GV4F2      Half Unit
Popular Politics in the Middle East

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof John Chalcraft CON5.16


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies and MSc in Global Politics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 3 groups. The deadline for applications is 12:00 noon on Friday 5 October 2018. You will be informed of the outcome by 12:00 noon on Monday 8 October.

Course content

The course explores the role of popular politics in the making of the modern Middle East. The primary focus is on the Arab world but reference is also made to Iran, Israel and Turkey. We study the origins, course and consequences of popular protest, social and political movements, uprisings and revolutions in the region. Our cases are drawn from the early twentieth century to the present. Common topics include the first intifada in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (1987-1991), the Iranian revolution of 1979, everyday modes of resistance, labour movements, Islamic activism in Egypt, and the Arab uprisings of 2011. We aim at a contextualised and historical understanding of particular episodes of contention, while pursuing key themes and debates. We aim to evaluate the role of both ideal and material interests in driving transgressive collective action, as well as the effectiveness of wide variety of strategies, tactics, modes of organisation, and repertoires of contention. We further seek to assess the extent to which a focus on agency, subjectivity, politics and contingency can modify understandings of protest rooted in structuralist and materialist historical sociology. Finally, we aim to study how far relational theories of contentious politics can modify rationalist and objectivist approaches rooted in social movements theory.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of seminars in the ST.

Week 6 of the LT is a reading week.

Formative coursework

In order to develop essay skills and obtain feedback outside of formal assessment, students will complete a 2,000 word formative essay on which they will receive feedback as to overall standard, argument, evidence, structure and style. Students will choose one essay from a list of titles. To prepare for the 5,000 word essay, students will submit for approval a proposed title and a two-page handout summarising the question or puzzle that their essay will address. A seminar will also be held as a workshop to assist students prior to the final submission of their 5,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between Two Revolutions (Princeton University Press, 1982); Achcar, Gilbert. The People Want. (Saqi Books 2012); Bayat, Asef. Street Politics: Poor People's Movements in Iran (Columbia University Press, 1997); Beinin, Joel and Frederic Vairel eds. Social Movements, Mobilization and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford University Press, second edition, 2013); Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Harvard University Press, 2004); Lapidus, Ira and Edmund Burke III eds., Islam, Politics and Social Movements. University of California Press, 1988; Swedenburg, Ted. Memories of Revolt: The 1936-1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003); Tripp, Charles, The Power and the People (Cambridge: CUP, 2013); Wiktorowicz, Islamic Activism (Indiana University Press, 2004);


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2017/18: 41

Average class size 2017/18: 14

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication