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Culture: Middle East


Admission requirements

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

Limited places are also open for exchange students. Please note: this course takes place in The Hague.


Ranging from Iran to Morocco, the Middle-East is a vast and diverse region. When studying a particular region of the world, knowledge of its cultural universe is crucial; the study of culture allows the understanding of the deeper structures behind history, politics and economy. Culture is the symbolic repertoire that reflects, shapes and gives meaning to social relations, political structures and collective identities in everyday life.

This course introduces students to the Middle East from a cultural anthropological perspective. Students will become acquainted with anthropological concepts, such as tribe, gender, kinship, politics and religion, and learn how to apply these concepts in several Middle Eastern countries in both historical and contemporary contexts. The course will pay particular attention to popular culture and aesthetic expressions as preeminent entry points to examine broader socio-cultural and political developments and identity discourses in the Middle East.

The course will also explore the role of language in constructing social identities in the Middle East and introduce socio- linguistic theory related to the construction of various forms of identities. The anthropological and socio-linguistic approaches are also subject to scrutiny, by placing them in their social and historical context.

Course objectives

1) The ability to approach and analyze Middle Eastern societies from a cultural anthropological and socio-linguistic perspective;
2) To familiarize with, and critically reflect on, important studies, concepts and theories of cultural anthropology of the Middle East, and how to relate and apply these to specific cases in practice;
3) To gain insight in the ways in which popular culture and aesthetic expressions reflect and inform social, cultural and political processes in different Middle Eastern societies;
4) To improve academic writing and presentation skills and develop critical thinking and solid argumentation building.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and tutorials
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.

Course Load

Total course load for the course is 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 32 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 60 hours

  • Assessments: 48 hours

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.
To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Eickelman, Dale F. (2002). The Middle East and Central Asia. An Anthropological Approach (4th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

  • Hafez, Sherine & Susan Slymovics, eds. (2013). Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millenium. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Additional literature (these will be mainly articles, and will be announced through Blackboard).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. N.M. Dessing, email
Drs. N. ter Laan, email tba