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‘Talking to the Levant’. Europeans’ Cultural and Linguistic Policies in the Middle East (1900-1970)


Admission requirements

This course is open to Master students of the MA International Relations. Other Master students who wish to follow theis course, please contact the coordinator of studies


This seminar will explore the connected history of the ‘cultural diplomacy’ and Arab communities during the XXth c. It will investigate the relationship between the European cultural and linguistic agenda, the birth of the cultural diplomacy and the local identity formation process and transformations of Arab societies. It will consider the interplay between politics, cultural production and representations, and their impacts in the Middle East.

In the multicultural landscape of the Middle East, the British and the French Mandates (1920-1948) addressed cultural policies, while political ideology and rivalry between European states took on a cultural component before the WWII. The creation of institutions such as the British Council, the French Cultural Centre and the Italian Dante Society was a sign of the emergence of a new type of foreign policy that became systematic. A particular attention will be paid to Middle East cultural interactions in the international arena.

Cultural activities took place alongside dramatic political events and within the particular economic and religious circumstances of the period. Not surprisingly, the Arab culture was imbued with political issues and a developing sense of nationalism.
What cultural and ideological backgrounds did European representatives use when promoting their culture and language use? What was their role in the creation of or the opposition to sectarianism in the Middle East? How did the Arabs use the European cultural agenda in their national and communal affiliations? /Jews-Muslims?

Recent developments in the Middle East have brought religious difference back to the attention of the scholarly world, questioning the numerous differences beneath the notion of nationalistic Arab unity and the role of culture and languages. Culture provides a powerful tool to analyse the connected history of Arab populations with Europe; culture as a soft/ intelligent power and a reflection of key political moments.

Course objectives



The timetable is available on the website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

ATotal course load for the course: 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature:126 hours

  • Researching, preparing presentation and writing the final paper: 130 hours

Assessment method

  • Preparation, participation in response to readings for one week

  • Seminar leadership based on reflection paper

  • Research essay proposal and research essay

  • All students are required to submit an abstract of their term paper during the semester. The deadline for the final version of the paper is 15 January 2019, 17:00


  • Preparation, participation in response to readings for one week (1500wds.) 20%

  • Seminar leadership based on reflection paper 20%

  • Research essay proposal (500wds.) and research essay (5000wds.) 60%

  • In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

  • Papers that are submitted late cannot earn more than a 6. Students who do not deliver a term paper will automatically fail the course.


  • Students who get a mark lower than 5.50 (=6) owing to insufficient participation, including the presentation, will have to sit a written examination on the subjects discussed during the course.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used

Reading list

A full set of selected readings will be found on Blackboard.


Via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Contact information

Dr. Karène Sanchez


Not applicable