulliet himself called, "bullsh-t," but make sure you get what's between. Professor always went on sudden loooong tangeants (once about comic books, and another on camels...expect this one). It is better to type than write, unless you prefer otherwise. Bulliet has a really good humor, although I found some of his jokes stupid, but he knows what he's talking about (he's on wikipedia), he's well traveled and you can approach him with questions after class if something catchs your interest. Overall, not a bad professor. There are different TAs, so I don't know them all, but it's just important to show him/her that you're coming to discussion sections and participating. Don't read everything they assign in duscissions. BS, say anything. A good class for MELAC majors who know this info or those interested in MELAC.

May 2009

probably the best professor at columbia. he admitted, more than once, that he taught us how to bullshit. His lectures are really interesting, although some had a hard time appreciating them. This is a great global core class to take.

May 2009

Bulliet is a bullshitter. He admits that right off. And when you're trying to take notes in his class, you'll struggle to find what is actually important versus the stuff that really does not matter at all. If you're like me, you'll come in ready to write down everything that he says; after you try that for a few classes, you'll get progressively more frustrated when he says after a particularly long-winded digression, "Not that any of that matters. Or is even true." Slowly, you'll fade off into a world of your own. As for the material, it's pretty dry for the first half of the semester (when you're working through the history of the Ottoman Empire from the 1600s until the First World War. The second half, when it starts to get interesting, almost everyone was so discouraged by his lack of direction / organization that they had tuned out or stopped coming to class. But if you do take the class, know that the second half is worth it. The misleading thing about this course, for me at least, was that I was under the impression that it would be a "History of the Modern Middle East." What it actually turns out to be is Bulliet poking holes in the very conception that such a course could exist. I would say that if you've already got a pretty good idea of the history of the region and of its people, then take this class to have it all disassembled Bulliet-style. If you're looking for a straightforward history class, this isn't it. I don't know where it is.

May 2009

Oh, Richard Bulliet...he's quite the character to say the least. Some people seem to passionately despise him as a teacher, but I fear they are rushing to conclusions and not giving him the chance he deserves. I found myself drifting off to sleep if I wasn't in the right mood for his lectures, since they are delivered with a droning voice peppered with dry sarcasm. However, if you actually listen to what he's saying word for word and take meticulous notes, you will be amazed. The first two months of the course, I blindly took notes, barely registering what he said and basically writing everything, and it seemed like a random string of random insights. But, typing up the notes to study for the midterm, somehow everything came together and just made sense. I saw the brilliance in his ways and was amazed at how much I actually knew. He doesn't teach history as you would expect, chronologically, with an annoying importance given to dates and places and people and details. Instead, he focuses on one theme every class and just talks about it, by heart. It's amazing that he can do that. He knows a lot, clearly, and I think it's an honor to be in his presence. He will go off on tangents, about two-humped versus one-humped camels, about two-wheeled versus four-wheeled vehicles, etc., but it's all part of the experience (plus, he has some strange expertise). Go in with an open mind, and enjoy it! Plus, if you just want to listen to the lectures and take notes later...or not go to class at all, the lectures are all available online.

May 2008

Khalidi repeats himself a lot and often becomes visually frustrated in class since this topic is so often misunderstood and even distorted within American culture. That said, his lectures easily kept my attention, though they didn't cover that much material. The readings cover a lot more, though if you don't do them you will not be entirely lost since Khalidi makes very clear his focus during the course -- his pro-Palestinian stance and his insistence that pundits on the news have no idea what they are talking about. By the end of the class you will probably agree with him about everything; otherwise you probably came in agreeing with him without even knowing it. He's an excellent professor. And his class is easy, informative, and highly relevant to not only the world we live in today but also the studies of any history major.

Jun 2007

This class was good but not great. I took the class with no knowledge whatsoever of the history of the Middle East, and left with a relatively better understanding and an inspiration to learn more. Some of the material was thrilling, helping you to connect modern-day political and cultural situations with the historical background of the Middle East. Other parts was less interesting and/or not fully explained (for example, I left the class with almost no understanding whatsoever of the Iranian Revolution, although it was supposedly covered in the class). The lectures were hit or miss, and the fact that they were at 9:10 didn’t help (though Khalidi acknowledged at the beginning of the semester that he would have changed the time if possible). I think a lot depended on your TA— my section was a complete joke and added nothing whatsoever to the class, while I often heard that other TAs led difficult discussions and had really hard grading standards. Fortunately, the midterm and the final were both take-home which was helpful both understanding- and grade-wise. Overall, if you’re interested in the subject and can hack an early start time or some dry-ish lectures, I’d recommend it for an overview of the topic. If you’re passionate already about issues facing the Middle East, perhaps take a seminar that will provide you with a less general curriculum and a more stimulating discussion.

May 2007

This class was very ordinary and unexciting. Khalidi is a decent lecturer, and he is even eloquent sometimes, but overall he never really presented any kind of unique perspective. Most of the readings were very weak--more what you'd expect in a PolySci class rather than in a history class--and its pretty clear that Khalidi didn't put much time into organizing a really great reading list. Overall, pretty boring and uninspiring and not even particularly informative. On the plus side, its an easy A.

