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For most of the last half century, Iran has been an enigma, even to otherwise well-traveled Westerners. Politicians and pundits, especially from the United States, have generally painted a grim and monocromatic image of a country actually endowed with a multi-millenial history and a rich tapistry of tradition and culture. An ancient civilization, Iran offers its visitors a sense of time travel – in both directions – from the grandeur of Isfahan and UNESCO – protected Persepolis to the modern conveniences and cutting-edge scientific advancements show-cased in Tehran.
GSIPM is offering this 4- credit hour onsite course in Iran, taught by Professor Jan Black, for the first time in 2015. We will cover many topics, as they relate to the history and trajectory of Iran. In addition to sites of great beauty and historic significance, we will visit governmental, non-governmental, and public sector institutions dealing with international affairs, education, theology, environmental preservation, and commerce, as well as museums displaying splenderous artistic creations of the past and cravings for peace in the future.
Full participation in scheduled events will be expected. Students will be challenged to integrate and analyze what they observe about the country’s history and culture and the thicket of traditional and modern institutions and organizations of civil society. It is our hope and expectation that we will be able to revisit and examine the troubled years of US – Iranian relations from an Iranian perspective. Students will be encouraged then to envision diplomatic strategies conducive to sustainable peace and normal productive relations.
In addition to time spent onsite over spring break, there will be at least 7 or 8 pre- and post-travel meetings on campus, including a final presentation of findings for the campus and local communities. We hope also to bring in several speakers to share their research on and their observations of contemporary Iran. The course will be open in principle to all MIIS programs, as well as to students from Middlebury College. There are no prerequisites, but priority will be given to students from the DPP (IPS & MPA) program. Beyond that, priority will be based on the student’s prior education and experience and his or her intended topic or focus for the course.
Course “deliverables” will be due shortly after the presentations to take place toward the end of spring term. Deliverables may take any of several forms (to be discussed with the professor), but they must represent a serious undertaking with respect to research and analysis. It is presumed that students will pursue their particular interests, but each project should be underpinned by an understanding of the country’s modern history, particularly diplomatic history, and its social and cultural foundations.