SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnography of Near and Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This course will introduce students to the study of the Near and Middle East, through a variety of interconnected topics that have been important in the anthropological literature on the region. The course uses material on countries such as Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Jordan, and may also include literature on Muslims in South East Asia and Europe. It seeks to balance ethnography and theory, drawing attention to contributions made to wider debates in the discipline.

The module also encourages participants to consider how anthropological and historical understandings of the Near and Middle East help us understand the fundamentally interconnected and global nature of any artificially constructed region or area. Crucial to achieving greater understanding of these dynamics is attention to contemporary social and political dynamics in and about the region.


  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to: 

  1. critically evaluate a range of theories and ethnographic source material relating to the Near & Middle East
  2. locate and use secondary sources relevant to selected topics
  3. discuss ideas, arguments, and information in a seminar setting 

Developing regional expertise is a key component of the study of anthropology, and central to programmes across the school. The learning outcomes are designed to ensure that students develop a solid grounding in the anthropology of East Africa, refine their ability to critically engage diverse literatures and communicate their knowledge in a variety of ways. These processes of comprehension, analysis and communication are central to all anthropology programmes, as well as to the broader humanities and social sciences at SOAS.

Scope and syllabus

  • Week 1. Colonialism and the Construction of “the Middle East”
  • Week 2. Violence, Peace, and Conflict
  • Week 3. The “Arab Spring”: Revolutions on-going
  • Week 4. Considering the Urban
  • Week 5. Palestine at the Crux: International solidarity now and then
  • Week 6. (Reading week)
  • Week 7. The State: Political power of symbols
  • Week 8. Art and Expressive Culture
  • Week 9. Gender and Islam
  • Week 10. The “War on Terror” and Neo-colonialism
  • Week 11. Memory, History and the Present: What is the nation now?

Method of assessment

  • AS1: Assignment - 20%
  • AS2: x2 Reading response paper - 20%
  • AS3: Essay 50%
  • Seminar participation - 10%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules