In Class: HIST383

By Madison Lampert 15C

Professor standing in front of powerpoint slide

Photos by Kay Hinton

Course description: This popular undergraduate class surveys the history, politics, and diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first portion of the course covers historical origins and development up to the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948, while the second part focuses on more recent political, social, and economic aspects of the conflict, including the engagement of outside powers and efforts to resolve tension through negotiations. The goal, Professor Kenneth W. Stein explains, is for students to understand the complexity of the conflict dynamically using original sources and texts.

Professor standing in front of powerpoint slide

Faculty CV: Kenneth W. Stein, the William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science, and Israeli Studies since 1977, is among Emory’s foremost experts on the Middle East. He received his undergraduate degree from Franklin and Marshall College and dual master’s and a doctoral degree from the University of Michigan, studying medieval Islamic and modern Middle Eastern history, Middle Eastern politics, and modern Jewish history. Stein has written extensively on these subjects and has been recognized with Emory’s highest awards for teaching and scholarship. In 2011, Emory College created the Kenneth W. Stein Fund for the study of modern Israel and also an endowed professorship in his name.

Today’s lecture: Stein encourages students to learn the narratives of Palestinian and Israeli lives to understand self perspective, identity, and claims of legitimacy. Together, Stein and the students work energetically and interactively to complete a chart deciphering the elements involved in writing history according to a particular point of view.

Student's computer showing a map of part of Israel

Quotes to note: Discussing interpretations of Israeli and Palestinian land ownership, Stein encourages students to consider the significance of the myriad stories and symbols at work. For instance, for many Palestinians—whether they had property or did not, whether they lived in urban areas or in the countryside—“a key became a symbol of going back. The key became a powerful icon in Palestinian identity.”

Students say: “As a Jewish student in Professor Stein’s class, I naturally began the semester with my own perspective on the conflict based on my cultural heritage. However, Professor Stein presents such an unbiased description of the conflict and its origins that my perspective has completely changed, and I see both sides more clearly.”—Michael Fires 15C

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