Plural Identities in the Middle East


Lessons on Late Ottoman Empire download, Gallery Walk of Baghdad and Cosmopolitan Alexandria
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This project was funded by the British Council and Social Science Research Council's "Our Shared Past Initiative."

Medieval map of Constantinople,

The goals of this research and curriculum were to analyze the common categories used to describe and teach the "Modern Middle East and North Africa (MENA)" in existing U.S. World History textbooks, and to offer robust alternatives for Grade 9-12 teachers by integrating new scholarship on the region. Seeking to provide a more nuanced approach than what is presently offered, we examined how textbooks describe and frame the Middle East and North Africa historically through categories, such as the "rise and spread of Islam," the Crusades, and the Ottoman Empire.

" While the dominant narratives surrounding events and phenomena in the Middl East in textbooks often depict civilizations at odds with one another, our work analyzes the ways in which peoples and societies also interacted in collaborative and fluid ways and integrates this analysis into curricula. This critical analysis and subsequent curricular development is particularly important in the current political milieu, when mainstream media (ordinarily, though not exclusively, Western) often simplifies complex histories and identities of this region, exacerbating difference and "Otherness" in ways that do not accurately reflect the MENA region in all its complexity.

The project was conducted over multiple phases.

We reviewed and analyzed existing curricula and textbooks.

We then shared analyses with other researchers and experts in Middle East History and Middle East Studies in the U.S. and in the Middle East.

In a third phase, we synthesized and integrated new scholarship on the region for grades 9-12 education.

Finally, this material was used to generate curricula, web-based materials, and study guides for educational distribution. Dissemination efforts include collaboration with school districts for teacher professional development; presentations of findings and curricular materials through conference presentations; and publications."