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Introduction to International Studies


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


What is International Studies? In the most literal reading, International Studies implies the study of the relationship and interaction between nations. Thus interpreted, there would seem little to distinguish International Studies from the more commonly recognizable International Relations. Yet the program in International Studies carries a distinctive name, and comprises a distinctive approach, based on a shared conviction that a viable understanding of the relationship and interaction between nations and peoples of the world must question and go beyond the static, simplistic, and Eurocentric assumptions and conceptualizations that underlie conventional understandings of international relations. This course therefore seeks to initiate a critical exploration of the making of “us” and “them” through an introduction to the methods and perspectives of a range of disciplines and the potential strengths of their (“interdisciplinary”) combination, thereby fostering a genuinely global, historically-informed awareness of what we share, what divides us, and the processes out of which the contemporary global order of nation-states emerged.

In a world dominated economically, politically, and militarily by a minority of nation-states (and former empires) commonly referred to as “the West,” Western dominance has long translated into the power to speak for and interpret the “rest of the world”: Consciously or not, seeing things from the perspective of “the West and the rest” has become a habit of thinking, “the West” the imagined center of the world and the yardstick by which we measure and define ourselves and others. These assumptions can be found not only in the self-absorbed worldview of the tourist, the missionary, and the imperialist, but also in the ostensibly “objective” sciences we use to study “other places” and “other people” —anthropology, sociology, geography, history, political science, literary science, linguistics—all the more because the period of the rise of these modern academic disciplines, roughly the last 200 years, has corresponded more or less precisely to the period of global Western dominance.

In the accumulated images and interpretations of “us” and “them” that we encounter as scholars of “other places,” we therefore confront an ambivalent heritage: An archive of knowledge and categories that are not nearly as definite, fixed, or neutral they seem, but are in fact the product and reflection of shifting social, economic, and political power balances. What is this intellectual inheritance, what are its implications, and where do we go from here? These are the fundamental questions around which this course is constructed. For the international studies scholar, and indeed for all of us, they are questions whose importance extends far beyond the academic. In a world in which Western dominance is no longer a given—with alarmists in “East” and “West” alike warning of a looming “clash of civilizations”—our answers also have serious political consequences.

The course “Introduction to International Studies” seeks to equip young scholars of “other places” with a critical awareness of how history and power can shape the categories and assumptions that divide “us” from “them,” fostering scholarship informed by a deeper understanding of an interconnected and interdependent world. As scholars in a global, “postcolonial” world, these are issues that concern all of us, transcending the boundaries between academic specializations, as well as the boundaries between “us” scholars and the rest of humankind. Indeed, the achievement of such an understanding must begin with a willingness to question not only the boundaries and categories that define “them,” but also those that define “us” as well.

This course highlights different angles on these issues through the consideration and analysis of a series of strategically chosen case studies from different places and times. In recent decades, our scholarly understanding of the making of “self” and “other” has profoundly deepened, and broadened, through the combining of insights from several disciplinary fields (in particular anthropology, sociology, literary theory, history, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies), and our approach is therefore informed by such a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspective. Having completed this course, as each student proceeds further in their chosen area of specialization, we hope that their scholarship will continue to be informed, and inspired, by the global lessons learned here.

Course objectives

  • to develop an introductory-level familiarity with some of the major theoretical and methodological challenges involved in studying “other peoples” and “other cultures” in a global context;

  • to foster “global positioning sensitivity” based on an awareness that there is no single objective position from which to observe the world;

  • to develop a critical awareness of how identity categories of “self” and “other” have been historically defined and redefined in a context of shifting global and local power balances;

  • to develop a basic familiarity with approaches from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines involved in the studies of “other peoples” and “other cultures”, and their evolution over time;

  • to develop a basic awareness of interdisciplinary approaches to International Studies, their advantages and challenges;

  • through encounters with a series of comparative case studies in different places and times, to develop a broad perspective on local cultural, historical and social diversity as well as our inter-relationship and interdependence at the global level;

  • to become familiar with some of the foundational texts and theories of contemporary International studies (such as Said’s Orientalism).


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every two weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your tutor in advance. Being absent at more than two of the tutorial sessions will result in a lowering of your tutorial grade (30% of the end grade) with 1 point for each session missed after the first two sessions. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the tutor.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

Component Estimated time
Attending lectures 24 hours
Attending tutorials 12 hours
Assessment hours (exams) 4 hours
Study of compulsory literature 40 hours
Preparation for Tutorial assignments 30 hours
Writing final Tutorial essay 20 hours
Preparation for Exams 10 hours

Assessment method


  • Midterm Exam:

    Written examination with open questions and (up to) 50% multiple choice questions.

  • Final Exam:

    Written examination with open questions and (up to) 50% multiple choice questions.


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 30%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 40%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade, Midterm Exam grade, and Final Exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the Midterm Exam grade and the Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the weighted average of Midterm- and Final Exams is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Midterm- and Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2019 – 2020.

Exam review and feedback

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 organised.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

Required and / or suggested readings will be announced on Blackboard before the start of the course.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Tutorials and Lectures is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available on the website.

The programme’s administration office will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. E. Mark

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.
Please use your University email-address (uMail) when communicating with any person or department within Leiden University.

Student Affairs Office for BA International Studies