The course deals with the historical, political, economic, and social processes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region throughout the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. It examines the modern politics of the MENA region, emphasizing the period spanning from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the post-Arab Spring era. Topics covered include the late Ottoman Empire, the state and nation-building processes, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the processes of decolonization, conflict of nationalisms (Arab, Turkish, and Zionist), the awakening of political Islam, the impact the neo-liberal globalization on MENA countries and societies, the 2011 Arab Uprisings and the role of the extra-regional powers (U.S., Russia, EU, and China) in the wider Mediterranean region. During the classes, students will learn to analyze some social, political, and economic problems - using a few selected countries for comparison and analysis - including the role of the army, bureaucracy, the religious classes, the legitimation of power, urban-rural cleavages, gender issues, and political parties. Attention will be paid to the links between the historical-political background of the MENA countries and current events such as the Syrian and Libyan civil war, the East-Med issue, the sectarianization process (Sunni-Shia), and the enlargement of regional borders.
Module 1: Overview of the course (presentation of the syllabus; audio-visual tools; hashtags; journals; archives) and preliminary inputs. Introduction to the study of contemporary Middle East; Stereotypes of "Oriental despotism" and of "Orientalism"; and the roots of the Sunni-Shia rift (fitnah).
Module 2: The Historical background: the Tanzimat and the end of religious coexistence, Mohammad Ali's Egypt, the birth of colonies and protectorates in North Africa, the Arab entry to international relations, face the challenges (nahda and tajdid), the cultural ferment in the Levant.
Module 3: The Great War in the Middle East: the Ottoman Empire from the revolution to the First World War, An ottoman legacy of statehood, the mahdi experience, Wartime plans for the partition of the Middle East.
Module 4: The modern Middle East state-system: the mandates and the colonial framework; modern state formation (Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Turkey).
Module 5: The Arab struggle for independence: Egypt, Iraq and Transjordan, Balfour and the UK mandate on Palestine, the emergence of sectarian politics in Lebanon, the Jewish community in Palestine (leadership and institutions), the Arab community in Palestine (leadership and institutions).
Module 6: The Second World War and the entry of superpowers: the Israel's birth, Nasser's rise and the spread of pan-Arabism, the military coups (Syria, Iraq, Turkey), the different paths and struggles for independence (Tunisia, Morocco, Libya), revolutions and statism, the National Liberation Front and the Algerian War.
Module 7: Cold War Battles (the Suez Crisis, Arab-Israeli Conflicts, the Lebanese Civil War), the strengthening of the authoritarian regimes (Syria, Iraq, Libya), the oil revolution and the rise of the rentier states, the Camp David Accords.
Module 8: The rise of political Islam: the Islamic Revolution, the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, the Kurdish issue, the Iran-Iraq War and the Afghanistan, the MENA authoritarian regimes and neo-liberal globalization, the first Intifada and the Oslo process, the Algerian civil-war.
Module 9: The MENA region in the post-Cold War era: the 9/11 and the Pax Americana project for the ME, Governments and Oppositions, the Civil Society, Religion/Identity/Gender and Politics, the rise of AKP (Turkey).
Module 10: The Arab upheavals and the reshuffle of regional balances: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Syrian proxy-war, the Libyan civil war, Gezi Protests, the sectarianization process and the birth of the Islamic State, the North Africa Countries realities and state of play (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco), the East-Med issue.
Prerequisites for admission
Knowledge of the fundamentals of International Relations is suggested.
Frontal lectures, students' presentations, use of media, class discussion. Active contribution to class seminars is considered extremely important and it will be subjected to informal assessment.
Peter Mansfield, A History of the Middle East, London: Penguin Books, 2013.
Additional Reading (one):
Mark Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East, Washington, Public Affairs, 2017.
Nader Hashemi, Danny Postel (eds.), Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East, Oxford: OUP, 2017.
Owen, Roger, State, Power, and Politics, 3rd edition (Routledge, 2004).
Andrea Khalill, Gender, Women and the Arab Spring, London: Routledge, 2015.
Raymond Hinnebusch, Adham Saouli (eds.), The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions of the Syrian Uprising, London: Routledge, 2019.
Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: the History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge UP, 2004).
Additional text (mandatory non-attending students):
Michele Penner Angrist (Ed.), Politics and Society in the Contemporary Middle East, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2019.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Student grades will be calculated using the following criteria:
Engagement and Participation 10%
Midterm exam 40%
Final exam 50%
Midterm exam: Students will answer to a multiple-choice test and one open question about the topics covered during classes.
Final examination: Oral exam on the topics covered during classes, and on the required text plus one reading of your choice.
Attending students are requested to prepare the following text (mandatory):
- Peter Mansfield, A History of the Middle East, London: Penguin Books, 2013,
and to choose one of the following texts as additional Reading:
- Mark Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East, Washington, Public Affairs, 2017.
- Nader Hashemi, Danny Postel (eds.), Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East, Oxford: OUP, 2017.
- Owen, Roger, State, Power, and Politics, 3rd edition (Routledge, 2004).
- Andrea Khalill, Gender, Women and the Arab Spring, London: Routledge, 2015.
- Raymond Hinnebusch, Adham Saouli (eds.), The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions of the Syrian Uprising, London: Routledge, 2019.
- Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: the History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge UP, 2004).
All other materials (readings, videos) will be provided on the class website. Students are requested to prepare the readings provided carefully, in order to be able to participate to class discussions. The use of the historical maps is highly recommended.
Those students who will fail to attend classes have to take the oral exam on the mandatory text, the additional reading, and on the following text too:
- Michele Penner Angrist (Ed.), Politics and Society in the Contemporary Middle East, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2019.