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In the Time of Cities: Space, Place, and Politics in the Urban Middle East [CANCELLED]


NB: This course will not be on offer in 2023-2024!

Admission requirements

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


We live in an age of planetary urbanization. By 2050 it is projected that more than two-thirds of the world population will live in urban areas. The Middle East is no exception. During the twentieth century cities in the MENA region have undergone profound changes, as they grew rapidly and massively as a consequence of several impacting forces, such as settler-colonial intervention, concentration of economic production, the militarization and financialization of space, and the pressures of transnational & rural to urban migration, to name a few. This fast-paced urbanization has gone hand in hand with a major demographic change, which has translated into growing inequality, housing shortages and rising unemployment numbers. This course will explore the relationship between structural forces and urban space in the modern Middle East, drawing on scholarly research and writing, documentary films, visual art and fiction writing from the region. Using a combination of anthropological and human geography approaches, the goal is to provoke ethnographically-grounded, critical and comparative thinking about the politics, poetics and pragmatics of urban life in the contemporary Middle East. We will start from the premise that space and society are coproduced, and explore the historical, economic, social, and political factors that have shaped urban landscapes and livelihoods in the region. We will also address the question of who gets to belong in urban space and what the implications of this might be for understanding contemporary social and political change in the region. After a general introduction to urban studies and the anthropology of space and place, the course will touch on central debates about the colonial city, the divided city, national politics, the queer city, housing, sustainability, waged and unwaged labor, and hyper-consumption. It will also consider recent cultural forms such as street art, sci-fi novels and contemporary art, and explore the role of urban space for political mobilization.

Course objectives

  • Introduce the students to the genealogy of urban developments in the Middle East.

  • Familiarize students with the theories and academic debates on Middle Eastern cities, from an anthropological and human geography perspective.

  • Expose students to a range of scholarly, artistic, and popular approaches to urban space in the MENA.

  • Introduce students to the role of structural factors in the development and transformation of urban space and urban phenomena in the region.

  • Equip students with the theoretical, methodological and analytical tools for understanding political and social change in the contemporary urban Middle East.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 25%
Weekly assignments 25%
Final assignment 50%

Late submissions of the final assignment will result in a deduction of the grade as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Late submissions will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends.

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.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient final assignment, a resit of that assignment 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.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

A definitive reading list will be made available at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory for:

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies students: the number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Priority is given to students who started with the MA programme in 2023-2024.

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students who opt for the Research MA version of the course. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Students from MA programmes listed under Part of in the information bar on the right, need to contact their study adviser for information on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof.


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

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


Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.