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International Relations in the Middle East (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research). All students interested should have had approximately 30 EC worth of courses in Middle Eastern Studies at BA level. Students of other programmes are kindly referred to the regular MA course.


This course focuses on Middle East conflicts in the post-Cold War period. It explores the origins, dynamics and consequences of these conflicts for the region and beyond. It is organized in three parts. It begins with an assessment of the ways in which political and economic transformations at the global level affect the conception and practice of war at the regional and local levels. More specifically, it examines how the collapse of Soviet Union, the US hegemony and the expansion of the neoliberal economic system reshaped the Middle East since 1989, disrupting the balance of power among and within states, sparking new conflicts or exacerbating old ones. It then maps the web of state and non-state actors directly and indirectly involved in Middle Eastern conflicts. These include external and regional powers, international institutions and other multilateral forces, rebels, non-state armed organizations, national and multinational companies, and – last but not least – civilians. Finally, it traces patterns of conflict in the region, with a specific focus on the modalities by which various actors fight and interact, the duration of conflicts, and their implications, especially for the civilian population. The course will use both primary and secondary sources to help students grasp the major scholarly debates on conflicts in the Middle East, but also the methods we can employ to examine and interpret conflicts in the region and beyond.

Course objectives

This course helps students:

  • acquire familiarity with major theories and approaches of IR and Security Studies, and learn how to apply them to study conflict in the Middle East;

  • understand the common and distinctive characteristics of major conflicts that have ravaged states and areas of the Middle East in the post-Cold War era;

  • link global and local dynamics to make sense of conflicts in the Middle East;

  • critically use primary and secondary sources to study conflict and security;

  • improve their research skills and academic writing


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar and supervised research.

The weekly 2-hour seminars consist of a lecture and a discussion class, which are designed to provide a critical overview of the academic literature and in-depth analysis of key issues as well as an opportunity to engage in discussion in a small group context.

Attendance and active participation are mandatory. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed before the class takes place - or without delay - of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, etc.). To the discretion of the convenors, missed classes will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

All reading materials must be read in advance of class. A few broad questions put onto the syllabus for each seminar session will form the bedrock of the seminar discussion. Additionally, students will use blackboard to post comments on these questions at least 24 hours before the class takes place. The questions and the comments are then discussed during the seminar. One (or more) student(s) will open the discussion with a short presentation (max 7-8 minutes) introducing the literature and commenting on each question but each student is expected to arrive at class ready to engage thoughtfully in the seminar discussions. A calendar of students’ presentations will be agreed upon in the first week of teaching.

Moreover, students will be expected to engage in continuous independent study, employing the reading list (posted on Brightspace) and additional relevant sources to deepen their knowledge of the subject.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours 280 hours
two-hour seminar class per week x 13 weeks 26 contact hours
Extra contact hours Research MA students 6 hours
Preparation for the weekly class: 10 hours on average 120 hours
Preparation for the presentation 8 hours
Independent reading 65 hours
Research paper (including research, reading and writing the abstract and final paper) 55 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Student participation (posts and seminar discussion) 20%
In class presentation 15%
Written assignment 15%
End of term research paper (of 5,000) words 50%

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

The final paper accounts for 50% of the final grade. The paper will only be graded if the student has attended the seminars.

The instructor may also assign informal assignments (quizzes, presentations, review and policy relevant notes) at her discretion. They form part of the student participation item of assessment.

Written assignment
In preparation of the end-term research paper, students will write an end-term paper proposal including: (Provisional) Title, research question/hypothesis, table of content, brief description of the paper, and bibliography (max. 500 words, excluding bibliography). Submission deadline TBA by the convenor. Students who do not meet the deadline for submission of the proposal lose the right to get comments on it. Students are strongly advised to start working on the paper early in the semester, to revise their research plan following the discussion of the proposal/extended abstract with the lecturer, and to discuss the research ‘work in progress’ with the lecturer at least once before submitting the final paper

End of term research paper
Students are required to write an individual end-term research paper on a topic related to the themes and time frame encompassed in this course. The research paper must include academic sources outside the syllabus, use one of the proper academic citation systems (APA or Chicago preferred) and abide to the designated limit of 5000 words (including footnotes and appendixes, but excluding bibliography). Paper format: double spaced, 12point type, page numbers, title, abstract and footnotes, and a few numbered section headings (up to 6).

Submission deadline for the final research paper TBA by the course convenor.

Late submissions will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

(The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only).


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

How and when a term paper review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the course results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the course results, a term paper review will have to be organized

Reading list

Louise Fawcett, ed., International Relations of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2019.
Other selected readings.

For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. The extra sessions will be used to discuss the additional literature.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.


Dr. M. Calculli


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.