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The MENA Region in the Settler Colonial World


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the right information bar.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Coordinator of Studies.


From the late 15th century onwards, European states imposed their power across the globe. In the Americas, Oceania, and much of Africa they did so through a process of settlement, developing European societies in their colonies, which ruled over, displaced, and dispossessed Indigenous populations. From the 19th century onwards, the lands of the Ottoman Empire became the target of similar colonial endeavours. This course will explore the academic debates surrounding the concept of settler colonialism, as well as the different political, historical, and geographic contexts in which it took hold. It will then zoom in on the MENA region in general, and French North Africa and Palestine more specifically. In doing so, the course will also reflect on how settler colonialism intersects with other social, economic, and political realities such as exploitation, dispossession, extraction of natural resources, racialisation, and the reconfiguration of gender relations.

Course objectives

  • Familiarise oneself with the concept of settler colonialism, as a specific form of colonisation.

  • Understand settler colonial studies as a field of study, and its interactions with others such as Indigenous studies.

  • Identify the connections between settler colonialism, franchise colonialism, and the global transition to capitalism.

  • Examine the relationship between settler colonialism and other social, economic, and political processes such as exploitation, dispossession, extraction of natural resources, racialisation, and the reconfiguration of gender relations.

  • Critically identify and assess the ways in which settler colonialism is relevant in the study of the Middle East and North Africa.

  • Engage with different approaches to settler colonialism, as well as with competing understandings of the colonial regimes in the MENA region.

  • Articulate how the conflicts between settler populations and Indigenous peoples on the one hand, and the colonial metropole on the other, structure the political and economic life of the colony.

  • Analyse the ways in which land and labour interact in shaping the specific social, economic, and political regimes in the different locales under consideration.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The course is offered as part of a full-time program of studies, and therefore work commitments, holidays, or overseas travel do not constitute valid reasons for absence. The lecturer should be informed in writing of any classes to be missed for a valid reason (i.e., due to unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the student’s control, such as documented illness, family bereavement, problems with residence permits, victim of crime, or railway delays). In case of a justified absence, it is up to the Lecturer to decide whether the missed class should be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Please note that you are required to provide documentation that supports your case for absence where possible. Absence without notification and approval could result in a grade deduction, or in work not being marked and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

  • Active Participation/coöperation in class/group

  • Essay, paper


  1. Engagement: Students are expected to attend and participate in course discussions. Since this is a seminar, thoughtful engagement is central to the course’s success. Students are therefore required to complete all readings in advance as well as attend all seminars. Marks are not awarded for filling a chair. Students are also expected to submit two questions on the Discussion Board on Brightspace the night before the seminar.
  2. Presentation: Each student will deliver a presentation during the seminar on the topic of the week. Signing up to these presentations will be discussed in week 1 of the course. Students will develop an argument based on the readings from the week, and conduct external research to find a case study (this can be a pattern, an isolated incident, or country experience) to use as evidence for their argument. (The presentation is not an opportunity to summarise or discuss all the points of all the readings. Everyone is expected to have read the readings). Students will circulate an abstract (250-500 words) of the presentation at least two full days prior to the class by uploading it to Brightspace. Students will be graded on presentation delivery, content, originality, depth of analysis, clarity of argument, ability to hold attention and stimulate discussion.
  3. Final Paper: Students will choose from among the thematic topics covered in the course and develop an original research paper on a question related to that theme. All paper topics must be approved by the professor. The paper should be 3000 words in length, contain a clear introduction, argument, and sufficient evidence to support the argument. This is a research paper and therefore requires time, research, and extensive peer-reviewed sources. Papers should be clear and succinct, with an unambiguous thesis on the first page. Paper should be submitted on Brightspace by their due date. Late papers will suffer a penalty each day, and will not be accepted more than 4 days after the due date, including weekends.


Engagment: 10%
Presentation: 30%
Paper: 60%


A new version of the final assignment may only be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” or lower, and if the final paper was submitted on time. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Required Readings:
Articles and book chapters can be found in the library, on the online library catalogue, or on the course Brightspace page. All students must arrive in class having thoughtfully read through the required readings.
If students wish to engage with relevant material in advance, the following books offer useful introductions to different approaches to the subject material:

  • Jody A. Byrd, (2011), The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, (2014), An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Boston: Beacon Press.

  • Mahmood Mamdani (2020), Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

  • Robert Nichols (2020), Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory, Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Patrick Wolfe (2016), Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race, London: Verso.


Students from MA programmes listed under Part of in the right information bar, will be informed by their Coordinator of Studies on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof, one week prior to the start of the first semester.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof.