Arab Culture through Literature and Film is a five unit high school curriculum that provides students with knowledge and tools toanalyze and understand the Arab world. The materials utilize a student-centered pedagogical approach that promotes critical thinking and respect and encourages engaged global citizenship. Through this curriculum, students will recognize shared themes across the region and gain a sense of the rich diversity inherent to the multidimensional cultures of the Arab world. Students will study life and culture in the Arab world and engage with primary sources including films, short stories, and poems. Exposing students to Arab voices and putting human faces on the Arab world will increase understanding and tolerance in the American classroom.
Across the Arab world, kinship and familial association are cornerstones of society and the experience of every individual. Though each kin group functions in a unique way, there is a pervasive pattern of reliance on family networks regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, or class. This unit explores concepts and structures of family in Arab societies from a variety of angles. Students will explore Jordanian customs and consider the values behind them and their relation to family. They will also hear from gay and lesbian Middle Easterners who reflect on their concepts of family and its impact on their coming-out processes. Students will read select short stories and poems and watch Ajami, a film in which the plot is fueled by character reactions to their families' needs. In the final lesson of this unit, students will synthesize all of the lessons above to create an Arab kinship themed version of Chutes and Ladders that demonstrates the role of kinship in setting and realizing individual goals.
This curriculum understands gender and gender roles as social constructs that are built, defined, and fulfilled on an individual and societal level. These roles are both an outcome of and rationale for appearance, behavior, and interactions of individuals and groups. Such concepts of gendered behavior are impacted by various factors including one's age, geographic location, social class, religion, marital status, and ethnicity. In this unit, students explore the dynamics of gender in the Arab world and consider their varied manifestations, perhaps challenging traditional notions of gender in the region. Students will explore the nuances of gendered interactions in public and private space and the pressures that gender expectations may place on individuals in the region. By engaging with texts and stories from the region, students will consider how those traditional expectations are negotiated and contested in a variety of ways.
The Arab world is a large and diverse region that spans from Morocco in the west, through the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula. It includes twenty-three countries and represents a wide range of customs, traditions, and cultures. This unit frames the region through the lens of cultural unity and diversity, a concept essential to this curriculum. The historical and cultural background provided in this unit serves as a foundation for students to identify and understand the nuances and complexities of the region. Additionally, students are introduced to the primary tool used for cultural analysis of the Arab world throughout the curriculum, the culture as an iceberg metaphor.
Though the Arab world is broadly defined by a shared Arab ethnicity, there are actually a variety of ethnic groups in the region, many of whom are indigenous to the land. Each of these ethnic groups, including the Amazigh, the Bedouin, the Nubians, and the Kurds, has a unique history and culture and often their own language as well. Since the early years of Arab expansion, these indigenous groups have negotiated their acceptance and integration into the dominant Arab culture, at times adopting elements of the culture and at other times, rejecting it. This unit introduces students to ethnic groups in the Arab world and guides them through an understanding of their lived experience as minorities in the region. Students will consider the challenges that face specific ethnicities and explore how these groups negotiate their collective identity and membership in the region. Students will study the activity of Amazigh activists, read Kurdish poetry, and watch a documentary about the Nubians. They'll end the unit by conducting independent research on an ethnic minority of their choosing.
Religion permeates through the cultures and societies of the Arab world, manifesting itself in diverse ways. Its presence is seen at an institutional level as well as in personal behaviors and interactions including dress, daily routines, and patterns of speech. Although religion is ubiquitous, the way individuals understand and practice their religion varies widely. Furthermore, while Islam is the predominant religion of the region, religious sentiment pervades broadly and a host of other religions are practiced throughout the region. This unit guides students through an understanding of religion in the Arab world within its own cultural context. It challenges students to consider the complexities of religion and religious expression in a region in which its presence is unavoidable. This unit exposes students to diverse religious practices and expressions of Islam and the relationships between religious practitioners in the region.