Jun 2006

Awesome professor with a level head and the best knowledge on the region and the current issues. ON THE OTHER HAND......Make sure you pick your TA wisely. This will dictate your grade. Take the stance of bashing the us government, capitalism, and the military will score really well with the TAs ---If you write your midterm and final papers on topics and people which are vital to present day issues and you wont do that well.

May 2006

Khalidi is hands down one of the best professors at Columbia. He is an incredibley engaging lecturer, making his large lecture class really interesting. I learned alot. His seminar was also good times. He's smart, he's interesting, and he's a cool guy. Take anything with him. He's great!

May 2006

I found this class to be extremely overrated and quite possibly the worst history class that I've taken at Columbia. First off, the reading was pretty bad - rather than us learning about issues in the modern middle east, all of the books were reactions to the issues so we had no overarching book that provided background. Note, though, that the reading list changed from last year when everyone gave him solid reviews. Khalidi as a person clearly has some major ego issues. He started what seemed like every class by telling us how ignorant we were (because we don't read every f***ing newspaper on the planet). Fine, we're ignorant because we don't read every local paper produced in the Middle East, but if he really cares so much about that then that should have been our reading and not the crap that he assigned. Furthermore, the books too kept going on and on about how ignorant the West is with rash overgeneralizations. Another pet peeve was that every class started about 5 minutes late and then went over about 10 minutes while he opened it up to questions - which were always stupid ones asked by grad students who wanted to pat themselves on the back (and they have their mandatory section with Khalidi, so the questions could have waited). Meanwhile, the class after us was waiting outside impatiently and causing traffic congestion, since it is in the big auditorium in IAB. The lectures were informative at best, he was never very engaging. Discussion sections were a waste of time. I am usually a fan of these sections but all of the TAs for this class seemed to have major chips on their shoulders... most of my friends had TAs other than mine and all of them felt like they weren't helping reinforce what we learned but rather tried to drive their own agenda home. Also, since there was only a take-home midterm and take-home final, you never really reinforced what you were learning like you would if there was another paper or two. The Modern Middle East is such an interesting and relevant subject, so it really sucks that the course could not be good. I think that most students signed up for it because they had genuine interest in the subject (even though it is a Major Cultures course) but I was so taken aback by everything that I just lost all interest. I know this review sounds uber-bitter, but I did quite well in the course and still hated it. Khalidi needs to get a lot humbler if he wants to relate to undergrads, spend more time teaching rather than denouncing us, and hire TAs that actually give a crap.

May 2006

Amit is excellent, one of the best TA's I've had. Perhaps as a result of his years teaching high school, he actually teaches the material and he's always prepared and on time. He takes a Socratic approach to the material, questioning the section and then explaining the answer himself if he doesn't elicit any responses. He is a tough grader, but fair. My one complaint is that he was obsessed with comparing the methods of history to the methods of other disciplines in order to show how history's were better. Overall, though, I wouldn't hesitate before taking another section with him.

Jul 2005

It is true that "discussion" sections with George ranged for most from mind-numbingly boring to mind-boggingly frustrating, which was terrible because we were working with such juicy, fabulous material in this class. However, I found that I could learn a lot from George after class or via email, and was impressed and touched by his beyond-the-call-of-duty availability and commitment to helping me and other students out. As a semi-clueless non-History major I still ended up with an A- (which I worked my ass off for.) Moral of the story: if you have no choice but to be in section with George Fiske, use the sections as an opportunity for increasing tolerance and love in your heart in the face of what often looks like extreme incompetence, and make use of what George does have to offer academically outside of the class.

May 2005

It sounds like Khalidi might be going to Princeton, but if he stays, and you want to take an intro course to the middle east, take this one--just amke sure george isn't your TA. Khalidi is not the best prof i've ever had, but in the field, he's definitely leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. He moves slowly, repeats himself, and spends way too much time on the ottoman empire.I didn't love this class, but I'm glad i took it.

May 2005

I'm a senior this year, and I've had maybe 30 TAs. It is unfathomable how bad George was, and I'm not even going to describe it, because it will make me too upset, but I feel plenty confident saying that in the history of the Ivy League, there has never been a worse TA. Just don't stay in his section...and if you can't switch out, drop the class. Seriously, you don't want your grade in this guy's hands.

May 2004

I took this class the first semester Khalidi taught at Columbia - Spring 04. Khalidi is an excellent lecturer (although at times he has a tendency to go out on fifteen minute tangents). This class will give you a great historical perspective of the region - from Ottoman times up to the present. He also provides you with background in Arabic intellectual and political culture which was both interesting and useful. Besides being very knowledgeable and honest about many potentially inflammatory topics, Khalidi's knowledge about the Middle East is truly world class. He lived in Beirut in the 1970's, is Palestinian, and has met some historic figures in person. Take this class it is well worth it. The required reading is very reasonable - One big thick book, three smaller ones and a handful of essays. If you want more he provides an exstensive list of optional reading. My one complaint concerning this class was that my discussion section met about four times, so there wasn't much opportunity to process information.