Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap
Tied to L2K107
Tied to L2K207
Tied to M1K507
Tied to M9K607
Tied to M9L007
Tied to M1K607


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of key concepts and theories of political development.
  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of how these theoretical approaches have been, or could be, applied to the study of the contemporary Middle East.
  • To enable students to critically evaluate leading scholarship in the field of Middle East politics.
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge and understanding of the contemporary politics of the Middle East.


  • Week 1. The Rise of Authoritarianism in the Middle East - A lecture on the modern political history of the region, accounting for the rise of authoritarian states in the twentieth century. Followed by a tutorial assessing the role of the military in the establishment and consolidation of the Middle Eastern state.
  • Week 2. Patrimonialism and Neo-patrimonialism in the Arab world - This seminar examines the concept of patrimonialism as a form of social and political organisation and assesses its relevance, and that of neo-patrimonialism, to understanding the nature of Middle Eastern political society and the state.
  • Week 3. Citizenship and the Mosaic society - Examines the concept of citizenship and how it has been applied (or compromised) in states with populations comprising of diverse ethinic, religious, sectarian and national groupings. Using case studies, the seminar assesses the implications of this for political structures and systems.
  • Week 4. A legitimacy deficit? - Examines the concept of legitimacy. The seminar looks at the historical claims to legitimacy of various Middle Eastern regimes and assesses the contention that they have become so compromised as to amount to a regional legitimacy deficit, contributing to political instability and authoritarian state responses.
  • Week 5. A democratising Middle East? - Examines the wave of political reforms which have taken place across the region since the late 1980s, assessing whether they amount to democratisation and whether the Middle East can be said to have ridden the "third wave" of democratisation or not. Assesses the implications, problems and virtues of democratisation from above.
  • Week 5. The resilience of the authoritatian state - Examines recent scholarship which asserts that political reform has been the result of authoritatian regime survival strategies rather than democratisation from above and, using case studies, assesses whether it really amounts to political development or retrenchment.
  • Week 7. Democracy without democrats - Examines arguments that democratisation has failed to take root because of the frailty of civil society and those of its characteristics which are unique to the region. The seminar also assesses the range of arguments that the region possesses exceptional characteristics (structural, cultural etc) which make it uniquely resistant to democratisation.
  • Week 8. Are Islamist Movements the New Social Movements of the Middle East? - Examines the nature and impact of globalsation in fragmenting and reconstructing identities. Assesses (using case studies) whether this theoretical approach is useful in understanding the rise of Islamist political movements in the Middle East in the twentieth century.
  • Week 9. The Islamic state - Examines theoretical and conceptual approaches to the Islamic state and, using case studies, assesses whether there ever has been, or could be, an Islamic state in the Middle East. Examines the relationship between the requisites of an Islamic state and democracy and assesses whether an Islamic state can be a democratic state.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An advanced understanding of the principal theoretical approaches towards political development of Middle East states and societies.
  • An advanced understanding of the major features of Middle Eastern states, political systems and politics.
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the main political challenges facing contemporary Middle Eastern states, and of the various strategies currently being deployed by the state and other actors in addressing those challenges.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to use and critique relevant advanced theoretical models and approaches to political development.
  • The ability to interpret and analyse empirical data at an advanced level when appropriate, to identify major events and trends, and to assess the usefulness of alternative explanatory frameworks.
  • The ability to recognise, analyse and account for characteristics of regional political systems and societies.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within time limits.
  • Demonstrate analytical skills which will establish and defend an intellectual position in response to exam questions, showing engagement with and evaluation of theoretical and conceptual material.

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

  • Students are taught in two-hour slots. Each two-hour slot comprises a seminar which will primarily be based on a student presentation followed by tutor guided discussions. However, on occasion the two hours will be divided between a one-hour lecture and a one hour follow-up tutorial.
  • Student presentations enable students to develop their abilities to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. They further allow the students 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 understanding and presentation. Students gain subject knowledge, subject skills and key skills here. Where the seminar is replaced with a lecture, subject skills can be developed in the tutorial as opposed to subject knowledge being transferred in the lectures.
  • Students are required to submit a formative essay at the end of the fourth week. 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 they are expressing themselves appropriately.
  • Summative questions are set by the tutor and are designed to encourage advanced critical engagement with the module subject. They enable assessment of not just students' knowledge and understanding of the material, but also fo their subject specific skills. Producing work to a deadline, to length and in an acceptable scholarly format also tests transferable skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 1 Once 1 1
Tutorials 1 Once 1 1
Seminars 8 Weekly except week 1 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen written examination in May/June 2 hours 100% August

Formative Assessment:

Students will be required to submit a formative essay of 1500 words by the end of the fourth 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