MIDEAST 422 - The History of Shi'ism: Drama, Ritual, and Memory
Fall 2020, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Middle East Studies (MIDEAST)
Department: LSA Middle East Studies
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior standing or permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


The course will introduce students to Shi’ism as an alternative interpretation of Islam shaped around the figure of Ali and the family of Muhammad. Due to its ‘minority’ status, Shi'ism has been marginalized in the teaching and the writing of Islamic history. We remain the captives of a master narrative that portrayed the rise of Islam through the eyes of the Abbasid Caliphs, patrons of Sunnism who dominated the medieval Islamic world. Followers of Ali, however, have produced different narratives of early Islam. We will explore these conflicting memories to rethink Islamic history and to see the ways in which Shi’ism was constructed as the other by mainstream Muslims (Sunnis).

We will begin by locating Shi’ism within the debate ongoing in late antiquity concerning the meaning of authority and the relationship between the holy and human. This course proceeds to study how Shi’ism became sectarian, focusing on the two dominant forms of Imami and Isma’ili Shi’ism. We will read poetry (qasida), epics and stories (qissa) as ritual performances commemorating an Alid past – as collective experiences of suffering that tied together communities of devotees of Ali through time. We will end with the modern period, revisiting ritual and memory through ethnographies and visual culture to study how piety is transformed into sites of resistance that politicize the Shi’a of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

Course Requirements:

Attendance and participation at lectures/discussions is mandatory. Meaningful classroom participation is required in this course and is worth 20% of your grade. Your task is to carefully read assigned texts before each class and be prepared to discuss them.

Reading, thinking, and writing are interconnected and mutually reinforcing activities. The good reader is a better writer; the more you write, the more clearly you think about what you read, and the deeper you comprehend texts. To enhance your skill in all three areas you have three written assignments: Talin Points, Journals and Ten-page Essay.

Intended Audience:

Upper-level undergraduate and graduate students interested in the history of Islam and Shi'ism

Class Format:

Two 90-minute lectures (with discussion) weekly.

As a DC (Distance due to COVID) course, all aspects of this course will be fully compatible with remote online learning. Students must be available for virtual class meetings during assigned class times. The instructor may hold occasional asynchronous meetings.


MIDEAST 422 - The History of Shi'ism: Drama, Ritual, and Memory
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for MIDEAST 422.001

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

No Syllabi are on file for MIDEAST 422. Click the button below to search for a different syllabus (UM login required)

Search for Syllabus

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)