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Oil, Waste and Water: the Political Ecology of the Middle East and North Africa


Admission requirements

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


This seminar course examines the political, economic and cultural determinants of the environment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Using a framework that draws on theories of political ecology it looks at the historical construction of the MENA’s environment and expressions of society-environment relations. The introductory sessions will look at the manner in which phases of imperialism and colonialism shaped the environment of the region, both in terms of its governance of resources and in terms of how its ecology is perceived. It will also explore indigenous forms of knowledge and cultural production on the environment.
The following weeks will then look at specific cases and themes. These include sessions on hydrocarbons, water, waste, and the agrarian environment. Other weeks will look at the relationship between the environment and conflict and its position in social movements and politics. These classes provide a compelling insight into the politics, economics and culture of the MENA region. It also offers the opportunity to be introduced to political ecology, an exciting and interdisciplinary field that offers a novel and dynamic way of understanding the environment.

Tentative weeks include:
2. Environmental Orientalism
3. Historical roots I: Colonial era
4. Historical roots II: Postcolonial era
5. Indigenous knowledge and culture
6. Desert dreams
7. Carbons
8. Water
9. Waste
10. Agrarian ecologies
11. Conflict and the environment
12. Social and political movements

Course objectives

Develop a theoretical lense of political ecology 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.

  • Understand the signifiance of indigenous knowledge and culture.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Engagement (informed participation; presentation; discussant duties) 30%
Proposal 20%
Final paper 50%


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Reading list



Enrolment through MyStudyMap 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 2023-2024.

  • 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.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

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



Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.