nl en

Theories and Methods of Middle Eastern Studies


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the right information bar.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Coordinator of Studies.


How are theorizations of social, historical, and cultural phenomena arrived at? What constitutes evidence? How have different epistemological, methodological, and ontological traditions shaped the study of the Middle East and North Africa?

During the past two centuries scholars in different parts of the world have produced a large body of knowledge on Middle Eastern and Muslim societies, both historical and contemporary. The present seminar will introduce students to key issues and concepts of this scholarly tradition and encourage them to engage critically with these, as has become the practice during the last forty years. This critical review should enable students to contribute productively to this body of knowledge themselves. This course is meant to equip MA students with the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and prepare them to design and carry out their own research projects.

During the course students are familiarized with key theories developed in the humanities and social sciences (with a particular attention to critical social theories, and ethnographic approaches), and their application specifically for the study of topics relating to North Africa and the Middle East. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to develop and carry out a small thesis project on a well-defined topic.

Course objectives

  • To develop the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and to design and carry out empirical research projects;

  • To obtain familiarity with the theories developed in the humanities and social sciences and their application in the study of the Middle East and Islam;

  • To understand the merits and drawbacks of these theories both in general and in specific cases;

  • To develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on a range of sources;

  • To report on research findings orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of scholarship.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

During the first class (joined session for the three groups) the teaching and learning method will be explained in more detail.
Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The lecturer needs 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 lecturer(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.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.


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.


The final grade will be composed of the average of the following components:

  • In-Class Participation (20 %)

  • Weekly Assignments (20%)

  • Oral presentations (20%)

  • Final assignment (40%)


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 final paper is possible (40%).

Inspection 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 organized.

Reading list

  • A full list of the required literature and study materials will be announced at the beginning of the course.


After the first class, students will be divided into three groups and registered by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof


Not applicable