Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A vocabulary list for MES

I sometimes wish that someone had given me a vocabulary list, similar to the ones that many of us were forced to memorize in high school, customized for the field of Middle Eastern Studies upon my matriculation at NYU. That way, I would have had some key words to draw on for my response papers and history essays rather than relying on my usual method of googling the words “Middle East Studies Sound Smart” in those crucial minutes before an in-class presentation. Perhaps if I had mastered these terms, I would not have sounded like such a Philistine in front of my distinguished colleagues in class and during department socials.

Below are a number of words that you may hear or read throughout the course of your Middle Eastern Studies career. Learning these terms and using them effectively in context is absolutely critical if you hope to advance in the increasingly competitive world of Middle Eastern Studies academia. Since I have provided my own definitions for some of the terms listed, you may notice there is some slippage (see entry for slippage) between the dictionary definition of the word and its use in the MES context.

1. problematize ( v.)

i) to insist on the complexity of a seemingly simple concept, category, or fact
ii) to reframe a category, statement of truth, or an objective reality as a problem

ex. “In this presentation, I seek to problematize Egyptian laborer’s Khalil Mahmood’s new haircut using a number of notable texts on discourses concerning hair styling in modern-day Egypt.”

The beauty of this word is that one can essentially problematize every concept, idea or historical narrative with which one is presented. That being said, the main objects of problematization in Middle East Studies are as follows: Gender, Egypt, Ottoman Identity, Arabness, Sexuality, Islam, Modernity, Jihad, Progress, Labneh.

2. deconstruct (v.)

i) to whittle away the constituent parts of a reasonable interpretation until it collapses under the weight of its own logical thrust

ii) to cry shamelessly in front of your advisor the week before your thesis on an obscure Turkish poet is due

ex. “Khalil really deconstructed in my office a few minutes ago- I guess we will have to let him pursue the joint program in Middle Eastern Studies and Badminton.”

2. slippage ( n.)

i) a logical gap or a point of discontinuity between two explanations or statements

ii) the area between a pious woman’s hijab and her ear

ex. Male MES student to other Male MES Student: “I saw Nazima’s slippage in Persian class yesterday. Mashallah!”

3. Israel (n.)

i) an omnipotent, demonic regional superpower responsible for the destruction and degradation of the Arab world

ii) the sole point of agreement between sharia-loving Islamist students and secular, wine-sipping Arabs

iii) primary source of Arab fatalism

ex. “Who do you think will win in the upcoming Palestianian elections?”
“It absolutely doesn’t matter- Israel will never let us have a state anyways.”

4. Islamicate (n. and v.)

i) ambiguous term used to refer to diverse cultures, empires and peoples of the Islamic faith

ii) national plan and highest wish of the region’s Islamist parties, usually involving the implementation of sharia

ex. “We are going to Islamicate this country until it can be Islamicated no more.”

5. hegemony (n.)

i) complete or partial domination of one country, idea, discourse over another

ii) the situation that arises when a graduate student unceremoniously destroys an undergraduate’s argument in a mixed class, usually in front of a thesis advisor

6. undergraduate (n)

i) human subject who serves as a barrier between a graduate student and campus destinations

ii) the Subaltern, a creature that lurks in the ambiguous timespace continuum between high school and Enlightenment

7. Foucault (n.)

i) God

8. Job

i) something more distant and unattainable than the two-state solution
ii) a choice of necessity for Philistines, Zionists, law graduates, and inferior MES graduate students

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