nl en

Developments in the Modern Middle East


Please note: The course information for next academic year has not yet been updated. Below you will find the course information from last academic year. This course will be updated by 31 January 2016 at the latest.

Admission requirements

Admission prioritized to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Modern Middle East Studies. Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or another relevant MA should seek approval from J. Donkers MA. prior to registration. All students should have had approximately 30 EC worth of courses in Middle Eastern Studies at BA level. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who do not fulfill these requirements are requested to contact J. Donkers MA.


What is nationalism? How is it constructed? How does it function? Using these broad questions as points of departure, this course will first cover the theoretical field of nationalism. It will then examine case studies of nationalism: Palestinian nationalism, Lebanese nationalism, and Zionism. In this process, we will discuss issues of gender, sexuality, race, tradition, memory, and culture— all in the context of studying the formation of national identities. This course will engage with the resulting debates that have informed the field of Middle Eastern Studies. Designed for graduate students who have an interest in the Middle East, this seminar relies on in-class student participation and a critical engagement with the notion of essentialism.
Unit 1: Nationalism in Theory
Unit 2: Tradition and Traditionalization
Unit 3: Arab Nationalist Thought & its Contestations
Unit 4: Zionism and its Foundations
Unit 5: Making Lebanese
Unit 6: Sports & Popular Nationalism
Unit 7: Utilizations of Collective Memory

Course objectives

  • to obtain familiarity with the theories of nationalism developed in the social sciences

  • to understand the merits and problems of these theories both in general and in specific cases in the Middle East;

  • to develop the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and to design and carry out empirical research projects;

  • to develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on primary source texts;

  • to report on research findings orally (by reading a paper) and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of historical scholarship.

Time table


Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

For this seminar weekly attendance and participation is required. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the convener and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Students who miss more than two classes for whatever reason will fail the course.

Course load

  • 3 contact hours per week = 13×3: 39 hours

  • 12 hours reading for each class: 144 hours

  • Preparing two presentations: 44 hours

  • Short essays: 53 hours
    Total course load: 280 hours

Assessment method

(1) Attendance and Participation (15%).
(2) Taking on the responsibility for two seminars as a paper giver (circulating a 3-5 page written comment on the week’s reading. The comment should be circulated by email at least 24 hours before the seminar) and as a discussant (open the seminar with 15-20 minute spoken comment on the paper circulated for the week). (40%)
(3) Paper. The student will write three short essays. Each essay will be 5 pages long (1250 words) and will be presented at the end of each section as noted on the syllabus. (45%)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. Students receiving an overall grade of 5.49 (=5) or lower, will be allowed to write a final paper that will comprise 45% of their final grade. (3) (45%).

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years



Reading list

  • Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.

  • Ernest Gellner. Nations and Nationalism.

  • Partha Chatterjee. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World.

  • Neil Lazarus. Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Post-Colonial World.

  • Nadia Abu El-Haj, Facts on the Ground.

  • Ernest Renan, What is a Nation.

  • Lucia Volk, Memorials & Martyrs in Modern Lebanon.

There will be additional articles as well as selections for the readings.


Students of the MA program Middle Eastern Studies are required to register through uSis before January 15. 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 “Act.nbr.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after January 15. By February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

Not registration, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Contact information

J. Donkers MA.### Remarks

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.

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).