Landscapes of Faith and Power in the Eastern Mediterranean

Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

international politics, political science, Middle East studies
comparative religion
geography, political ecology

This program explores the geography of religion, culture and politics in the Eastern Mediterranean region with a special emphasis on the culture and politics of Egypt and Turkey. Drawing upon the fields of political ecology, comparative religion and political science, we will examine how political power and religious beliefs appear on the landscape of the region and how this landscape has been transformed and contested through political and social change. The program will look at how various empires, states and religious traditions have transformed the geography of the region and left a visible trace on the landscape, while also addressing how contemporary struggles for justice or cultural identity are creating new geographies and landscapes. We will learn to read the landscape as an artifact of historical social processes and as emblematic of contemporary identities and power relations. We will explore the major religious traditions in the region, the role of sacred spaces and religious practices in community formation, ecological conditions as the product of political pressures, and the shaping of cultural and political conditions across this region through the rise and fall of past empires and the creation of modern states.

In the fall and winter quarters, students will learn about contemporary political struggles in the region resulting from the Arab and Turkish democratic uprisings, cultural and political geography, environmental conditions, comparative religious study and how to read landscapes with a particular focus on Turkey and Egypt. Students will develop a strong regional understanding of the history of Eastern Mediterranean, including the history and culture of ancient Egypt and Neolithic Anatolia; the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; the transformation of the region through European colonialism and the rise of modern nation-states. We will also examine the politics of inclusion/exclusion and economic inequality in important urban landscapes like Istanbul, Cairo and Jerusalem.

In the spring, some students will have the opportunity to participate in a seven-week study-abroad program that goes to Turkey and Egypt and further explores questions about geography, landscape, faith and power. Students who do not travel will build upon their program work to examine the landscapes of faith and power that link the Middle East with the Pacific Northwest through a study of cultural and religious geography in this region.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

international relations, geography, anthropology and religious studies.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Study Abroad

The spring study abroad component will take students to Turkey and Egypt on a seven-week visit to important historical, cultural, religious and political sites in both countries. The trip will begin in Istanbul, Turkey, to study and experience the rich landscape of historic and contemporary Turkish society and venture to both the Black Sea and Aegean regions on excursions, Students will then travel to Egypt and stay primarily in Cairo, as well as visit important historical and religious sites elsewhere in Egypt. Due to space limitations, students may have to qualify for the trip through the quality of work in the program in fall quarter and provide a deposit of $200 at the start of winter quarter. For those selected, the overall estimated costs of this trip above tuition will be around $4,500. Students will pay an estimated $2,300 as program fees that will cover lodging, travel and group expenses like museum visits and some food. Students will be responsible for additional expenses of approximately $2,200 to cover their airfare and food expenses during the trip.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 75


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10116

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Prospective students need to contact Steve Niva to arrange a brief interview to discuss their academic background in Middle East studies, religious studies or cultural geography on or before Winter Quarter academic fair.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20067

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30051

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