Course 2022-2023 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.)

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
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • 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 the following components:

  • Class participation :10% of final grade: The participation grade will be determined primarily by attendance at the lectures.
  • Reading Responses: 15% of final grade: Students will choose three weeks of the course for which to submit a 200-to-250-word response to one or more of the readings during that week. Students will be able to write one extra response during the semester to replace their lowest grade. 
  • Policy Memo: 25% of the final grade: Students will be asked to write a policy memo (maximum of 1500 words) from one of three prompts, which will address issues of importance in the contemporary Middle East. 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.
  • Final Exam: 50% of the final grade: The final will consist of several short-answer responses.


The assessment of not attending students will depend on a final exam (100% of the final grade): The exam will include 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 10/06/2022 20:53