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International Relations of the Middle East and Asia (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research). Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


This course investigates the position and role of the Middle East in the context of the major geopolitical and geo-economic shifts that are unfolding at the global level in our times. These tectonic geopolitical shifts are occurring due to the retreat of the West and the rise of the rest. The US is war-weary, energy-independent, and pivoting to Asia (three reasons for less kinetic presence in the ME). The EU is busy giving tactical responses to tactical problems within the EU (e.g. terrorism, the refugee crisis, Brexit). The Middle East is looking eastward.

China is becoming increasingly active in the ME and elsewhere and rolling out global geostrategic initiatives. One such multifaceted and globally game-changing initiative by China is the New Silk Road (NSR), otherwise called One Belt One Road (OBOR) by some or Belt and Road (B&R) by others. It has been described as the present day iteration of the ancient Silk Road or the 21st century Marshall Plan. It involves more than 60 countries including the major actors in the ME. In this course, we will pay particular attention to the Middle East’s involvement in NSR and the ways in which the ME both affects and is affected by the NSR.

Course Objectives

  • Understand the broad debates within the field of International Relations (especially with a focus on how geopolitics and geo-economics intersect)

  • Get a deeper understanding of theories of geopolitics (e.g. classical and critical)

  • Get familiar with the historical backgrounds that affect current geopolitical issues in the two regions

  • Understand the general issues in and contours of Chinese-Middle Eastern relations

  • Get a general understanding of the main contours of NSR

  • Get a deep understanding of the role The Middle Eastern (f)actors in NSR and their international political economy

  • Analyze the impact of domestic issues (in the ME and China) on global and regional developments

  • Analyze and interpret the perils and promises of The Middle East looking eastward (to China)

  • Sharpen your abilities to analyze the policies at stake in this topic from a theoretical perspective

  • Understand the ME-China-US dynamics in the Middle East


check timetable

Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to 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. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

EC: 10 (= 280 hours)
Attending seminars: 30 hours
Contact hours Research MA: 6 hours
Reading / studying material: 119 hours
Completing assignments: 125 hours

Assessment method


  • Presence, active participation in the class, review of course literature (3 times during the course), and discussing fellow students’ presentations

  • Presentation

  • Take-home exam

  • Research paper


Presence, active participation in the class, review of course literature (3 times during the course), and discussing fellow students’ presentations: 10%

Presentation: 10%

Take-home exam: 30%
Students will receive 3 essay questions, out of which they can choose one question. This one question should be answered with a well-evidenced/referenced and well-argued answer within 2 days (min: 1000 words – max: 1500 words, excluding bibliography). (Date of the exam to be determined in the first session)

Research paper (2500-3000 words, excluding bibliography): 50% of the total grade
The research paper must be relevant to the themes, theories, and/or actors discussed in the course.

To pass the course, the weighted average should be 5.50 or higher.


Resit possibilities:
There will be no resit for the presentation. Nor will there be a resit for the take-home exam.
There will be a resit for the research paper if the overall grade for the course is 5.49 or lower.

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.

Exam review

Review of the exam and research paper results:

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized. To request a review the student should send an email to the instructor of the course.


Reading material and assignments will be distributed through Blackboard.

Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

The book titles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where they can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand will be posted on Blackboard.

For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Students are required to register through uSis. 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.”. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students are also required to enroll on Blackboard as soon as the course is available there.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte nor contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


Dr. M. Forough


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).