SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introduction to Arabic Culture

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

This is an introductory module in Arabic culture. On completion, students will have gained basic knowledge of: 

  1. theories and methods of studying culture, 
  2. the history and development of Arabic culture from the classical period to the present, and 
  3. the major cultural institutions of the Arabic-speaking world.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This is an introductory module in Arabic culture.  On completion students will have gained a basic knowledge of the history and development of Arabic culture, literature and cinema from the classical period to the present as well as a critical sense of what it means to study ‘culture’.


There is one lecture and a one-hour tutorial every week.

The module is team-taught. The course convenor is Professor Hugh Kennedy and the course tutor is Dr Faizul Redhwan.

Scope and syllabus

In the first term the emphasis on the pre-modern culture of the Arab lands, including the development of literature, including female voices and material culture. There will also be classes on the development of religious literature, including the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet.

In the second term the emphasis shifts to contemporary Arabic cultural studies. Oher topics included will be Arabic music, Arabic cinema, as well as concepts from “Orientalism”, sectarian (Sunni-Shi’i) antagonism and everything in between. We talk about public politics and dissent, Palestinian refugees and how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shaped both the culture and politics of the region. We also look at government, censorship and social media and fashion and how these have shaped and been shaped by local and global politics.

Method of assessment

One three hour written examination in May-June (70%); one essay of 2,000-2,500 words to be submitted by the last day of term 1 (15%); one essay of 2,000-2,500 to be submitted by the last day of term 2 (15%)

Suggested reading

  • Simon During (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader, 1993 
  • Stuart Hall and Paul Du Gay, Questions of Cultural Identity, 1996 
  • Albert Hourani, A History of Arab Peoples, 1991 
  • Elizabeth Fernea, Women and the Family in the Middle East: New Voices of Change, 1985 
  • Fatima Mernissi, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society, 1987 
  • William A Rugh, The Arab Press, 1979
  • Halim Barakat, The Arab World: Society, Culture and State, 1993 
  • Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper (eds.), Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, 1994


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules