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Urban youth cultures of the Middle East


Admission requirements

Seminar Midden-Oosten 1.
This course is only open to students in the BA 2 Midden-Oostenstudies.


During the twentieth century cities in the MENA region have undergone profound changes, as they grew rapidly and massively as a consequence of several impacting forces, such as colonial intervention, concentration of economic production, and the pressure of rural to urban migration to name but a few. This fast-paced urbanization went hand in hand with a major demographic change, which has translated into growing inequality and what international agencies often refer to as the ‘youth bulge’ in the region.
This course will explore the relationship and dynamics between cities and youth in the modern Middle East, drawing on scholarly writing, documentary films, visual art and fiction writing from the region. Using a combination of anthropological and historical approaches, the goal is to provoke historically grounded, critical and comparative thinking about urban space and youthful phenomena in the contemporary Middle East.

We will start from the premise that space and society are coproduced, and explore the historical, economic, cultural, and political factors that have shaped urban landscapes in the region. We will also address the question of who gets to be called ‘youth’ and what the implications of this might be for understanding change in the region.

After a general introduction to urban studies and the anthropology of youth, the course will touch on central debates about colonialism, modernization, nationalism, gender, ethnic conflict, street art, and hyper-consumption. It will also consider recent phenomena such as slums and gated communities, and explore the role of urban youth in social protest movements through a revisiting of key moments and locations during the Arab Spring.

Course objectives

  • Introduce the students to the history of urban studies in the Middle East.

  • Familiarize students with the theories and academic debates on Middle Eastern youth, from an anthropological perspective.

  • Expose students to a range of scholarly, artistic, and popular approaches to urban youth culture in the MENA.

  • Explore the role of structural factors in the development and transformation of urban space and urban phenomena, and youth culture in the region.

  • Equip students with the theoretical, methodological and analytical tools for understanding cultural and social change in the contemporary Middle East.


Visit MyTimetable.

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

Total course load: 5 x 28 hours 140
Seminars 26
Study of course materials/self tuition 36
Presentation & final paper 58
Preparation & presentation midterm assessment 20

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Presentation 10%
Participation 15%
Midterm Assessment 35%
Final Paper 40%

The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their paper (> 5.50). In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the paper as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the paper.


A re-sit is available only for an insufficient paper. In such cases, the lecturer can assign the student a new topic for the final paper, and will set the re-sit deadline at least 10 working days after the fail grade has been issued.

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

Selections from:

  • Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera. Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. (Oxford University Press on Demand, 2010).

  • Lara Deeb and Mona Harb, Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi‘ite
    South Beirut (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

  • Pascal Menoret, Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Additional material in the forms of articles, films, or visual art will be communicated on the syllabus at the beginning of the course.
Students should come to class having read the material thoroughly, and therefore ready to engage thoughtfully in seminar discussions.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


Dr. C. Strava


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 at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

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).