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International Relations of the Middle East


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), or the MA International Relations.

The number of places available in this course are limited. Therefore, read the information below under registration carefully.

The electives International Relations of the Middle East (Fall semester) and International Relations of the Middle East: Everyday Matters (Spring semester) cannot both be chosen as an elective course.


As a crisis-ridden region, the Middle East is often associated with authoritarianism and democracy deficit, political Islam and sectarian conflicts, and endless wars and revolts. By detaching the Middle East from the economic, political, and cultural space of global capitalism, conventional accounts highlight the importance of local and regional determinants for explaining these phenomena. Aiming to offer a different account of the region, this course draws resolute attention to the dialectical interaction of global and local dynamics in the making of Middle Eastern states and societies. It explores the long-term patterns of development, modern state-formation processes, and contemporary socio-political transformations in the Middle East by placing local actors and dynamics within the wider context of global capitalism and the modern international system.

Tentative Seminar Topics

  1. Introduction: The Middle East, Orientalism and Eurocentrism
  2. The Making of the Modern Middle East
  3. Challenging the Modern State System I: Pan-Arabism
  4. Challenging the Modern State System II: Political Islam
  5. Authoritarianism and Democracy Deficit
  6. The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
  7. The Iranian Revolution
  8. The ‘Kurdish Question’
  9. The ‘Arab Spring’
  10. Regional Rivalry in the Contemporary Global System
  11. Conclusion

Course Objectives

At the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • explain the historical processes of modern state formation and the legacies of colonialism and imperialism in the making of the Middle East;

  • distinguish between conventional and critical theoretical approaches to the study of the Middle East;

  • critically analyse major contemporary issues in the Middle East including political Islam, sectarianism, authoritarianism, the ‘Arab Spring’, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, neoliberalism, etc.;

  • understand the local, regional and global actors, their characteristics and roles in international relations in the Middle East;

  • conduct original research by deploying theory and using the reading list and other secondary and primary sources;

  • develop oral and communicative skills through participation and presentation in the weekly seminars

  • develop teamwork and reflective skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of Instruction

  • Seminar
    Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to 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. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation (active participation in the in-class discussions) 20%
Presentation 30%
Final paper 50%


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized. To request a review the student should send an email to the instructor of the course.

Reading List

The syllabus will be posted on Brightspace before the start of the course.


MA Middle Eastern Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, drs. E.G. van Duijnen for information on the enrollment procedur

MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, dr. N.A.N.M. van Os for information on the enrollment procedure.

MA International Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. E.J. Walstra for information on the enrollment procedure