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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Political Theory and Critique in the Middle East (PGSP11571)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe Middle East has often been presented as a problem to be solved or a site of implementation of political ideas developed elsewhere. This course offers a different approach by providing a survey of political and social theory, especially that within critical and emancipatory traditions, developed in by thinkers within the region or in engagement with political experiences within it. Rather than the empirical political history of the region this course will focus on ideas about societies, people and power, as much as possible through reading original texts.
Course description - Academic Description
Building on the summary description, a more in-depth, academic description of the learning aims, nature and context of the course.
The Middle East remains a site of perceived political problems to be solved. Yet rather than such a source of problems to understood or fixed, the region has also produced significant contributions to thinking about politics, the state, social order and emancipation: both in the work of thinkers hailing from the region and in scholarship drawing upon sources in the Middle East. This course introduces students to a wide range of such contribution through reading such works of political and social theory that cover a wide range of topics nonetheless linked by questions of universalism and critique seen through a Middle Eastern lens.

Over the course of ten weekly seminar meetings, students will engage with topics that may include: questions of critique, universalism and the 'decolonization' of knowledge and how these have been dealt with in Middle Eastern contexts. A strong focus of the course is likely to be on two forms of political theory often seen as opposites: liberalism' and Islamism. The course I may also focus on the contribution and critique of revolutionary nationalism and the post-colonial state, demonstrating how broader critical trends such as psychoanalysis, existentialism and surrealism were also furthered by groups of thinkers in the Middle East. A key part of the course is likely to be dedicated to contemporary scholarship drawing on Middle Eastern experiences that contributes to current debates on gender and identity; necro-politics and the politics of disposability; and the politics of the 'anthropocene.'

Indicative Potential Topics
- Universalism, theory and critique
- Liberalism and liberation in the Middle East
- Secularism as historical project
- The 'Caliphate' as alternative universalism
- Nationalism, revolution, and the critique of national liberation
- The Middle East as site of critical theories: existentialism and surrealism
- Queer theory and the critique of gender in the Middle East
- From bio-politics to necro-politics in the Middle East
- The Middle East and the Politics of the 'Anthropocene'

Student Learning Experience
- A narrative description of how the course will be taught, how students are expected to engage with their learning and how they will be expected to evidence and demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.

This course will be an in-depth seminar course.
The course will be delivered through two-hour seminar sessions where students will have an opportunity to engage in depth with the readings with guidance from the instructor. Students will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes through two main assessments: a thematic analysis and an essay to be delivered at the end of the term.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Participation 10%. This includes monitored oral discussion participation. These components will be explained fully to the students in week 1 and monitored by the course organizer throughout the semester. Students will receive a mid-term participation mark and indication of their participation strength and weaknesses. The tutorial participation grade will be assessed on informed participation, including students' capacity to engage in discussions based on the assigned readings, as well as listen to and engage with other students in the group.

2. Thematic analysis (1000 words) 30%. Students will provide an analytical review of the essential readings for one theme of their choice that is covered in the course. The themes will be clearly identified in the syllabus. Instructional guide and specific marking criteria will be provided to the students at the start of the term in a separate sheet and through LEARN.

3. Essay (3000 words) 60%. Students will have the opportunity to make an extended argument on one of the topics covered in the course. They will be able to choose a research question from a list that the instructor will provide in advance, or pick a question of their choice (with instructor's approval). Students must pass this assessment to pass the course.

Feedback - Thematic analysis and essays will be returned with feedback within a timeframe to allow feedback from the thematic analysis to develop student work on the long essay
- Feedback on student enquiries regarding assignments and readings will be provided during course organizer's guidance and feedback hours and during tutorials.
- Feedback on participation will be provided during course organizer's guidance and feedback hours in mid-semester based on student's informed participation, capacity to engage in discussions based on the assigned readings and listen to and engage with other students in the group.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an advanced and extensive critical understanding of the principal themes and concepts of political and social theory from the Middle East
  2. Perform advanced critical analysis texts foregrounding the contribution of political and social theory from the Middle East to contemporary debates in political and social theory
  3. Provide advanced synthesis and evaluation of key positions on core themes within political and social theory from the Middle East
  4. Communicate in written form an extended argument relevant to the principal themes and concepts of political and social theory from the Middle East based upon an advanced critical understanding of such themes and concepts.
Reading List
Sadiq Jalal al-'Azm Self-criticism after the Defeat Saqi Books, 2011

Fadi Bardawil Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation Duke University Press, 2020

Banu Bargu Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons Columbia University Press, 2016

M.Weiss and J.Hansen Arabic Thought Beyond the Liberal Age Cambridge University Press, 2017
-Arabic Thought against the Authoritarian Age Cambridge University Press, 2018
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Critical thinking, analytical and reading skills will be developed by deep engagement with the assigned readings
2. Advanced research skills will be developed by identifying and consulting with a wide range of sources in writing the essay
3. Effective written and oral communication skills will be developed by completing the assessments and class participation.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jamie Allinson
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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