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Theory and Issues in Area Studies


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the MA Asian Studies (research). Students of other, relevant research master’s programmes may be admitted, but need to contact the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, prior to registration (see below for more information on registration).


Area studies is an approach to knowledge that starts from the study of places in the human world, through the relevant sources languages and with central regard for positionality. It is a dynamic synthesis of area expertise and what are generally known as disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences. Students will engage with the challenges of studying and writing about “other” cultures and societies, especially of scholars in “the West” studying “the non-West.” The regional and disciplinary diversity of the readings and the students’ projects will advance dialogue, exploration, and reflection on where the individual researcher comes from, and where s/he is going.

Course objectives

Students will further develop

  • their familiarity with the landscape of the humanities and the social sciences at large, and specifically with area studies as an approach to knowledge

  • the ability to position their field of specialization and their individual research

  • the ability to direct and focus their individual research in meaningful ways

  • their awareness of the notions of “theory” and “issues” in scholarship, with due reference to the notion of “methodology” as appropriate

  • academic skills used in all aspects of knowledge production

  • their awareness of possible applications of these skills outside their own research.



Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 280 hours. Approximate time spent on workload components:
Attendance: 26 hours.
Preparation for class: 104 hours
Two position papers x 20 hours = 40 hours
Oral presentation: 20 hours
Research paper: 90 hours

Assessment method

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). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Contributions to in-class discussion 20%
Oral presentation 20%
Two position papers of 800–1,200 words each 30%
A research paper of 3,000–4,000 words 30%

In order to pass the course, students need a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. “5.50” or higher) for the research paper and for the course as a whole.

The research paper is written in two stages: a first version, on which the convener will offer feedback, and a final version. Feedback on the first version is conditional on this being handed in before the deadline. The grade will be determined on the basis of the final version only. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor.)

All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (30%). In that case the convenor of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convenor, after consultation with the student.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Exam review

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


Blackboard: registration for the course in Blackboard is imperative. All relevant information, including the syllabus, course requirements, announcements, and other communications, will be made available through Blackboard. All student assignments must be submitted through Blackboard.

Reading list

To be announced.


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 “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration à la carte or contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Prof.dr. M. van Crevel


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.