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Theories and Methods of Middle East and Islamic Studies


Admission Requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures, the MA Islamic Studies, or the MA Islamic Theology. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of the one of the above-mentioned MA programmes.


Using Peter Burke’s History and Social Theory the relevance (or, irrelevance) for research in Middle East and Islamic studies of theories, concepts and models developed in the social sciences is discussed. Every week a chapter from Burke’s book is studied alongside additional readings which will demonstrate the use of theories, concepts and models as discussed by Burke in cases relevant to the study of the Middle East and Islam. Each week one or more students will be required to give 20-30 minute presentations of their views on one or more of the readings for that week, outlining the theoretical concepts and giving a review of existing scholarly literature on the Middle East that uses those theoretical concepts. The literature can be found in the University Library.

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 their application in the study of the Middle East and Islam;

  • to understand the merits and drawbacks of these theories both in general and in specific cases;

  • to develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on primary source texts;

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


Monday 15:15-18. The first class will be Monday September 13.

Mode of instruction

Seminar, weekly attendance and participation required. Students are allowed to miss two classes for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners) and will have to make up for the classes missed. Students who miss more than two classes will fail the course.

Assessment method

  • Literature report and development of argumentation in an oral presentation (20%)

  • Participation (20%)

  • Final paper (written in English; ca. 7,500 words) (60%) in which students relate the discussions in one of the thematic sessions to their own particular field of research or interest.


Blackboard will be used for internal communication and the distribution of additional reading and/or source material.

Reading list

  • Peter Burke, History and Social Theory (Cambridge/Malden: Polity, 2005)

  • Relevant readings to be distributed in class.


The course is primarily intended for MA/MPhil students in Middle East Studies, but it is open to MA, Mphil and Ph.D. students from other departments.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Nicole van Os (studentcounsellor MA/Research Master)
Dr. J. Alagha