Politics in the Middle East - PO8104

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 7 20 (10) DR J Hiltermann checkmark-circle


The focus of this module is the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA region). The region has been at the centre of global politics and security concerns, but is also characterised by strong internal rivalries and conflict. The central emphasis of this module is on the interconnectedness of various issues and ideologies in the MENA region, as well as on the interaction between the politics of global and regional actors.

While the emphasis is on current developments, those are situated in their historical context, with particular attention for the legacy of colonialism, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Western stereotypical thinking about the region (Orientalism). Moving beyond stereotypes, the course highlights complexity and differentiation of the area.

It focuses on the politics, interests, power and identities of key regional actors (Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel), as well as on the role of global powers (the United States, Russia, EU/European states). Both religious divides (Shi'a / Sunni) and political positions are critically analysed, taking into account (self-)perceptions and social construction. The same holds for ideologies, in particular Arab nationalism and the rise of radical Islamism.

Specific issues are extensively dealt with, such as: the conflict in Syria and its internationalisation, the Palestine question, the 'Arab Spring', energy in a changing context, Saudi-Iran rivalry, Iran's WMD programme, integration and cooperation (in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council, OPEC).


This module appears in the following module collections.


Autumn Term

Method of assessment

5000 word research-based essay

Indicative reading

Fawcett, L. (2013), International Relations of the Middle East (OUP)

Gasiorowski M. & D. Long (eds.) (2013), The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa (Westview)

Inbar, E. (ed.) (2013), The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and International Ramifications. Abindon, Routledge.

Ehteshami, A. (2015) Globalization and Geopolitics in the Middle East: Old Games, New Rules. Abingdon, Routledge.

Dakhlallah. F. (2012). "The League of Arab States and Regional Security: Towards an Arab Security Community?" In: British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies vol 39(3): 393-212.

Danahar, P. (2015), The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring (Bloomsbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion students will
1: have a profound understanding of the security dynamics, politics and foreign policies in the MENA region
2: be able to critically analyse politics in the MENA region in its different dimensions (political, security, economic, energy, identity) and within its historical context at an advanced level
3: have a profound understanding of the different actors operating in the MENA region, including the interpenetration of regional and global developments and the interconnectedness of issues and conflicts in the region
4: have an advanced understanding of identities and ideologies in the region (including religion and nationalism) and of their complexity
5: have a profound understanding of the issues of power and power relations in the region and the way those are perceived
6: be able to apply different theoretical interpretations to politics and security in the Middle East


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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