Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2017/18 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 international relations, security, power politics and the clash of globalisation in the Middle East.
  • 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 international relations and security.
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge and understanding of the contemporary international relations of the Middle East.


  • Week 1. Is there an Arab System? - Examines the concept of system in international relations and locates it within major theoretical approaches to international relations. Assesses the major texts which have used the concept to understand the international relations of the Arab world and the Middle East and attempts to determine whether there is an "Arab" system or not, and what characteristics such a system might need to display.
  • Week 2. The Arab League - Examines the major institutional mechanism for inter-Arab relations, assessing its strengths, weaknesses and utility in enhancing regional security.
  • Week 3. Regional Integration - Examines theoretical approaches to understanding dynamics behind regional integration and possible reasons for success or failure. By utilising case studies of regional integration efforts, the seminar seeks to determine whether regional integration is possible or appropriate for the Middle East, whether sub-regional integration is a more feasible option, and with what impact on the wider region.
  • Week 4. US Policy Towards the Middle East - Examines the role of security in determining American policy towards the region since World War Two, assessing successive presidential doctrines in advancing regional security through policy initiatives.
  • Week 5. Democracy Promotion: The Middle East and the West - This seminar examines the current focus on democracy promotion by Western states (led by the United States) as a means of enhancing regional stability and ultimately security. Locating this strategy within the historical context of Western "penetration" of the region, and examining intellectual, political and militant responses from within it (including Islamist terrorism), the seminar seeks to determine the likely long-term impact and utility of the strategy.
  • Week 6. In from the Cold? - This seminar uses comparative case studies to examine the utility of the US strategy of identifying, and isolating, "rogue" states. The role of third parties like the EU will be examined, as well as the virtues of containment as opposed to critical dialogue. The impact on regional international relations is also examined, and the implications for enhanced or reduced regional security addressed (particularly with regard to the proliferation of NCWs).
  • Week 7. Arab-Israeli Conflict I - The first of two seminars addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict, this seminar examines the degree to which the conflict has shaped intra-regional relationships, between Arab states, between Arab and non-Arab states, between states and non-state actors and between the region and the rest of the world.
  • Week 8. Arab-Israeli Conflict II - The second seminar on the Arab-Israeli conflict focuses in on the current state-of-play. It examines arguments as to why the Oslo process and successive initiatives have failed, assessing in particular the role of domestic politics within the relevant parties, the role and interests of the United States and the European Union, and the potential for a peaceful resolution.
  • Week 9. Islamic Terror? - This seminar examines the roots of Islamic terrorism and its impact on relations between the Middle East and the West. It also seeks to analyse how international responses to terrorism have helped to shape the politics, and political responses of Middle Eastern states towards each other, the international community and their own populations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An advanced understanding of the principal theoretical approaches towards international relations and security.
  • An advanced understanding of the major features of Middle East international relations and an ability to analyse and assess these through use of relevant theoretical tools.
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the main security challenges facing the contemporary Middle East region, 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 international relations and security studies.
  • 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 international relations and security dilemmas.
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholoarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits.
  • Advanced essay-writing skills.
  • The ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic bibliographic sources.

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.
  • Students are required to submit a summative essay of 4,000 words at the end of the module. This enables them to demonstrate achievement that they have sufficient subject knowledge to meet the assessment criteria, that they have achieved subject skills 1 and 3 (and 2 if the particular question requires it) and that they have acquired the key skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

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

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4,000 words 100%

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