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Politics Middle East


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


This course offers students in the International Studies program an introduction to the Politics of the Middle East. The course is divided up into two parts. Before the mid-term break, lectures will deal comparatively with matters relating to domestic politics. These lectures, which cover the topics of Islam, oil, women, activism, and the Arab uprisings, will draw from case studies, stressing common themes as well as diversity among Middle East nations. The second part of the course discusses the regional and international dynamics of the politics of the Middle East. Regional identity and cooperation, involvement of great powers in the region, and Sunni/Shi’a dynamics are among the topics discussed. Also in this part of the lecture, case studies on different countries create a comparative perspective highlighting both similarity and difference among Middle East states. Additionally, four tutorial sessions center on a group project on democracy in the region.

Course objectives

Knowledge, understanding and skills acquired during the lectures:
Students who complete the Politics of the Middle East have knowledge and understanding of:
1. the functions of politics and socio-political development of the Middle East region from a comparative perspective.
2. relevant historical and current political issues and developments in the Middle East.
3. the position of the Middle East in the international system.
4. relevant theories, models, and approaches used in the study of the politics and international relations of the Middle East region.
5. relevant methodology in the social science and humanities for analysis of current and historical issues and developments in the Middle East region.

Knowledge, understanding and skills acquired during the tutorials:
Students who complete the Politics of the Middle East have given evidence of the following skills:
6. comprehension of sophisticated academic debates in the English language on the politics of the Middle East, and the ability to report in written form (essay) on their studies and their research in good English;
7. the ability to work with qualitative research in analyzing and understanding the politics of the Middle East;
8. participation in debates on the politics of the Middle East in an active, prepared and informed way, respecting other people’s convictions and emotions;
9. working and writing under time-pressure.
10. Effective cooperation with other students in a group project.


The timetable will be available on the BA International Studies website this autumn.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and tutorials

For specific guidelines on the tutorials and the group project, please refer to the tutorial guidelines provided by your tutor.

Weekly reading assignments follow in the next section. You are expected to do the assigned weekly readings before the lecture.

Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover both issues discussed in the readings, and issues outside of the readings. Students are also encouraged (although not required) to ask questions and initiate discussions during the lectures, so long as these are related to the weekly topic.

As a study aid, PowerPoint slides from the weekly lectures will usually be posted on the Blackboard site with a delay of 1-2 weeks (and more immediately before the exams).

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Assessment method

  • Tutorials 30%

  • Midterm Exam 30%

  • Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.


The course site on Blackboard offers important course information, reading material and media, as well as a place for discussion of course contents and practical issues. Please be sure to consult the blackboard site regularly. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Fawcett, Louise L’Estrange. International Relations of the Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

  • Compiled journal articles and book chapters, provided through Blackboard or the online university library.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Contact: Please refer questions about course practicalities or contents to your assigned tutor. Questions which the tutor cannot answer will be forwarded to the instructor.