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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH49815: Advanced Studies in Anthropology in the Contemporary Middle East

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to basic themes and issues in the social anthropology of Arab-majority societies (the ‘Middle East’)
  • To develop an understanding of the concept of Orientalism and how it has historically affected power relations between the Western and Arab-majority world
  • To understand how anthropological studies conducted in the Arab-majority world can further social anthropology as a discipline overall, particularly in the area of political anthropology
  • To provide students with a set of critical tools to identify and analyse Orientalist tropes found in media reports, cultural artefacts (films, novels, advertisements)


  • The module will examine social and political life in Arab-majority societies from a social anthropological point of view, and with a specific focus on politics and economics.
  • The module will cover a range of subjects such as: the role of inequal power relations between Europe and the Arab world in the shaping of the contemporary Middle East; Orientalism and the media; participatory politics; the nation-state; colonialism and migration; urban life; economic precarity; civil society.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding in social anthropology research.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to social anthropological understandings of Arab-majority societies.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
  • In depth knowledge of the social anthropology of Arab-majority societies, with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of primary or secondary data.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Applying key skills (see below) to core concepts and debates pertaining to the contemporary Middle East.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.
  • Critical analysis of literature and data
  • Self-reflection on knowledge and skills acquired and developed
  • Accessing library resources
  • Undertaking independent study and research
  • Preparation and effective communication of interpretations and arguments in written form

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

  • Classes will integrate lecture, tutorial and practical components.
  • Lecture elements will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Tutorial elements will develop topics introduced in lectures and required reading to analyse aspects or case studies in greater depth and to prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Practical components will provide students with hands-on experience of the research.
  • Advanced discussion classes will allow students to develop their skills of critical thinking and evaluation, as well as how to synthesise and interrogate material at a level commensurate with postgraduate attainment.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of tutorials and general and particular reading related to the assessment, which will be a written assignment (such as an essay or report).
  • Summative assessment will be a 2500-word written piece where students will apply concepts and perspectives in social anthropology to relevant ethnographic and/or media materials related to Arab-majority societies. The critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Tutorials 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 2500 words 80%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

500 word assignment. Reading log sample.

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