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 2

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, and Jordan, but will 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.

This module is one of several regional ethnography modules offered by the Department of Anthropology (currently China, Japan, South Asia, South East Asia, Near & Middle East, West Africa, and East Africa). Each of these focuses on major cultural and social aspects, but varies in detail according to the characteristics of and scholarship on the region. These 0.5 unit regional ethnography modules are designed (in the second year) to be combined - according to student interest and module availability - with a second regional ethnography module taught in a different term to form a compulsory full unit of ethnography modules (e.g., Japan and China; South Asia and Southeast Asia; South Asia and East Africa), or (in the third year) to be taken as a free-standing option. 

The grasp of theory, method and problem achieved in this module builds on the foundational skills in anthropology attained in the first year, and will enable students' progression, in their following year of study, to an Advanced Ethnographic Study with a focus on South Asia or connections between South Asia and other regions, and/or to an Independent Study Project.

Typical course outline:

  • Week 1. Introduction
  • Week 2. The body and public morality
  • Week 3. History remembered, recovered, disputed
  • Week 4. Media and the new Arab public
  • Week 5. Ethnocidal violence among social intimates
  • Week 6. (Reading week)
  • Week 7. Colonialism in practice
  • Week 8. The nation and its fragments
  • Week 9. Masculinity and violence
  • Week 10. The state and the political power of symbols
  • Week 11. Media, ideology, institutional power


  • 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.

Method of assessment

One piece of coursework (40%), written exam (50%), and tutorial participation (10%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules