Communication and Culture | Topics in the Comparative Study of Communication and Culture: Ethnography, Social Theory, and the Middle East
C645 | 26299 | Dr. Jane Goodman

Topic: Ethnography, Social Theory, and the Middle East
Class Number: 26299
Th 9:00 AM-11:30 AM

Professor: Dr. Jane Goodman
Office: Mottier Hall 205
Phone 5-3232

As scholars, we are engaged in building social theory through our
analyses of social life and communicative practice. Ethnography is a
key vehicle through which social theory can be developed.  In some
cases, social theorists have been ethnographers themselves – Pierre
Bourdieu, for instance, developed practice theory and the notion
of “habitus” on the basis of his ethnographic research in Algeria.
In other cases, ethnographic research has served to hone,
complicate, or challenge social theory.  Ethnography is also a site
for generating new dialogues across theoretical paradigms while at
the same time illuminating novel dimensions of social life.

World regions also have their own complex relationships to
ethnography. While some regions become ethnographic “blank spots,”
others become zones of theory and are revisited by ethnographers
time and again. The Middle East constitutes one such zone. Indeed,
the history of 20th-century social theory – from the functionalism
of Emile Durkheim to the disciplinary technologies of Michel
Foucault, from the heteroglossia of Mikhail Bakhtin to the
différance of Jacques Derrida – can be interrogated through the
ethnography of the Middle East and surrounding regions (North
Africa, in particular).

The course will pair theoretical and ethnographic works such as the
Edward Said’s Orientalism and Edward Lane’s Manners and Customs of
Modern Egypt
Max Weber’s Objectivity in the Social Sciences and Clifford Geertz’s
Islam Observed
Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Timothy Mitchell’s
Colonising Egypt
Mikhail Bakhtin’s Discourse in the Novel and Deborah Kapchan’s
Gender on the Market
Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations and Charles Hirschkind’s Ethics of
Jurgen Habermas’s Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and
Charles Hirschkind’s Islamic Counterpublic
Kenneth Burke’s Rhetoric of Motives, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and
Steven Caton’s Peaks of Yemen I Summon: Poetry as Cultural Practice
in a North Yemeni Tribe
Pierre Bourdieu’s Outline of a Theory of Practice
Jacque Lacan’s Ecrits, Vincent Crapanzano’s Tuhami: Portrait of a
Moroccan, and Stefania Pandolfo’s Impasse of the Angels

Students will leave the course with (1) a solid grounding in 20th-
century social theory; (2) an understanding of how to connect theory
and ethnography; and (3) an introduction to the organization of
social and communicative practice in Middle Eastern and North
African societies.