The environment is such a big topic, and so integrated into every aspect of human life and struggle, that it can be difficult to know how to approach it. This module aims to help high-school and college teachers integrate critical perspectives on Middle Eastern environments into their curricula through material that introduces students to the diversity of Middle Eastern ecologies, struggles for environmental justice, and ways of relating to the environment. Reflecting the fact that “the environment” is not reducible to a single topic or outlook, the module incorporates materials from different geographies, genres, and academic disciplines. It is organized around three broad themes: flows; people, ecology, and power; and the lived environment, though it is also possible to switch between the themes or to select material around specific geographies, disciplines, or topics.
The module is designed with three possible paths through the material. Each pathway unfolds over three weeks, and can be taught over one, two, or three weeks. Across all pathways, the Week 1 unit introduces the pathway theme; the material in Week 2 goes deeper; and the Week 3 unit offers an offbeat or unusual take on the theme. Most units include 4-5 pieces across a range of media, and some units include multiple options – for example, two pieces which make similar pedagogical points but cover different geographies. We came up with the pathway structure as a way to maximize flexibility without compromising pedagogy: essentially, the module offers several possible syllabi (the pathways), while offering some customizability within the pathways as well as the option to go beyond them. In choosing pieces for the module, we conceptualized “the environment” broadly and aimed to cover topics beyond the typical Middle East 101 scope. We have aimed to juxtapose places and things that are not often taught together, while pushing as much as possible outside the typical prestige zones of Middle East studies and incorporating different kinds of writing as well as non-textual sources.