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Theories and Methods of Middle East and Islamic Studies 1



This course will start on Tuesday, September 17 instead of Tuesday, September 10.

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies is required. Students from other MA programmes can only be admitted if there are places left. Contact the student advisor, if you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of the above-mentioned MA programme.


What is historiography? What is the Middle East? Does the historiography of the Middle East display defining characteristics that distinguish it from, for example, European historiography? Can the study and analysis of Middle East historiography reveal as much about Western perspectives of the Middle East as it does about the “actual” history of the region? Using these broad questions as points of departure, this course will survey the Western canon of historical writing on the region we now know as the Middle East. In the process, it will seek to place this body of literature in the context of larger historical and historiographical trends by reviewing major theoretical and methodological developments in the humanities and social sciences, examining their employment in concrete research projects focusing on the Middle East, and analyzing the resulting debates that have ensued within the profession. This course is designed for graduate students who have an interest in the Middle East.

Unit 1: Orientalism
Unit 2: Social and Labor History
Unit 3: Modernization
Unit 4: Race
Unit 5: Gender and Sexuality
Unit 6: The Cultural Turn
Unit 7: Power and Expertise

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 social sciences and history 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 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.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar.

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. The convener 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 convener(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. In case of unforeseen absences make sure to have another student report on what you missed; you are responsible for seminar information and announcements whether present or not.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours 280 hours
3 contact hours per week 39 hours
12 hours reading for each class 156 hours
blackboard assignments 5 hours
Preparing the presentation 5 hours
Short essay 15 hours
Final paper 60 hours


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
Attendance and participation 50%
Short essay 25%
Final paper 25%

Attendance and participation
This component (50%) includes presentations (15%), being called on to orally summarize (a) reading(s) and respond to the presenter (15%), questions for discussions that will be posted to Blackboard weekly (5%), and active participation in the general discussions (15%).

Short essay
Each student will submit a 5-7 page paper (1,250-1,750 words) on one of the weekly assignments. This partial examination may not be rewritten. This component constitutes 25% of the final grade.

Final paper
Each student will write a 10-12 page (2,500-3,000 words) literature review/introduction of their MA thesis in consultation with the instructor. This component constitutes 25% of the final grade.

(The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

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.


Re-sits are only possible if the student obtains an overall mark of 5.49 or lower. Re-sit assignments, if applicable, will be discussed with the professor.

Exam review

Final paper comments will be given only if a student requests them within 30 days of their final paper results.

Reading list

  • Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage, 1995.

  • Lockman, Zachary. Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002.

  • el-Rouayheb Khaled. Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500-1800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

  • Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1994.

  • Troutt Powell, Eve M.. A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003.

  • Wedeen, Lisa. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999

  • Other selected readings


Students can not register themselves in uSis. Students will be registered after the obligatory introductory meeting on Friday September 6, 9:15-10:00 hrs in VRIESH4/008A.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.



Contact information

Dr. Tsolin Nalbantian


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.