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Rule of Law: Culture, Society and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa (Module)

Module description

Please note that module information is indicative and may change year to year.

The course will begin with an introduction to the theoretical and methodological foundations of social political anthropology discipline and will then tackle a variety of topics through this disciplinary lens:  the  nature state-citizen  relations, the metaphors, symbols and processes  of political participation, the different configurations and enactments  of justice, the shape of modernity and development vis-a-vis articulations of individual well-being, civil and human rights, and structural transformation, and the effects of "exceptional" processes on subjectivity and collective action. While bringing into comparison official versus unofficial articulations of modern life, citizenship, and religious and cultural identity in various contexts,  the course will be attentive to minorities, gender dynamics, and to precarious situations such as occupation, war and popular uprisings.

Module aims

Centred on the broader category of "law", this module will explore socio-political experience in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. Using a social anthropology perspective concerned with the way meaning and practice are negotiated on the ground , we will  interrogate the cultural repertoires, modes of organization, and types of governance that have underpinned and continue to inform social practices and political subjectivities in the region. We will navigate a variety of themes - among which Islamic, customary, and civic law, procedural and deliberative democracy as well as states of emergency, and the socio­ political integration of medical developments and reproductive technologies. Our survey  will pay particular attention to the class, gender, and regional diversities of what are reductively assumed to be homogenous "Arabo-Muslim societies".

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of the discipline of social anthropology, engaging with its methodology (empirical research skills) and its theoretical orientations (comparative analysis);

Analyze and discuss issues that pertain to the modern Middle East and North Africa from the angle of lived experience, which they will compare to official narratives and socio-political organization;

Engage with a variety of experiences in the region: cultural, legal, social, political, economic;

Engage with the specific predicament of minorities, women, and populations under occupation, at war and during uprisings;

Challenge earlier theoretical elaborations on the region that essentialized its people, their practices, and their forms of social organization;

Use this new disciplinary perspective (social anthropology) and the material discussed in the course in order to conduct in­ depth empirical studies on any aspect of the modern Middle East and North Africa.

Staff information

Not applicable

Teaching pattern

Two hours per week, one lecture and one seminar 

Indicative teaching schedule

Week 1: Building a Vocabulary
Week 2: Encountering the State: From Artifact to Affect
Week 3: The Experience and Governance of Piety
Week 4: Law, Religion and Custom
Week 5: Bodies in Context
Week 6: Framing Kinship and Gender
Week 7: Managing (in)Security and States of Exception
Week 8: On Human Rights
Week 9: Revolutionary and Democratic Rituals
Week 10: Workshop on Summative Essay

Note that this teaching schedule is indicative and subject to change.

Module assessment - more information

One 10 minute student presentation (15%) and one 4000 word essay (85%)

Key information

Module code 7AAOM246

Credit level 7

Assessment coursework presentation/s

Credit value 15

Semester Semester 1 (autumn)

Study abroad module Yes