Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


10 cp from 100-level units in Politics and International Relations

Teaching organisation

36 hours of lectures and tutorials

Unit rationale, description and aim

Contemporary Middle Eastern politics remain a focus of international political analysis. This unit explores historical, cultural and religious dynamics of the region. Relevant questions and issues to be considered include the following: the colonial influence on the modern state system, the emergence of the Arab states and the failure of Pan-Arabism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of political Islam, the dominance of authoritarianism in governance, the ongoing challenge of democratisation, and the relationship between Islam, secularism and democracy. Theological discourses, campaigns launched by Muslim feminists, and the politics of oil and terrorism will also be closely examined. The aim of the unit is to provide students with the skills, understanding and analysis of the cultural and political structures that have combined to shape the current realities and conflicts in the Middle East.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the diverse and conflicting nature of politics and governance in the contemporary Middle East (GA4, GA8) 

LO2 - Critically discuss diverse political perspectives about Middle East politics, particularly with respect to marginalised, disadvantaged, and vulnerable peoples and communities (GA1) 

LO3 - Demonstrate the capacity to gather, analyse and advocate ethical solutions to political issues in the Middle East through evidence-based argument and evaluation of secondary and primary sources (GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9) 

LO4 - Apply concepts and theories used in the study of political science to the analysis of interests, ideas, institutions and political behaviors in Middle East (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA8). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • What is the Middle East? The Western colonial involvement in the Middle East (1900-1950) General characteristics of the region  
  • The emergence of Arab states and the failure of Pan-Arabism  
  • The Israel-Arab conflict  
  • The rise of Islamism in modern age: ideology and practice 
  • The international community and the Middle East  
  • Iran since the fall of the Shah 
  • Terrorism and global Jihad 
  • The question of democracy and 2011 uprisings 
  • The role of women. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit offers two formal ways of learning and teaching. Lectures are organised based on case-based learning, a format that involves deep learning. Students explore real world challenges and problems, a process that requires them to demonstrate their investigative, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Case-based learning requires learning specific theories and concepts that will complement the conceptual tools and theoretical knowledge critical to analysing divergent approaches to the political dynamics of the Middle East. In addition to conceptual and theoretical discussions, a specific case study will be closely investigated to demonstrate the complexities of power relations in the Middle East.  

Tutorials for this unit provide opportunities for active learning. Students will engage in activities including reading, writing, interrogating ideas, exploring case studies and making presentations. These activities, as well as promoting analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of lecture content, are designed to build skills appropriate to 2nd year study in Politics and International Relations. Furthermore, readings will deepen students’ knowledge of the various conceptualisations of religion and politics relationships. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are specifically designed to enable students to demonstrate their clear understanding of the complexities of politics in the Middle East. Students are required to provide a structured, persuasive, substantiated and coherent answer to the specific question asked in each assignment. This unit is assessed based on written essays that develop skills in research, reading and written argument, and a presentation or in-class tutorial assessment that requires students to engage with case studies and theoretical perspectives on the politics of the Middle East. Students are required to prepare an oral presentation that will trigger further discussion and debate by fellow students and must participate in debate following another student presentation. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Opinion editorial requires students to write an 800-word opinion editorial to develop a position on an ongoing issue in the Middle East. 


LO1, LO2 

GA1, GA4, GA8 

Tutorial presentation and participation in debate following another presentation. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 LO4 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9  

Final essay: requires students to demonstrate thorough understanding of the subject matter, critical analysis of the relevant literature, and to incorporate and synthesise relevant conceptual/theoretical ideas 


LO2, LO3 LO4 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9  

Representative texts and references

Halliday, F. (2012). The Middle East in international relations: Power, politics and ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge. 

Akbarzadeh, S., & Baxter, K. (2018). Middle East politics and international relations: Crisis zone. 

Anderson, R. R. Seibert R. F. and Wagner, J. G. (9th ed.). (2009). Politics and Change in the Middle East: Sources of Conflict and Accommodation. New Jersey: Pearson. 

Esposito, J. L., Sonn, T., & Voll, J. O. (2016). Islam and democracy after the Arab Spring. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Contemporary politics in the Middle East. Cambridge: Polity Press.Dowty, A. (2nd ed.) (2007), Israel/Palestine. Cambridge: Polity  

Gelvin, J.L. (2008). The Modern Middle East: A History. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Hourani, A. (2nd ed.). (2001). A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 

Karma, M. (2005).The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War. Berkeley: California University Press.  

Mandaville, P. 2014. Islam and Politics. New York and London: Routledge.  

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