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Thesis seminar: Nationalism, religion, language and identity (1930-2000) Occident/Orient


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.


A bachelor’s thesis is the students’ largest and most important piece of work in the program. It is a research paper of substantial size, which to a considerable extent is the result of research and writing that is independently done. Collective supervision is provided in thesis seminars. The aim of the thesis seminar is to guide students through the process of designing a research question; collecting literature, sources, data, and other materials that are necessary for answering the question; bringing logic and persuasive order in the material and in the arguments supported by it; and designing appropriate research methods. In addition, attention is paid to the relevance of the students’ research to a wider academic or non-academic audience.

This seminar will focus on the links between nationalism, religion, language and identity building processes, taking the contemporary Middle East (1930-1990) as an area that experienced global implications (US, Europe, Latin America) and vice-versa. Other areas will be evoked in a comparative perspective.

Since several years, scholars explore the role of ethnicity and religion in the identity and nationalism building processes, as well as the role of minorities in these processes, the role of diasporas, yet to be better understood. In more recent works, scholars also explored the role of language in constructing identities in the Middle East and their global impacts. Studies on linguistic imperialism analysed the global dominance of certain languages, legitimized and persisting in the XXIst century (for example the use of Portugese in Angola, changing status of Spanish in Philipines etc…).

For the Middle East, the interwar period, with the British and French influences, along with the arabization process, proved to be a formative time for nationalism and panarabism. The independances processes after the WWII had influential impacts on the balance between nationalism, language and religion.

The topics of nationalism/religion/language will be analysed via area studies, history, religious studies and cultural/linguistic policies approaches, an interdisciplinary approach allowing a better understanding of the multifaces of national religious identities. In this seminar, students will explore the key concepts of linguistic imperialism, conflict, identity building process, language planning and policy, minorities, nationalism/panarabism, religious identity and how these concepts relate to their individual research projects.

During the group course, focus will be made on the theories and the concepts that can be used to analyse the historical and contemporary plural nationalism/ identities processes in the Middle-East countries.

Course objectives

Based, and further elaborating on the knowledge and skills acquired, students will prove themselves to be able to:

  • work with research techniques that are current in the discipline(s) applied by them;

  • comprehend sophisticated academic debates;

  • report on their studies and research in good written English;

  • work and write under time-pressure, and deal with deadlines.

  • report on their studies and research in good spoken English;

  • participate in debates in an active, prepared and informed way, respecting other people’s convictions and emotions;

  • understand fundamental cultural differences and divisions.

The general academic skills covered by these aims are:

  • collect and select specialised literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques;

  • analyse and evaluate this in terms of quality and reliability;

  • formulate a well-defined research problem based on this;

  • set up, under supervision, a study of limited size, taking into consideration the traditional and electronic methods and techniques relevant for the discipline;

  • formulate a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this;

  • explain research findings in a clear and well-argued way, both orally and in writing.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Eight seminar meetings of two hours, spread over semester.

Course Load

Attendance: 16 hrs.
Collective presentation: 12 hrs.
Individual presentation: 8 hrs.
Literature review: 80 hrs.
Relevance note: 12 hrs.
Total: 140 hrs.

Assessment method

Common presentation: 10 %
Individual presentation 1: 10%
Individual presentation 2: 20%
Literature review, chapter 1: 40%
Relevance note: 20%


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Anderson, B. Imagined Communities. Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991.

  • Bassiouney, Reem, Arabic sociolinguistics, Edinburgh University Press, 2009 (chapter 5)

  • Myhill, John, Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006

  • Phillipson, Robert, Linguistic imperialism, Oxford University Press, 1992

  • Phillipson, Robert, Linguistic imperialism continued, Routledge, 2010

  • Smith, A. Nationalism and Modernism: A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism, Routledge, 1998

  • Suleiman, Yasir, The Arabic language and national identity, Edinburgh University Press, 2003

Textbooks (Middle East):

  • Camron Michael Amin, Benjamin C. Fortna and Elizabeth Frierson (eds), The modern Middle East: a sourcebook for history, Oxford University Press, 2006

  • Haim, Sylvie, Arab nationalism, an anthology, University of California Press, 1974
    A specific Word document entitled ‘BAIS-ScriptieS-KS1415-sourcesOverview’ will be available on Black board (for the Middle East case). It describes several possibilities, along the 2 textbooks, to find original sources for your specific subject.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


In addition to the thesis seminars, there will be individual supervision. However, no thesis can be submitted that has not been written in the context of a thesis seminar.


Dr. K.M.J. Sanchez, email