Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2017/18 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This core module aims to introduce the student to the relevance of multi-disciplinary Area Studies by:
  • providing students with the opportunity to examine the major approaches and controversies in the study of modern Muslim societies and modern Islam;
  • engaging students in critical reflection of modern issues in the study of modern Islam, illustrating the advantages and disadvantages of particular analytical approaches;
  • providing students with the opportunity to engage with, categorise and evaluate a range of major works on modern Islam, drawn principally form the social sciences and history but also including literature on Orientalism and its critics.


  • 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:
  • 1) Conceptualising Islam;
  • 2) Orientalism: traditional Islamic Studies and the Saidian attack;
  • 3) Framing Islamic history;
  • 4) The Role of Culture;
  • 5) The Islamism Debate
  • 6) Nationalism: Imagined Community or Ideology?
  • 7) Linking State and Society
  • 8) Islamic Studies as a Political Endeavour
  • 9) The Ethics of Studying the Other

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have by the end of the module:
  • An advanced knowledge and understanding of the key issues in contemporary Muslim societies and of the academic material that relates to them.
  • An advanced understanding of the social and political significance of theological debates and normative changes in Islam.
  • Knowledge of the research methods, strategies and ethics that are of relevance to the social scientific study of Muslim societies
  • An advanced understanding of the theoretical and interpretive contributions of current research on the Middle East and Muslim societies to specific debates and the ability to reflect critically upon them.
  • Advanced knowledge of the content and analytical frameworks of a select group of readings.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • To focus on how to think about dimensions of modern Muslim societies with an emphasis on methods of analysis.
  • To integrate Islamic theological concerns with political and social issues;
  • To apply social scientific approaches and concepts to geographical and culturally distinct regions such as the Middle East.
  • To have acquired skills to evaluate and assess debates on how to understand the Muslim Other.
  • To analyse whether socio-scientific concepts are culturally coded when dealing with Muslim societies.
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 4,000 summative essay, with its greater length and to be submitted at the end of teaching, 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecturers 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Seminars 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
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 1,500 words.

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