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Revolution, Reform or Status Quo

Module titleRevolution, Reform or Status Quo
Module codeARA2166
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Lise Storm (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module seeks to provide you with an understanding of the current situation in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Sudan and Tunisia. During the course of the module, you will be tasked with reading a number of different sources, amongst them academic texts and policy papers, not only on current events, but also on the history of the countries in question so that you have a good yardstick from which to measure the extent of change.

This module on ‘Revolution, reform or status quo? ’ is designed for those students, who have an interest in the Middle East and current affairs, most notably the Arab Spring. Among the key issues that will be discussed are how much the political systems appear to have changed in the different Arab states in the wake of the Arab Spring, what direction the change seem to be taking these countries. In other words, by taking this module you will be faced the current events; topics that are new and relatively unchartered in the academic literature, and therefore exciting but also challenging. If you enjoy a challenge, if you find current events fascinating, and if you enjoy debating, this module is for you. There are no long lectures, very few 'correct' answers - everything is up for discussion, albeit in an academic manner.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are needed to take this module. There are no pre-requisites and co-requisites, but you are expected to have a general interest in the Middle East, democracy and current affairs. The module is suitable for students studying the Middle East as well as non-specialist students. The module is also suitable for students that do not have a social science background, as long as you have a general interest in the Middle East, democracy and current affairs.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to provide you with an understanding of the political situation in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia. The core focus of the module is the political situation in each country and the prospects for change – i.e. whether regime change is a real possibility, whether significant political reforms falling short of regime change appear likely, and what are the forces driving/halting such reform processes. Among the topics covered are graduate unemployment, Islamism, the War on Terror, ethnicity, elections, and political systems. The course makes use of a number of books, journal articles and think-tank publications in order to expose you to a wide variety of material. Moreover, during the seminars, you will also be tasked with researching newspaper articles in order to obtain further - and more recent - data, particularly on the various elections and outbursts of civil unrest. The intention behind the use of both theoretical and/or empirical material is that by assisting you in mastering different types of texts, you will hopefully gain the skills to discuss the issue of ‘reform, revolution or status quo?’ in a country specific and a theoretical setting. A further aim is to provide you with a level of knowledge that allows you to discuss the topic of civil society and change in the Middle East and North Africa, not only in the selected cases, but across the region. Finally, the course aims to develop your skills as academics and independent researchers, thereby equipping you for the future, regardless of whether you aspire to a career in academe.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand the key issues in the debate on the status of regime change and political reform in the Middle East and North Africa;
  • 2. Understand the forces that aid the persistence of authoritarianism in the region;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Use and analyze secondary and primary data relevant to specific issue areas;
  • 4. Place issues discussed in a wider context plus deploy critical arguments;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Develop critical and analytical skills through readings, class discussions and presentations;
  • 6. Enhance your ability to undertake political analysis.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction: The persistence of authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Tunisia. Ben Ali’s regime and its demise: A facelift or profound change?
  • Algeria. The bloodshed of the 1990s and the merits of authoritarianism
  • Morocco. The monarchy as a guarantor of stability: Domestic and international perspectives
  • Egypt. The 2010 elections and their aftermath: The end of the line for the Mubarak family?
  • Libya. Qadhafi and the War on Terror: Lessons on how to stay in power
  • Sudan. The reign of Omar al-Bashir and the secession of the south
  • Pacts or revolutions? Theories of regime change
  • Debating the pros and cons of regime change
  • Essay workshop
  • Revision

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity22Teaching will take the form of seminars and brief lectures. Each week's class will begin with student presentations, followed by a seminar organized around the discussion of the theme of the week. The discussion will make reference to the presentations, the texts read at home, the formative reaction paper for the week, and current events, which students are expected to keep up to date with. At the end of each week's class, there will be a short lecture by the module convenor to ensure that all material has been covered fully...
Guided independent study128A variety of independent study activities directed by your module leader


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussion of themes covered in the previous lectures and students' class presentationsWeekly1-6Verbal feedback
Reaction Papers5 x 500 words1-6Written
Individual or group presentation10 minutes1-6Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay903,000 words1-6Written
Synopsis101,000 words1-6Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3,000 words)1-6August/September reassessment period
SynopsisSynopsis (1,000 words)1-6August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Blaydes, Lisa (2011) Elections and Distributive Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boukhars, Anouar (2011) Politics in Morocco: Executive monarchy and enlightened authoritarianism. London: Routledge.

Cavatorta, Francesco and Vincent Durac (2011) Civil Society and Democratization in the Arab World. London: Routledge.

Collins, Robert (2008) A History of Modern Sudan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hemmer, Jort (2009) Ticking the box: Elections in Sudan. The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael. Available online at

Kausch, Kristina (2009) Tunisia. The Life of Others. FRIDE Working Paper 85. Available online at

Kazemi, Farhad and Augustus Richard Norton (1999) ‘Hardliners and Softliners in the Middle East: Problems of Governance and the Prospects for Liberalization in Authoritarian Political Systems,’ in Howard Handelman and Mark Tessler (eds) Democracy and Its Limits: Lessons from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 69-89.

Le Sueur, James (2009) Algeria since 1989: Between terror and democracy. London: Zed Books.

Martinez, Luis (2007) The Libyan Paradox. London: Hurst and Company.

Perkins, Kenneth (2004) A History of Modern Tunisia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schmitter, Philippe (2010) ‘Twenty-Five Years, Fifteen Findings,’ Journal of Democracy 21(1), pp. 17-28. Available online at

Vandewalle, Dirk (2008) Libya since 1969: Qadhafi’s revolution revisited. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

(2006) A History of Modern Libya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the various libraries.

Key words search

Authoritarianism, Middle East, North Africa, Monarchy, Revolution, Reform, Status quo.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date