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Developments in the Modern Middle East


Admission requirements

Admission prioritized to students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisations Modern Middle East Studies and Persian Studies. Students should have had approximately 30 EC worth of courses in Middle Eastern Studies at BA or MA level. Students of other relevant MA programmes and/or those who are interested in taking this course, but who do not fulfill the abovementioned requirements are requested to contact the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, or Dr. Marina Calculli prior to registration. See also below, under “registration”.


This course explores political violence in the contemporary Middle East, examining both the perpetrators of violence and their targets. It investigates the nexus between violence and order, as well as how violence is used to contest authorities and territories. How does violence effect states, political communities, and civilian populations of the Middle East? Why do people fight? How do they justify violence? How do they behave in wars, civil wars, inter-communal violence and other forms of violence? What explains variation in types and intensity of violence? These are some of the questions this course explores, by focusing on different manifestations of violence – ranging from wars, civil wars, state terror, ethnic cleansing, violent military coups, terrorism and communal violence – from the colonial/mandatory period to the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Uprisings.

Course objectives

  • To encourage students to think critically about the causes, uses and effects of violence.

  • To familiarize students with existing theories of political violence and their application to the study of the Middle East.

  • To help students engage with existing scientific literature in a critical manner, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of various theoretical approaches.

  • To help students improve their capacity to present ideas orally and in written.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Students are required to attend all lectures, participate actively in class discussion and prepare the assigned reading for all sessions. If you cannot attend a class for a good reason (i.e. unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.), you are expected to inform the convener beforehand. 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.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • 2 contact hours per week = 13×2: 26 hours

  • 12 hours preparing for each class: 144 hours

  • Assignments: 55 hours

  • Final paper: 55 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

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

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 25%
Assignments 25%
Final paper of max 3,000 words 50%

The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. (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.)

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades 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 hours late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade, in casu a 1.0 for this partial assessment.

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.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower), the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper (including papers handed in more than 96 hours after the deadline), a re-sit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

A re-sit of the other components is not possible

Exam review

How and when a term paper review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the course results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the course results, a term paper review will have to be organized.



Reading list

Selected readings (check the course syllabus on Blackboard).


Students of the MA programme Middle Eastern Studies are required to register through uSis before January 15. Students from this programme who cannot register in uSis, and interested students from other MA programmes are requested to send an email to the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the student advisor will register these students after January 15. By February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.
To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Dr. Marina Calculli


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.