Course 2021-2022 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
BESS-CLES (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - BIG (6 credits - I sem. - OBS  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Suggested background knowledge

Basic knowledge of theories and concepts of political science.



Mission & Content Summary


This course will introduce students to the politics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with a particular focus on regional dynamics related to religion, authoritarianism, foreign intervention, and popular politics. The first half of the course will provide students with the main historical, social, and economic features underpinning current politics in MENA by examining historical state formation, authoritarian governance, and political economy in the region. In so doing, it will equip students with the main analytical tools needed to comprehend and critically analyze the course of current political developments, which the second half of the course will address. Students will learn about the trajectory of the Arab Spring, the rise and decline of Islamist political movements, and ongoing struggles with civil wars and terrorism, among other topics. Alongside this emphasis on developing substantive knowledge about the region, the course will provide students with opportunities to improve their skills in conducting independent research, critically engaging with existing arguments and theories, and writing short essays.


To introduce students to the politics of the Middle East and North Africa, the course will begin by providing important historical context before moving to discuss contemporary political developments in the region. Students will first receive an overview of historical state formation, the nature and consequences of colonial rule by European powers, and the emergence of nationalist resistance and independent states. Next, the course will analyze modes of authoritarian governance in MENA as well as the political economy of states with and without substantial natural resource wealth.


With this foundation established, the remainder of the course will focus on important issues of contemporary politics in the region. Lectures will cover the Arab Spring and its aftermath; civil wars and sectarian conflict; the political role of state religious establishments and attitudes toward religion in politics; the emergence, rise, and then decline of political Islam; jihadist movements and terrorism; the politics of social issues including gender and migration; and the dynamics of international affairs in the region. Throughout the course, particular attention will be given to four key themes: the interaction between religion and politics, the factors that sustain authoritarianism, the consequences of foreign intervention, and the role of popular politics in driving political change.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Understand the historical roots of modern governance and political challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Discuss the major political, economic, and social transformations of politics in the contemporary Middle East.

  • Understand how Islam shapes and is shaped by politics in MENA.

  • Understand why authoritarianism has been exceptionally resilient in Middle Eastern states.

  • Understand how foreign intervention has influenced and continues to influence political developments in the region.

  • Understand forms of popular politics in MENA and their impact on the region’s governance.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Apply theories of political science to the study of Middle East politics.
  • Synthesize and discuss academic debates on the Middle East.

  • Identify and collect information from reliable sources on Middle East politics.

  • Write essay papers.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Individual assignments


Face-to-face lectures

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)


The assessment of attending students consists of two components:

  • Class participation (30%) of final grade: Students will be expected to attend lectures and participate in discussions (10% of final grade). Students will also be expected to choose five weeks of the course for which to submit a 200-to-250-word response to one or more of the readings during that week (20% of final grade). Responses will be graded on a satisfactory / not satisfactory basis. Satisfactory responses will receive full credit and not satisfactory will receive half credit. If a response is graded as not satisfactory, students can submit one additional response during the course as a replacement. Participation ensures that students are engaging with the lecture and reading materials.
  • Individual essay assignments (70% of the final grade): Twice during the course, students will be asked to respond to one out of 3 question options by writing a short essay (maximum 1500 words) that need to be submitted by the respective timeline. Each essay carries the same weight (35% of the final grade). Students will be expected to draw on the assigned readings and lecture materials but also to include additional sources that increase their familiarity with the relevant topic. The first set of essay questions will require students to develop an argument about a regional issue of ongoing academic debate. The second set of essay questions will require students to write a policy memo to their government on a contemporary policy issue in the region. The assignment aims at helping students improve their skills in academic writing.


The assessment of not attending students will depend on a final exam (100% of the final grade): The exam will include multiple choice, several short responses, and a longer essay. The assignment aims to ensure familiarity with topics covered in the lectures and readings and to help students improve their skills in academic writing.

Teaching materials


Reading materials will include a mix of academic articles, book chapters, blogs, and policy writing that will be provided to students online.

Last change 30/07/2021 16:25