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Theories and Methods of Middle East and Islamic Studies 3


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies is required.


How are theorizations of social phenomena arrived at? What constitutes evidence? How do we triangulate archival, qualitative, and statistical data? How have different epistemological, methodological, and ontological traditions shaped the study of the Middle East and North Africa?
This course is meant to equip MA students with the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and prepare them to design and carry out their own research projects.
During the course students are familiarized with key theories developed in the humanities and social sciences (with a particular attention to critical social theories and ethnographic approaches), and their application specifically for the study of topics relating to North Africa and the Middle East. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic.

Course objectives

  • to develop the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and to design and carry out empirical research projects;

  • to obtain familiarity with the theories developed in social sciences and anthropology and their application in the study of the Middle East and Islam;

  • to acquire basic knowledge of different methodological approaches and questions of scientific integrity and ethical considerations;

  • to develop and design a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on a combination of primary and secondary sources;

  • to report on research findings orally (by close reading) and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of academic scholarship.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. The convener needs 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. In case of unforeseen absences make sure to have another student report on what you missed; you are responsible for seminar information and announcements whether present or not.

Assessment method

Asessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 40%
Presentation 20%
Final paper 40%

Late submissions of written work will result in a deduction of 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. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)


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 final paper is possible (40%).

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. 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

The reading list is communicated at the start of term, and will include a selection of theoretical texts and examples of their application through ethnographic, political economy or historical studies.
Key texts:
1. Clark, J.A. and Cavatorta, F. eds., Political science research in the Middle East and North Africa: Methodological and ethical challenges. Oxford University Press 2018
2. Deeb, Lara and Jessica Winegar, Anthropology's politics: disciplining the Middle East. Stanford University Press 2020
3. Lockman, Zachary, Contending Visions of the Middle East, Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018


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