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Developments in the Modern Middle East


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Modern Middle East Studies, to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or to another relevant MA. Students should have had approximately 30 EC worth of courses in Middle Eastern Studies at BA level. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who do not fullfil these requirements are requested to contact Dr. T. Nalbantian or drs. N.A.N.M. van Os.


What is nationalism? How is it constructed? How does it function? Using these broad questions as points of departure, this course will first cover the theoretical field of nationalism. It will then examine three case studies of nationalism: Egyptian-nation-state nationalism, Lebanese nationalism, and Zionism. In this process, we will discuss issues of gender, sexuality, race, tradition, memory, and culture— all in the context of studying the formation of national identities. This course will engage with the resulting debates that have informed the field of Middle Eastern Studies. Designed for graduate students who have an interest in the Middle East, this seminar relies on in-class student participation and a critical engagement with the notion of essentialism.

Unit 1: Nationalism in Theory
Unit 2: Tradition and Traditionalization
Unit 3: Arab Nationalist Thought & its Contestations
Unit 4: Constructing Ordinary Egyptians
Unit 5: Zionism and its Foundations
Unit 6: Making Lebanese
Unit 7 Gender and Nationalism
Unit 8: Sexuality and Nationalism
Unit 9: Utilizations of Collective Memory

Course objectives

to obtain familiarity with the theories of nationalism developed in the social sciences
to understand the merits and problems of these theories both in general and in specific cases in the Middle East;
to develop the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research and to design and carry out empirical research projects;
to develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on primary source texts;
to report on research findings orally (by reading a paper) and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of historical scholarship.

Time table

For the most recent update of the timetable click here

Mode of instruction

For this seminar weekly attendance and participation is required. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the convener and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Students who miss more than two classes for whatever reason will fail the course.

Assessment method

(1) Attendance and Participation (15%).
(2) Taking on the responsibility for two seminars as a paper giver (circultaing a 3-5 page written comment on the week’s reading. The comment should be circulated by email at least 24 hours before the seminar) and as a discussant (open the seminar with 15-20 minute spoken comment on the paper circulated for the week). (50%)
(3) Paper. Each student will write either a 12-15 page (3000-4000 words) analytical paper on a topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor. Alternatively, the student can write three short essays. Each essay will be 5 pages long (1250 words) and will be presented at the end of each section as noted on the syllabus. (35%)


Blackboard will be used.

Reading list

Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.
Ernest Gellner. Nations and Nationalism.
Partha Chatterjee. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World.
Neil Lazarus. Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Post-Colonial World.
Nadia Abu El-Haj, Facts on the Ground.
Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age.
C. Ernest Dawn, From Ottomanism to Arabism, Essays on the Origins of Arab Nationalism.
Joseph Massad, Desiring Arabs.
Theodor Hertzl, The Jewish State.
Hanan Khloussy, For Better, For Worse: The Marriage Crisis that Made Modern Egypt.
Lucia Volk, Memorials & Martyrs in Modern Lebanon.
There will be additional articles as well as selections for the readings.


Through uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. T. Nalbantian