Since 9-11 there has been an increased focus in the media and in policy circles on the Middle East and Central Asia, and yet, for most Americans this is still a poorly understood area. Much has been written on topics such as Islam and the role of women in the Middle East, but not enough has been done to focus on politics in the region as a lived experience. How do people make political and economic choices? How do they understand power? How do social obligations, religion and culture shape their views of the world? This class begins with the most basic political unit, the family, and then considers political groupings of increasing size: lineages, tribes, religious sects, ethnic groups and states. The class will serve as an introduction to some basic anthropological concepts, such as ethnography and participant-observation research in the Middle Eastern context. It will rely on several base texts along with a series of case studies that will be presented throughout the semester.