On reading Armstrong’s _Holy War_

This book will be foundational to our learning throughout the quarter. It is meant to provide an accessible introduction to the history of the Middle East and to provide necessary background for our study of Islam and Christianity. It’s also quite dense, so we recommend that you do the following as you read.

1)    Take notes or mark up the book in a way that allows you to easily remember which subjects are covered in which chapters.

2)    Keep her thesis in mind, and take note of changes in the nature of the encounters between Jewish/Christian/Muslim figures as the crusades drag on

3)    Make special note of her references to martyrdom – they’re few and far between, but we’ll touch on all of them, and it’s useful to see where they come up in her text and why

4)    Take note of the moments where religious difference gets transformed into ethnic or racial hatred – it’s a subtle but important set of shifts


First class meeting on Monday!

Q: Where are we meeting on Monday?

A: 10am, Sem II E1107

Q: Do I need to have anything read?

A: No. We will ask you to read the Introduction plus Chapters 1 and 2 of Armstrong’s Holy War for Thursday.

Q: Is there a syllabus?

A: We’ll hand it out on Monday; please feel free to e-mail with any questions you have between now and then.


Welcome Letter

Dear students,

Welcome to Contested Bodies! This program addresses questions that currently fuel (and trouble) our artistic and scholarly practices; we’re excited to bring you into this collaborative inquiry and to begin learning with and from you.

Meanwhile, we wanted to give you some basic details about the program.

Program Schedule

Pasted below, previous blog post. Also available here.

Program texts:

We have done our best to limit the number of books you are required to buy. The following titles will be available through the campus bookstore. Additional readings will be provided as PDFs.

Karen Armstrong, Holy War

Talal Asad, On Suicide Bombing


Equitable access is important to the success of everyone’s learning. Formal documentation through Access Services is the best way to ensure that any necessary accommodations are handled fairly and professionally, but if you do not have formal documentation please don’t let that stop you from discussing your individual learning needs with us. During Week 1, we will discuss some collective best practices that can help us create more inclusive conditions within our classroom. We also encourage you to write to us about any concerns you may have about encountering and analyzing violent images.

Program expectations:

  • Consistent attendance and active engagement in program activities
  • Successful completion weekly synthetic response papers
  • Successful seminar co-facilitation
  • Successful development and execution of a final, research-based project (you will conduct this research independently, but present it collaboratively)

Don’t see your questions answered here? Please write to us with any questions or concerns you may have.


Amjad Faur


Elizabeth Williamson



Welcome to Contested Bodies!

Dear students,

A formal welcome letter will be posted here in August with information about the program. Faculty are making every effort to save you money by providing a majority of readings via pdf. There will be two required texts, however: Talal Asad’s On Suicide Bombing and Karen Armstrong’s Holy War. Both will be available through the campus bookstore.

The schedule will be as follows:


Lecture / 10am-12pm

Seminar / 1-3pm

Optional: Critical and Creative Thinking Series / 5:30-7pm [alternating weeks]


Curation workshop / 9-11:30am

Artist’s lecture series / 11:30am-1pm 


Lecture / 10am-12pm

Seminar / 1-4pm