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Students posing in front of an Egyptian temple

Why I Teach an Introsem: Joel Beinin

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Students posing in front of an Egyptian temple


I never thought that I would teach a course entitled “The American Empire in the Middle East.” My own research focuses on workers and peasants in the Middle East – the sorts of people who typically have no input into making foreign policy in any country, though they often suffer its consequences. I began teaching the course after returning to Stanford from an extended residence in Cairo, including serving as director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo for two years. In Cairo and traveling around the region, I was frequently exposed to popular outrage over my country’s actions in the Arab and Muslim world. I believe Stanford students should be aware of this.

I especially appreciate teaching first year students because they are typically more open to new ideas and ways of thinking. There is a lot of institutional wisdom at Stanford. But grappling with “the big picture” – ethical and social values; the economic, social, political, and ecological forces that shape the world; and where you might wish to stand in relation to them is best done in a small group, like an IntroSem. Being aware of and grappling with these issues is the most important thing you can do at Stanford. My energy and hope are repeatedly renewed by being a part of that process.

Joel Beinin

Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History

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