Making Sense of the Middle-East (in English)

ISA Seville Study Center

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Making Sense of the Middle-East (in English)

  • Host University

    ISA Seville Study Center

  • Location

    Seville, Spain

  • Area of Study

    International Relations, International Studies, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Recommended Prior Knowledge:
    Topics covered in this course require an intermediate knowledge of theories, key actors, policies and case studies pertaining to the field of Political Science. Prior to registering for this course, it is highly recommended that students have a detailed knowledge of this field of study in order to fully comprehend course material, classroom discussions and examinations.

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    USF Course Code: ASN 3030

    Prerequisite: none; taught in English

    Audience: ISA students

    Contact hours: 45

    I. Course Description:
    This course aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of key concepts, themes and issues that have shaped the Middle East, a region with a rich and complex history made up of several cultures. The main objective of the course is to introduce the area through an interdisciplinary approach that will reflect its internal diversity and dynamics, combining academic readings, journalistic accounts, films and audio-visual aids that cover politics, religion, culture, conflicts, gender and sociology. It is designed to help contextualize current trends and identify various interpretative frameworks.
    Classes will be lecture-based, but active learning and participation will be encouraged through the discussion of assigned readings, films and student presentations.

    II. Learning outcomes:
    - Understand the core Arab-Islamic cultural, historical, and political traits and concepts
    - Develop critical analyses on current events after becoming acquainted with facts,
    diverse opinions and data
    - Strengthen skills to approach to foreign or unknown realities and thoughts from
    different perspectives
    - Establish links between multifactorial origins and final results of different processes

    III. Course contents (order of content may be modified):

    UNIT 1.- Introduction
    - A first approach to Arabs and Islam
    - ‘Orientalism’ v. reality

    UNIT 2.- Events that shaped the contemporary Middle East
    - Timeline of the Middle East History
    - The legacy of European colonialism in the Mashreq

    UNIT 3.- Ideology and nationalism
    - Legitimacy, religion, politics... intertwined?
    - Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism

    UNIT 4.- The never ending story
    - Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    - Timeline, leaders, setbacks, and achievements

    UNIT 5.- States and societies
    - Political regimes and civil movements
    - Major regional players

    UNIT 6.- Gender in the Middle East
    - Women’s roles, men’s roles
    - What is hijab and why do women wear it?

    UNIT 7.- The Arab uprisings of 2011
    - Egypt is not Yemen, Tunisia is not Syria
    - The ‘Day of Rage’, Yawm al-ghadab

    IV. Course Material and bibliography: 
    There will be both required and optional readings for each unit. Optional readings are
    recommended for students wanting to learn more about a topic or as assistance with the
    writing of assignments. All articles and documents will be either available online or provided by the instructor.
    Media, films and audio-visual aids will contribute to portraying the events and issues
    previously examined.
    A list of up-to-date resources and research Websites related to the ME will also help students to compare and contrast different, and sometimes antagonist, perspectives.

    - Exodus (Otto Preminger, 1960)
    - Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
    - Baran (Majid Majidi, 2001)
    - Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)
    - Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005)
    - Rendition (Gavin Hood, 2007)
    - Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
    - Cairo 678 (Mohamed Diab, 2010)
    - Nader and Simin. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

    Ali, Nadje al. “Gendering the Arab Spring,” Middle East Journal of Culture and
    Communication 5, no. 1 (2012): 26–31. Available in this link:

    Anderson, Scott. “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart”. The New
    York Times Magazine. August 15, 2016. Available in this link:

    Aswany, Alaa. al. On the State of Egypt: A Novelist's Provocative Reflections.
    Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2011.

    Angrist, Michele Penner. “The Making of the Middle East Politics.” Chap 1 in
    Angrist’s (ed). Politics & Society in the Contemporary Middle East. Boulder:
    Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2010. Available in this link:

    Bayat, Asef. “Islam and Democracy: What is the Real Question?” The Institute for
    the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM). ISIM Paper 8. Amsterdam
    University press. Leiden. 2007. Available in this link:
    equence =1

    Ben-Ami, Shlomo. Scars of War, Wounds of Peace. London: Weidenfeld &
    Nicholson, 2005

    Fromkin, David. A Peace to end all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire
    and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. New York: Henry Holt & Company,

    Hasso, Frances “Culture Knowledge’ and the Violence of Imperialism: Revisiting
    The Arab Mind.” MIT Electronic Journal 7 (Spring, 2007): 24- 40. Available in this
    link: hasso.pdf

    Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Massoud, Hani. “The future of Arab labor movements.” December 11, 2013. Al-
    Monitor. Available in this link:

    Litvak, Meir. "The Islamization of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The Case of
    Hamas." Middle Eastern Studies 34.1 (1998): 148-63. Available in this link: Islamization%20of%20conflict.pdf

    Mamouri, Ali. «Women’s movement in Iraq faces setbacks ». Al Monitor, 18 marzo
    2014. Available in this link :

    Moghissi, Haideh. Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism. New York : Zed Books
    Ltd, 1999.

