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Diasporas and Minorities in the Middle East


Admission requirements

BA Middle Eastern Studies students who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam of the BA Middle Eastern Studies and premaster Middle Eastern Studies students.


The social, economic, political, and legal status of Middle East minority and diaspora populations have long been used as a lens through which to evaluate the policies and even legitimacy of regimes governing the region’s states. Local opposition groups, foreign powers, non-governmental organizations, and other actors have asserted the need to defend minorities from state power and/or the hegemony of majority populations. Such assertions have frequently been used to justify violent responses to perceived discrimination and marginalization. In addition, authoritarian regimes have frequently justified their enduring domination of the state by depicting themselves as protectors of minority populations, and by hinting of apocalyptic outcomes if they are removed from power.
This seminar will explore the interrelated nature of these phenomena over time and in the emergence of the modern nation-state in the Middle East starting in the late 19th century . In particular, it will explore the various ways in which minorities and diaspora populations have acquired, articulated, and wielded forms of agency. Together we will examine how minority and diaspora populations utilize self and external identifications in struggles for power that simultaneously challenge and uphold the authority of the state.

Course objectives

  • to develop skills necessary to evaluating existing scholarship on a subject in order to propose a research project for further study.

  • to obtain familiarity with interdisciplinary approaches to the study of diasporas and minorities.

  • to understand the merits and drawbacks of these approaches 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.


Time table

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and 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 and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

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

  • Reading for each class: 39 hours

  • Preparation for Exams: 10 hours

  • In Class Presentations: 4 hours

  • Final paper: 61 hours

Assessment method

Assessement and weighing

Each student will be graded on the basis of four formal assignments:

Assignment Weighing
1 Attendance and Class Participation 20%
2 In-class presentations 20%
3 Two in-class exams 30%
4 Final Paper due via Blackboard 30%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final paper receives an insufficient grade (below 5,5) it will have to be rewritten and resubmitted.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

  • Bedross Der Matossian. Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2014.

  • Ussama Makdasi. The Culture of Sectarianism. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.

  • Shira Robinson. Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel’s Liberal Settler State. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2013.

  • (Other selected readings)




Dr. T. Nalbantian


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

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).