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Urban youth cultures of the Middle East


Admission requirements

Students of the BA programme Midden-Oostenstudies.


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 colonial intervention, concentration of economic production, and the pressure of rural to urban migration to name but a few. This fast-paced urbanization went hand in hand with a major demographic change, which has translated into growing inequality and what international agencies often refer to as the ‘youth bulge’ in the region.
This course will explore the relationship and dynamics between cities and youth in the modern Middle East, drawing on scholarly writing, documentary films, visual art and fiction writing from the region. Using a combination of anthropological and historical approaches, the goal is to provoke historically grounded, critical and comparative thinking about urban space and youthful phenomena in the contemporary Middle East.

We will start from the premise that space and society are coproduced, and explore the historical, economic, cultural, and political factors that have shaped urban landscapes in the region. We will also address the question of who gets to be called ‘youth’ and what the implications of this might be for understanding change in the region.

After a general introduction to urban studies and the anthropology of youth, the course will touch on central debates about colonialism, modernization, nationalism, gender, ethnic conflict, street art, and hyper-consumption. It will also consider recent phenomena such as slums and gated communities, and explore the role of urban youth in social protest movements through a revisiting of key moments and locations during the Arab Spring.

Course objectives

  • Introduce the students to the history of urban studies in the Middle East.

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

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

  • Explore the role of structural factors in the development and transformation of urban space and urban phenomena, and youth culture in the region.

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


Time table

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140

Lectures: 13 * 2 = 26
Study of compulsory literature: 12 * 3 = 36
Presentation & paper: 66
Preparation exam: 10
Exam(s): 2

Assessment method


  • Student Presentations

  • Class Participation

  • Midterm with short open questions

  • Final Paper


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average combined with the additional requirement that the grade for the paper is at least 5.5.

  • Student Presentations (10%)

  • Class Participation (15%)

  • Midterm with short open questions (35%)

  • Final Paper (40%)


There is no resit opportunity for the presentation or the midterm. If the paper is insufficient it has to be rewritten.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Selections from:

  • Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera. Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. (Oxford University Press on Demand, 2010).

  • Lara Deeb and Mona Harb, Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi`ite
    South Beirut (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

  • Pascal Menoret, Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Additional material in the forms of articles, films, or visual art will be communicated on the syllabus at the beginning of the course.
Students should come to class having read the material thoroughly, and therefore ready to engage thoughtfully in seminar discussions.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration (Contractonderwijs](
Not applicable


Dr. C. Strava