professor
Marc Nichanian

Jan 2008

This man is a genius. He is amazing, I learned more from him than any other professor I've had, and it's my junior year. Take whatever class you can with him, no joke. Workload is normal and he grades you well if you attend and actively try to learn. He is great with recognizing students who are regulars. In my opinion this man is the modern day einstein. I've taken whatever classes I can with him.

Nov 2005

If you're willing to Earn the right to use the words "Foucauldian" and "postcolonial," take a course with Nichanian.

Dec 2003

One of the most philosphical, analytical and interesting courses I have taken at Columbia. Prof Nichanian is an excelent lecturer who can get away with formulating ideas seemingly on the fly without neglecting to cover the required material. I can understand the negativity of some other reviews -- the course description is somewhat inaccuratate and dilutes the acutal focus. However, the assertation that the goals are forgotten is incorrect -- Prof Nichanian clearly defines the course as dealing with the questions concerning the fututre of anthropology that have arrisen following the publication of Said's Orientalism, and this is covered from the first dayto the last. Said, an excellent writer whose philosophical depth is often overshadowed by his political controversiality, is treated objectively as a thinker. His idea are discussed in relation to fields as diverse as theories of anthropology and the philosophical concept of discourse. Authors as seemingly disparate as Foucalt, Freud and Levi-Strause are in the sylabus, and Prof Nichanian does an excellent job of relating their ideas. At times, the professor will spend extra lectures on works he finds particularly interesting at the expense of other ones, but this gives the class an improvisational feel. It follows that, while the class is structured as a lecture, student imput is greatly encouraged, and often comments made in the middle of class will shape discussion for the remainer of the 75 minutes and even the lectures in coming weeks. The professor can come off as unapproachable and aloof, but this reputation is definitely not deserved. In fact, he is very open to indvidual discussion with students after class and during office hours (it is telling that he doesn't give specific hours of availability, since he will agree to meet at literary any time he is not schedualed to teach). His charming Franco-Armenian accent can seem daunting at times, but he is aware of this, and sometimes will abruptly stop speaking, smile in acknowledgement that no one has understood what he was just trying to say, and rephrase himself. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in philosophy or the study of foreign cultures.

Jan 2003

The main problem with this course is that it seemed to forget its own purpose with the conclusion of the section on orientalism. suddenly, the class morphed into something wholly unrelated to the middle east, focusing instead on the works of foucault, levi-strauss, and others. the euro-centricity of this course is very unsettling and, to be honest, orientalist. nichanian himself-- a die-hard francophile--seems a bit like a colonial product, and probably the wrong man for the job. however, on the pro side, the readings were all fascinating and not too difficult. despite very spotty attendance, i came out with a flat A. so mealac majors, dont despair... my advice is to go just often enough that he'll recognize you, then skip the rest and do the readings. you'll be fine.

Dec 2002

Boring, difficult, and is convinced the class is only open to seniors, making him wonder how all these freshmen and sophomores got in. Focuses on Foucoult and Said and readings are dense philosophical treatises on culture and nationalism. If you're interested in political philosophy, you may enjoy this, but if you're looking for an easy major cultures, stay away. A lot of class discussion, also.

Dec 2002

The best part of this class was the section on Orientalism...however, this is because of Edward Said's book, not the class structure or discussions...Prof. Nichanian is somewhat repetitive and after a while, you grow bored with his trying to differentiate between the words 'history,' 'historicality,' and 'historicity'....however, the class is not as bad as I make it out to be....recitation is not so bad, the ta Jai is extremely intelligent, well-read and interesting, and can be a lot of help on the papers (but he is somewhat intimidating at first). In any case, the only major problem with this class is that it is a requirement for mealac majors, but maybe that will change...

Jun 2002

The main reason that this is a superb class to take is because it simultaneously satisfies a GS literature requirement as well as the GS cultural diversity requirement (because it's Middle East Dept.). So, despite it's faults, the class has this rare "two birds with one stone" distribution value. As for the class, I took it and received an A -, and I still have no friggin' idea what the class was about !!! Nichanian is a super-nice guy and is very knowledgeable, but the lectures and lengthy readings are very dense and murky. Thank God you don't get tested on any of it !!! Stay awake, grunt at least one word during each class to show some level of interest, and simply meet with him to choose a final paper topic (which is very negotiatable) and the absolute worst you'll do for a final grade is a B.

Apr 2002

I am still unsure of what I actually learned in this class. Small bits of it might have been about the Middle East or South Asia, but most of it was Prof. Nichanian endlessly spouting off rhetoric about Foucault, Freud, and Levi-Strauss. Nichanian is Armenian-French, and expects all Columbia students to have the highly specialized knowledge that European university kids do (in Europe, you pick your "major" in high school, so you have a lot more specialized knowledge by the time you get to university). Since few of us have dedicated our lives to the study of social/cultural theory, this is very overwhelming - especially in the first few weeks of class. Attendance in discussion sections is necessary to decode the day's lecture: the TA I had was particularly helpful in this respect. Nichanian doesn't give very many compliments, but you're probably doing better in the class than you think. He's gruff in class, but surprisingly reasonable in person (and in his grading policies). Be warned that there are no reading packets (at least not when I took the class) - you had to get the master packet from either the MEALAC office or Butler Reserves and photocopy the entire damn thing yourself. Expect to spend several hours and plenty of cash on this process. Since the packet readings changed on a weekly basis, many trips to Village Copier were necessary. There is also a large stack of books to buy, half of which went unread (due to the ever-changing syllabus)