    Moruzzi, Norma C. “Gender and the Revolutions.” MER268. Middle East
    Research and Information Project: MERIP. Vol 43, Fall 2013. Available in this link:

    Pollard, Stacey E. (2014). The State and Civil Society in the Arab Middle East
    (Doctoral Dissertation). Western Michigan University. Available in this link:

    Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 1977.

    Smith, Charles. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. A history with documents, 8th
    ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013.

    Suad, Joseph. “Gender and Citizenship in Middle Eastern States”. MER198. Middle
    East Research and Information Project: MERIP. Vol 26, Spring 1996. Available in this


    Media (examples)

    Research (examples)

    Audiovisual documents (example)
    On Orientalism. Interview with Edward Said.

    V.I. How to succeed in this course
    To successfully complete this course, attendance is essential as enables the necessary participation. Both spontaneous and prepared interaction are categories used in the evaluation.
    Due to the variety of topics covered in this course, come prepared. Listening to lectures, watching videos and participating in class activities and discussions is much more effective than reading someone else’s notes or watching a video later. Remember that active and meaningful participation is taken into account as part of the evaluation. Reading prior to the class sessions is essential to keep track of the course due to all the material that will be covered and the pace. 
    Becoming an active learner is one of the best ways to finish successfully this course: come always prepared to class: use the syllabus to be aware about will be covered or due in class, do all assignments before class, review before the class and be organized.

    VI. Grading scale
    Final grades will be calculated according to the following scale:

    Matrícula de Honor = 10
    Sobresaliente = 9 – 9,9
    Notable = 7 – 8,9 
    Aprobado = 5 – 6,9
    Suspenso = 0 – 4,9
    No presentado = Student attended class but did not complete the exams
    No asistencia = Student exceeded the maximum number of allowed absences

    Please find as a reference the following grading scale conversion. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the student’s home university or institution to determine the final grade equivalencies. 
    Matrícula de Honor = A+                                      
    Sobresaliente = A                                                    
    Notable = B                                                             
    Aprobado =C  
    Suspenso = F
    No presentado = Incomplete (attended classes but did not take the final exam)            
    No Asistencia = Incomplete (enrolled in the course but did not attend class)

    Grade dispute: 
    The deadline for claiming grades is 30 days from the receipt of the certificate at the university of origin.

    VII. Course policies

    VII.I. Attendance
    Class attendance is mandatory and is taken every class day and reflected in the course attendance sheet. 
    An 85% attendance rate is required for the successful completion of the course. Perfect attendance will be taken positively into account in the participation section. 
    If a student exceeds this limit, 1 point will be taken off of the final grade (Spanish grade). Reaching a 20% of unexcused absences means that the transcript for this subject will show “not attended course”. 
    Excused absences: Medical Certificates that will be considered only if issued by a physician (not notes from the family explaining the student’s absence). The certificates must include the exact dates for which a student should be excused for having missed classes. Courses cannot be audited, so attendance is possible only for students enrolled in a specific class. 
    Punctuality: Students are expected to arrive on time to class and to return directly to class after class breaks. Arriving 10 minutes late (or more) and/or early class departures are considered unexcused absences and will be taken into account as half an absence. 
    Attending class is not only the presence in the classroom. The professor will encourage active participation in the course and it will be taken into account as part of the evaluation.  

    Auditors: Courses cannot be taken as auditors, thus attendance is possible only for students enrolled in a specific class.

    VII.II. Conduct in class
    Students who actively participate in classroom activities and who maintain a professional and respectful attitude will be evaluated positively. Students must not eat or use laptops during the class (unless specifically authorized by the teacher).  

    VII.III. Late work 
    One half point will be taken off (from the learning activities grade) for homework that is submitted late repeatedly. Late assignments will be corrected but will not be graded. 
    Missing a class does not release the student from completing the homework assigned or studying the topics covered in class that day.

    VII.IV. Make-up Exams
    If a student cannot be present for an examination for a valid reason (see V.II.) and approved by the professor and academic direction, a make-up exam will be given.

    VII.V. Exam retention
    After exams are graded, the teacher will review the examination with the class and collect all exams. The exams will be retained for one semester following the current one, and then they will be destroyed.

    VII.VI. Academic Honesty
    Students are expected to act in accordance with their university standards of conduct concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

    VII.VII. Special accommodations 
    Students with special needs who require reasonable accommodations, special assistance or specific aid in this course (either for properly making-up classes, taking exams, etc.) should direct their request to Academic Coordination during the first days of the course.

    Teaching staff is required to report any disclosures harassment or violence of any kind.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


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