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Oil, Waste and Water: Environmental Issues in the Middle East and North Africa


Please note: The course information for next academic year has not yet been updated. Below you will find the course information from last academic year. As soon as we have an update we will immediately change this information.

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC or research) or the MA International Studies.

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

Students who are not admitted to one of the abovementioned programmes can only be admitted to the course, if there are places left. Interested students may mail the Student advisor mentioning the course title, their name and their student ID number in the subject line. If they are admitted, they will be enrolled for the course by September 6 at the latest.


Like all world regions the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is subject to severe environmental stress and degradation, processes that have serious implications for society. Water resources are under great strain, agrarian change has resulted in more intensive forms of farming, and climate change will have an unpredictable effect on the region’s habitats. This seminar course examines these themes. It proceeds by establishing a theoretical framework that examines society-nature relations and the importance of the environment to society and the economies of the region. It then examines the history of the relationship of environmental exploitation in the region in the colonial and post-colonial eras. The course will then proceed to examine more specific forms of environmental problems and their causes, and governmental and societal responses.

Tentative Seminar Topics

  1. Introduction. Theoretical and methodological framework
  2. Historical roots one. Colonial exploitation of regional resources and extraction of value
  3. Historical roots two. The postcolonial period and the commons. From state-led development to free market growth
  4. Oil and gas
  5. Water. Wars or waste?
  6. Agrarian change. Farming without farmers
  7. Food security. Stuffed and starved
  8. Urban growth
  9. Waste and pollution
  10. Conflict and environment
  11. Poverty and environment
  12. The climate crisis
  13. Sustainable growth and renewable energy

Course objectives

● Develop a theoretical approach that allows us to conceptualise society-nature relations in the MENA. ● Learn the significance of the region’s environmental resources in phases of colonialism and Imperialism. ● Analyse the relationship between the status of the environment and international
and regional economic flows of capital and commodities. ● Understand the role of environmental degradation in developmental outcomes in the region. ● Learn about the forms of environmental governance within MENA and the role of
international institutions. ● Discuss potential future scenarios.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


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.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours 280 hours
Attendance of weekly classes (13 * 2 hours) 26 hours
Reading / studying material 125 hours
Completing assignment 129 hours

Assessment method

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). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Engagement (informed participation; presentation; discussant duties) 30%
Short paper 30%
Final paper 40%

Final Paper
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

The actual deadlines for submission of the first and final versions of the paper will be communicated by the convenor of the course through Blackboard (after consulting with students in the first session. (The deadline(s) mentioned in uSis is/are fictional for administrative purposes only.)

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

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

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.


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 (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

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 material and assignments will be distributed through Blackboard.

Reading list

The book titles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where they can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand will be posted on Blackboard.


Students MA Middle Eastern Studies

  • Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who have been enrolled in the MA programme in the academic year 2018-2019 can register through uSis starting from 1 July. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

  • A number of places has been reserved for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who will start in September 2019, including those coming from a Leiden BA programme. They are kindly requested to fill out the form on the right side of the MA MES page and send it in as soon as possible and Friday, August 30 at the latest to the study coordinator. Make sure you mention in the subject line “MA MES, [your name, student ID number]”.

Students MA Middle Eastern Studies (research)

  • For students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) the principles mentioned above for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies apply.

Students MA International Relations

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on uSis in Dutch and English.

To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. You can also have a look at the FAQ. (Tip: use the search term “uSis”.)

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Christian J.V. Henderson.


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.