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Oil, Waste and Water: Environmental Issues in the Middle East and North Africa


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), or the MA International Studies.

The number of places available in this course are limited. Therefore, read the information below under registration carefully.


Like all world regions the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is subject to severe environmental stress and degradation, processes that have serious implications for society. Water resources are under great strain, agrarian change has resulted in more intensive forms of farming, and climate change will have an unpredictable effect on the region’s habitats. This seminar course examines these themes. It proceeds by establishing a theoretical framework that examines society-nature relations and the importance of the environment to society and the economies of the region. It then examines the history of the relationship of environmental exploitation in the region in the colonial and post-colonial eras. The course will then proceed to examine more specific forms of environmental problems and their causes, and governmental and societal responses.

Tentative Seminar Topics

  1. Introduction. Theoretical and methodological framework
  2. Historical roots one. Colonial exploitation of regional resources and extraction of value
  3. Historical roots two. The postcolonial period and the commons. From state-led development to free market growth
  4. Oil and gas
  5. Water. Wars or waste?
  6. Agrarian change. Farming without farmers
  7. Food security. Stuffed and starved
  8. Urban growth
  9. Waste and pollution
  10. Conflict and environment
  11. Poverty and environment
  12. The climate crisis
  13. Sustainable growth and renewable energy

Course objectives

  • Develop a theoretical approach that allows us to conceptualise society-nature relations in the MENA.

  • Learn the significance of the region’s environmental resources in phases of colonialism and Imperialism.

  • Analyse the relationship between the status of the environment and international and regional economic flows of capital and commodities.

  • Understand the role of environmental degradation in developmental outcomes in the region.

  • Learn about the forms of environmental governance within MENA and the role of

  • international institutions.

  • Discuss potential future scenarios.


The timetables are available through My 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.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Engagement (informed participation; presentation; discussant duties) 30%
Short paper 30%
Final paper 40%

Final Paper
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

The actual deadlines for submission of the first and final versions of the paper will be communicated by the convenor of the course through Blackboard (after consulting with students in the first session. (The deadline(s) mentioned in uSis is/are fictional for administrative purposes only.)

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts 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 insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

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 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 Brightspace.


MA Middle Eastern Studies students may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students are strongly advised to opt for the Research MA version of the course. They may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.
Students opting for the regular MA version should contact their Coordinator of Studies, dr. N.A.N.M. van Os for information on the enrollment procedure.

MA International Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. E.J. Walstra for information on the enrollment procedure.