Why are some countries governed democratically while dictators seem to have a firm grasp on power in others? Why do people threaten and even kill each other in the name of ethnicity or religion in some places and times but not others? This course will give you a chance to explore these questions in the context of the Middle East, a region that has been widely perceived as a bastion of authoritarianism and a hotbed of ethnic and religious politics and political violence. In considering key questions and debates about politics, governance, and identity in the Middle East, you will develop a critical understanding of politics in the region, while simultaneously gaining the social-scientific vocabularies necessary to question the assumptions that are often made about Middle Eastern politics and people and, more generally, about politics in other contexts. In asking why and how the Arab Spring was possible, and how authoritarian governance has managed to persist following those uprisings, you will have an opportunity to engage some of the most urgent social-political questions of our time. You will leave this course with a clearer understanding of how dictators and militaries maintain their hold on power and how identity politics and conflict are constructed and change over time.