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


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) with some level of background knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa. For those students who are unfamiliar with this region, a reading list can be provided that will raise students’ knowledge.
Students from other programmes are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


This seminar course examines the political, economic and cultural determinants of the environment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Using a framework that draws on theories of political ecology it looks at the historical construction of the MENA’s environment and expressions of society-environment relations. The introductory sessions will look at the manner in which phases of imperialism and colonialism shaped the environment of the region, both in terms of its governance of resources and in terms of how its ecology is perceived. It will also explore indigenous forms of knowledge and cultural production on the environment.

The following weeks will then look at specific cases and themes. These include sessions on hydrocarbons, water, waste, and the agrarian environment. Other weeks will look at the relationship between the environment and conflict and its position in social movements and politics. These classes provide a compelling insight into the politics, economics and culture of the MENA region. It also offers the opportunity to be introduced to political ecology, an exciting and interdisciplinary field that offers a novel and dynamic way of understanding the environment.

Tentative weeks include:

2. Environmental Orientalism
3. Historical roots I: Colonial era
4. Historical roots II: Postcolonial era
5. Indigenous knowledge and culture
6. Desert dreams
7. Carbons
8. Water
9. Waste
10. Agrarian ecologies
11. Conflict and the environment
12. Social and political movements

Course objectives

  • Develop a theoretical lense of political ecology 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.

  • Understand the signifiance of indigenous knowledge and culture.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

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.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

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

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.

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 (40%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list


For the Research MA students additional reading 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.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.