Faculty Profile

David Commins

Professor of History; Benjamin Rush Chair in the Liberal Arts and Sciences (1987)

Contact Information

commins@dickinson.edu

Denny Hall Room 205
http://users.dickinson.edu/~commins/

Bio

His teaching interests are in modern Middle Eastern history with an emphasis on Islamic thought and political movements. His most recent book is Islam in Saudi Arabia. His other books are The Gulf States: A Modern History, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, Historical Dictionary of Syria, and Islamic Reform.

Education

  • B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1976
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1985

2016-2017 Academic Year

Fall 2016

HIST 121 Middle East to 1750
Cross-listed with MEST 121-01.

MEST 121 Middle East to 1750
Cross-listed with HIST 121-01.

HIST 404 US-Middle East Relations
Cross-listed with MEST 490-01. This seminar will examine episodes in US-Middle East relations from the Barbary Wars to the war in Iraq in a framework of historical hostility between Christendom and Islamdom. In addition to the diplomatic aspect, topics will include American missionary activity, petroleum, and immigration from the Middle East to the United States.

MEST 490 US-Middle East Relations
Cross-listed with HIST 404-01. This seminar will examine episodes in US-Middle East relations from the Barbary Wars to the war in Iraq in a framework of historical hostility between Christendom and Islamdom. In addition to the diplomatic aspect, topics will include American missionary activity, petroleum, and immigration from the Middle East to the United States.

MEST 550 Independent Research

Spring 2017

HIST 122 Middle East since 1750
Cross-listed with MEST 122-01.

MEST 122 Middle East since 1750
Cross-listed with HIST 122-01.

MEST 200 Sunni and Shia Islam
Cross-listed with HIST 215-01 and RELG 260-03. The first part of the course will examine the historical formation of Sunni and Shiite traditions during the early centuries of Islam. Topics will include political doctrine, theology, ritual, and law. The second part of the course will focus on modern sectarian conflict and initiatives to foster intra-Muslim ecumenism. Topics will include sectarian relations within countries, the role of regional rivalry in stoking sectarian strife, and pan-Islamic projects to overcome sectarian division.

MEST 200 Art & Archit of Islamic World
Cross-listed with ARTH 205-03.This introductory course explores the art, architecture, and archaeology of the Islamic world from its origins in the 7th century CE to the present, engaging with a geographic range from Spain to South Asia. It is arranged chronologically, highlighting significant themes such as: diplomacy and artistic exchanges, patronage and production, geometry and ornament, secular and religious spaces, and modernity and tradition - including the political appropriation of historic sites and artifacts. The wide range of media covered will include metalwork, textiles, pottery, manuscripts, and monumental architecture, and will illustrate the hybridity and diversity of the visual cultures of the Islamic world. Special attention will be paid to the contextualization of these artworks within the times and places of their production via class lectures, assigned readings (including primary sources, all in English translation), digital platforms, films, object handling sessions, and field trips to regional museums. No prerequisites are required.

HIST 204 Intro Historical Methodology
Local archives and libraries serve as laboratories for this project-oriented seminar that introduces beginning majors to the nature of history as a discipline, historical research techniques, varied forms of historical evidence and the ways in which historians interpret them, and the conventions of historical writing. Prerequisite: one previous course in history.

ARTH 205 Art & Archit of Islamic World
Cross-listed with MEST 200-05.This introductory course explores the art, architecture, and archaeology of the Islamic world from its origins in the 7th century CE to the present, engaging with a geographic range from Spain to South Asia. It is arranged chronologically, highlighting significant themes such as: diplomacy and artistic exchanges, patronage and production, geometry and ornament, secular and religious spaces, and modernity and tradition - including the political appropriation of historic sites and artifacts. The wide range of media covered will include metalwork, textiles, pottery, manuscripts, and monumental architecture, and will illustrate the hybridity and diversity of the visual cultures of the Islamic world. Special attention will be paid to the contextualization of these artworks within the times and places of their production via class lectures, assigned readings (including primary sources, all in English translation), digital platforms, films, object handling sessions, and field trips to regional museums. No prerequisites are required.

HIST 215 Sunni and Shia Islam
Cross-listed with MEST 200-01 and RELG 260-03. The first part of the course will examine the historical formation of Sunni and Shiite traditions during the early centuries of Islam. Topics will include political doctrine, theology, ritual, and law. The second part of the course will focus on modern sectarian conflict and initiatives to foster intra-Muslim ecumenism. Topics will include sectarian relations within countries, the role of regional rivalry in stoking sectarian strife, and pan-Islamic projects to overcome sectarian division.

RELG 260 Sunni and Shia Islam
Cross-listed with HIST 215-01 and MEST 200-01. The first part of the course will examine the historical formation of Sunni and Shiite traditions during the early centuries of Islam. Topics will include political doctrine, theology, ritual, and law. The second part of the course will focus on modern sectarian conflict and initiatives to foster intra-Muslim ecumenism. Topics will include sectarian relations within countries, the role of regional rivalry in stoking sectarian strife, and pan-Islamic projects to overcome sectarian division.