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In the Time of Cities: Space, Place, and Politics in the Urban Middle East (ResMA) [CANCELLED]


NB: This course will not be on offer in 2023-2024!

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other (regular MA) programmes are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


We live in an age of planetary urbanization. By 2050 it is projected that more than two-thirds of the world population will live in urban areas. The Middle East is no exception. During the twentieth century cities in the MENA region have undergone profound changes, as they grew rapidly and massively as a consequence of several impacting forces, such as settler-colonial intervention, concentration of economic production, the militarization and financialization of space, and the pressures of transnational & rural to urban migration, to name a few. This fast-paced urbanization has gone hand in hand with a major demographic change, which has translated into growing inequality, housing shortages and rising unemployment numbers.

This course will explore the relationship between structural forces and urban space in the modern Middle East, drawing on scholarly research and writing, documentary films, visual art and fiction writing from the region. Using a combination of anthropological and human geography approaches, the goal is to provoke ethnographically-grounded, critical and comparative thinking about the politics, poetics and pragmatics of urban life in the contemporary Middle East.

We will start from the premise that space and society are coproduced, and explore the historical, economic, social, and political factors that have shaped urban landscapes and livelihoods in the region. We will also address the question of who gets to belong in urban space and what the implications of this might be for understanding contemporary social and political change in the region.

After a general introduction to urban studies and the anthropology of space and place, the course will touch on central debates about the colonial city, the divided city, national politics, the queer city, housing, sustainability, waged and unwaged labor, and hyper-consumption. It will also consider recent cultural forms such as street art, sci-fi novels and contemporary art, and explore the role of urban space for political mobilization.

Course objectives

  • Introduce the students to the genealogy of urban developments in the Middle East.

  • Familiarize students with the theories and academic debates on Middle Eastern cities, from an anthropological and human geography perspective.

  • Expose students to a range of scholarly, artistic, and popular approaches to urban space in the MENA.

  • Introduce students to the role of structural factors in the development and transformation of urban space and urban phenomena in the region.

  • Equip students with the theoretical, methodological and analytical tools for understanding political and social change in the contemporary urban Middle East.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

The deadline in MyTimetable is set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

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. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. 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

Academic integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 25%
Weekly assignments 25%
Final assignement 50%

Students must complete the assignment(s) on time Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the assignment as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the assignment.

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 final assignment, a resit of that assignment is possible (50%). 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.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

A definitive reading list will be made available at the beginning of the course.

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 used to discuss the additional literature.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar on the right.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof.