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The Power of Words: Discourse and Society in the Middle East


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 is power expressed and maintained through spoken and written word? This MA course offers a hands-on introduction to the analysis of political discourse, with a focus on the Middle East. The course consists of three parts. In the first part, students become acquainted with discourse theory. The work by theorists such as Foucault, Gramsci and Fairclough will be introduced, but the main focus lies on reading and discussing the concise and accessible introduction to discourse analysis written by Dunn and Neumann (2016). In the second part of the course students are trained to conduct their own discourse analysis for a project of their choice but relevant to the Middle East. In five sessions we discuss research question options, the collection of sources, the process of coding, analysing discourse and writing up. In the final part of the course, students give an oral presentation about their project. Subsequently, they write a paper in which they answer their research question. For the final paper students make use of the readings from part one to support and write up the discourse analysis they conducted in part two.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete this course have given evidence of:

  • A good understanding of the concepts of power and discourse and the relationship between these two

  • Familiarity with the main thinkers in and aspects of discourse theory

  • The ability to conduct a preliminary discourse analysis as part of a concise research project

  • The abililty to report on their research project in a convincing way, both verbally and in written word


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The course is offered as part of a full-time program of studies, and therefore work commitments, holidays, or overseas travel do not constitute valid reasons for absence. The lecturer should be informed in writing of any classes to be missed for a valid reason (i.e., due to unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the student’s control, such as documented illness, family bereavement, problems with residence permits, victim of crime, or railway delays). In case of a justified absence, it is up to the Lecturer to decide whether the missed class should be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Please note that you are required to provide documentation that supports your case for absence where possible. Absence without notification and approval could result in a grade deduction, or in work not being marked 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.


Part 1: Class participation (20%)
Part 2: Weekly assignments (pass/fail)
Part 3: Presentation and peer feedback (30%)
Final paper (50%)

The final paper needs to be at passing level (5.5 or higher).


the final mark for the course is established by (i) determination of the weighted average combined with (ii) completion of the written assignments at a sufficient level (pass/fail).


The final paper can be resat (50%). Class participation, presentation can peer feedback cannot be resat.

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

Dunn, Kevin C ; Neumann, Iver B, 2016. Undertaking Discourse Analysis for Social Research. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016. Available through the digital library.
Additional readings t.b.a.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory for:

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies students: the number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Priority is given to students who started with the MA programme in 2022-2023.

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students who opt for the Research MA version of the course. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

  • Students from MA programmes listed under Part of in the right information bar, need to contact their Coordinator of Studies for information on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof.


  • 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.