Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module SGIA45915: Studying Hamas

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA45915: Studying Hamas

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.
Tied to L2K407
Tied to L2K707
Tied to M9K607
Tied to M1K607
Tied to T6K109


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module aims to provide students with an advanced understanding of the emergence and development of Islamist movements in the Middle East and of how to study them, through the prism of studying the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Organised around the three themes of democracy, religion and violence, it aims to introduce students to a number of competing explanatory frameworks drawn from Islamism studies, (critical) terrorism studies and social movement theory, among others; to encourage reflection on the theoretical and methodological issues raised by the use of these frameworks and their key concepts; and to enable students to critically evaluate leading scholarship and competing knowledge claims in the fields under consideration.
  • The module will look at the origins, evolution, practices and historical context of Hamas through the prism of different conceptual frameworks and against the background of wider socio-economic and political changes in the Palestinian territories. It will analyse Hamas’ internal decision-making processes and its behaviour towards the peace process. It will end with a look at some of the key debates surrounding the relationship between Hamas (and Islamism more broadly) and democracy, religion, and modernity.


  • After an introductory lecture, introducing students to the module’s key themes and providing them with a brief historical overview of the regional context, the module will consist of 9 one-hour lectures, followed by a one-hour seminar on the following topics (indicative list):
  • 1. Explaining Islamist movements
  • 2. Explaining Islamist violence
  • 3. Islamism and Social Movement Theory (SMT)
  • 4. Local context: Israeli-Palestinian conflict & Palestinian politics
  • 5. Emergence & evolution of Hamas
  • 6. Authority and decision-making within Hamas
  • 7. Hamas and the Peace Process: dynamics of violence & ceasefires
  • 8. Hamas, democracy and elections
  • 9. Hamas, religion and modernity

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An advanced understanding of the principal theoretical approaches towards explaining Islamist movements, and, more broadly, social movements engaged in electoral politics and social movement organisations engaged in political violence.
  • An advanced understanding of the major features of Islamist movements and an ability to analyse and assess these through the use of relevant theoretical tools.
  • An advanced understanding of the key debates surrounding Islamism and its relationship to democracy, religion, violence and modernity.
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the emergence, evolution and main features of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, in the context of developments in Palestinian politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional dynamics.
  • Knowledge of the theoretical and methodological dilemmas surrounding the analysis of political processes at both organisational and social/contextual levels, particularly in the context of debates within Middle East studies, social movement theory and (critical) terrorism studies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to apply and critique relevant advanced theoretical models and approaches to Hamas and Islamist movements – and vice versa, to extract general insights from the study of Hamas/Islamism.
  • The ability to interpret and analyse empirical data at an advanced level, to identify major events and trends, and to assess the usefulness of alternative explanatory frameworks and situate them within the broader fields of Political Studies and International Relations.
  • The ability to recognise, analyse and account for the emergence, evolution and characteristics of Islamist movements, and in particular Hamas.
  • The ability to use and critique the conceptual apparatuses of empirical political analysis
  • Sensitivity to problems of generalisation in the study of politics across different political and cultural contexts.
  • Sensitivity to the political and empirical effects of how key terms such as 'Islamism', 'social movement' and 'terrorism' are defined.
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in identifying, selecting and analysing existing scholarship on the subject area, evaluating its contribution to scholarship, and assessing its quality and suitability as a resource.
  • The ability to work to a deadline, develop an individual research schedule and complete written work within time and length constraints.
  • Advanced essay-writing skills, including the skills of presentation, structured analysis and referencing.
  • The ability to seek out, use and critically evaluate relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources.
  • The ability to present a critical analysis of key issues under time pressure in response to specific questions.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • After an Introductory lecture, students are taught through one-hour lectures, followed by one-hour seminars. Each lecture will introduce the students to the key theoretical approaches or data relevant to the theme of the lecture. The lectures will be tailored to accommodate the differential knowledge and disciplinary skills of different cohorts and to make sure that students approach subsequent seminars with an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding.
  • The lectures will be followed by one-hour seminars during which students are encouraged to explore the lecture content in greater detail and to identify areas in which they require particular guidance, for example on further reading. The seminars will enable students to develop their abilities to conduct research, to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. Class discussion encourages background reading, contributing to the students’ independent learning. It will further allow students the opportunity to exchange ideas, to explore issues and arguments that interest or concern them in greater depth, and to receive feedback from both the group and the lecturer on their own arguments and understanding.
  • Students are required to submit a 1,500-word formative essay half way through the module. This enables them to practice their essay-writing skills, to assess their own progress, and to receive feedback on whether they are achieving at the appropriate level, whether they are sufficiently informed, and expressing themselves appropriately. Formative assessment through essay gives students practice in advance of summative assessment in setting out their knowledge of the field in order to develop and defend in a suitably structured and rigorous fashion a response to a set question. Achieving this also tests their ability to independently identify, assess and organise resources in support of a consistent academic argument, by a deadline and to a word-limit, requiring students to take responsibility for their learning. Formative assessment early on in the module gives students an opportunity to receive feedback and guidance on their knowledge and understanding of a specific aspect of the module and their ability to effectively assess and analyse the topic.
  • Summative assessment by essay formally tests the skills developed in the formative essay. The 2,500 summative essay, with its greater length and to be submitted at the end of teaching (but before the exam), tests the ability to plan a more substantial piece of work, identifying and retrieving sources and selecting and displaying appropriate subject specific knowledge and understanding. It tests the ability to develop an extended discussion which utilises concepts and examines competing interpretation and analysis. It also develops key skills in sustaining effective written communication and information presentation to high scholarly standards. It enables them to demonstrate that they have sufficient subject knowledge to meet the assessment criteria, that they have achieved the subject skills and that they have acquired the module’s key skills. In particular, summative essays test the acquisition of knowledge through independent learning and the ability to apply it in critical argument in relation to a specific question. They furthermore help students to develop time management skills by working to a deadline, as well as the ability to seek out and critically use relevant data sources.
  • Summative assessment by unseen examination tests students' ability to respond in a focused and specific way to a range of questions covering different aspects of the module. It tests their ability to recall and apply information under time pressure. Taken together, the summative assessment will test skills of synthesis, analysis and critical evaluation with reference to material drawn from the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Tutorials 9 Weekly except week 1 1 hour 9
Preparation & Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100%
Component: Exam Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Exam 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Students will be required to submit a formative essay of 1,500 words by the end of the fifth week of term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University