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Study information

Politics of the Middle East

Module titlePolitics of the Middle East
Module codePOC2123
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Aneta Brockhill (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Famous satirist Karl reMarks remarks that God created the MENA region for the specific and noble purpose of permanently supplying global audiences with “Breaking News.” Have you ever wondered how and why a region as vast and heterogeneous as the Middle East has become strictly associated with authoritarianism, women and LGBT population’s oppression, and permanent wars? This module is an exciting opportunity to rethink politics – broadly speaking - in the Middle East. It unpacks the complexities of state-society relationships by examining them at the domestic, regional and global levels and by drawing on an array of scholarly and popular sources. What emerges is a complex region that seriously pushes us to re-assess our understanding of democracy, resistance, agency and modernity. The module adopts a largely decolonial approach that downgrade state-centric analysis and asks questions relevant to minorities and racial inequalities in the region.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module. Although the module is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students, some degree of interest in the region is expected on the part of the student. The module is suitable for students studying Politics, Comparative Politics, History or International Relations.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide an introduction to the main themes and dynamics in the politics of the contemporary Middle East at the domestic, regional and global levels. It considers the political, economic, and social changes that have affected the region since the birth of the nation-state. In doing so, the module provides you with the cognitive skills and academic inquisitiveness that are necessary to nuance your understanding of the region.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. evaluate the enduring legacies of colonialism on the politics in, and discourses about, the region and analyse the process of state-formation in the contemporary Middle East;
  • 2. assess critically the impact of globalisation on economic and political liberalisation and appreciate the transnational dynamics of civil organizing and political mobilization in the region.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. evaluate different theoretical and practical approaches in the study of politics of the Middle East;
  • 4. construct coherent yet concise arguments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. write analytically for an academic and non-academic public;
  • 6. develop good research and indexing praxis (on-line and in the library);
  • 7. defend one’s position on seminar discussions.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some of the following topics or readings:

  • Politics and Area Studies: Beyond Orientalism/Occidentalism and East/West
  • Empire, Colonialism and the Birth of the Middle East State (Egypt, Algeria, Turkey)
  • Beyond TH Marshall: Citizenship(s) in the Middle East (Gulf, Lebanon)
  • Oil Wealth/Curse: Modernization, urban development and neoliberal policies (Gulf, Algeria, Libya)
  • NGO-ization or the Liberalization of Politics (case study: LGBT activism vs. “Gay Internationalists”)
  • Informal Politics, Resistance and Encroachment (a view from Egypt and Gaza)
  • Sect, Sectarianisation and the State (Iran, Yemen)
  • Transnational Solidarity and the Middle East (Kurdistan)
  • From the War on Terror to the War on Iraq: Reading the ME through a Feminist IR Lens 
  • The Arab Spring and Masculinist Restoration (Bahrein, Syria)
  • The Universalization of Human Rights: What Challenges for the Middle East?

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 Activity2010 x 2 hr seminars
Guided Independent Study6666 (6 hours per topic/week) hours to directed reading
Guided Independent Study66 hours to completing the formative research outline
Guided Independent Study4242 hours (3 hours/day over two weeks) for completing the essay
Guided Independent Study1010 hours (2 hours/day over 5 days) for completing opinion pieces
Guided Independent Study6Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Presentation10 minutes1-7Written or Verbal

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
Portfolio (comprising of Research Paper, Seminar Participation, and ‘News Round’)1002750 words (Research Paper 2000 words, Seminar Participation 500 words, News Round 250 words)1-7Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioEssay 2750 words1-7August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Edward Said, Orientalism

Asef Bayat, Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East

Dina Singerman, Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of  Cairo  

Betty S. Anderson, Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State  

Joseph A. Massad, Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan 

David Szanton, The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines 

Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism  and Field Notes: The Making of Middle East Studies in the United States 

Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar, Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East  

Adam Hanieh, Money, Markets and Monarchies: The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Political Economy of the Contemporary Middle East

Donatella Della Ratta, Shooting the Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria.

Sam Cherribi, Fridays of Rage: Al Jazeera, the Arab Spring, and Political Islam.

Tarek El-Ariss. Leaks, Hacks and Scandals: Arab Culture in the Digital Age.

Mohamed Zayani. Networked Publics and Digital Contention: The Politics of Everyday Life in Tunisia.

Daniel Ritter, The Iron Cage of Liberalism: International Politics and Unarmed Revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran.

Shahla Talebi, Ghosts of Revolution: Rekindled Memories of Imprisonment in Iran

Charles Tripp, The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East

Mounira Charrad, States and Women's Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco  

Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages
  • Kanopy;
  • podcasts;
  • blogs and vlogs;
  • cultural productions (songs; music videos; films; performances);
  • policy briefs;
  • annual reports from selected international organizations

Key words search

politics, political economy, Middle East, contemporary, governance

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date